National Eating Disorders Association

So, What to Expect from A and F?

Lynn Grefe

As many of you have followed, NEDA and our Proud2Bme program  worked closely with Benjamin O’Keefe, NEDA’s 18 year-old Proud Ambassador who launched the petition several weeks ago against Abercrombie and Fitch (A and F). We called for a boycott of the stores, and worked with America the Beautiful’s Darryl Roberts to call for a meeting with the company rather than stage a protest.  To us, it felt to be a more productive use of our time in Columbus, OH.  

A and F gave us 2 hours. They listened to Ben, Cali Linstrom, who led the protest in Chicago, Darryl,  eating disorders prevention experts Dr.’s  Michael Levine and Sarah Murnen, and me.  Yes, they did listen. The question will be whether they actually heard us.  They really did seem to hear the anti-bullying theme, and we hope they understand that relationship of bullying  to their own marketing tactics, advertising, product lines and employee relations.  In short, to coin a phrase, did they see the enemy and know it was them?

What are our hopes?  De-sexualization of their advertising to kids, size diversity in ads and in their products, and ultimately leadership in encouraging kids to feel good about themselves at all sizes and shapes, and not to discriminate against diverse populations. The biggest challenge in that wish list is “leadership.” The interesting thing is that should they make those changes, it will demonstrate terrific leadership in turning around our culture ‘s obsession with beauty and thinness, and it would be a total change in their branding. Can they handle the possibility that they could move their marketing from exclusionary, cliquish, sex-driven themes to instead, promoting healthy  body image and attitudes to our teens? If so, then even I would be looking for a new A and F line for, ahem, somewhat  older women, because we can feel good about our bodies too.