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Tone-deaf protest: Does anti-A&F vid shame homeless?

  • Video encourages giving Abercrombie gear to the homeless
  • CEO only wants 'cool' kids wearing the brand
  • Critics say protest video humiliates, shames homeless
Tone-deaf protest: Does anti-A&F vid shame homeless?

Maybe you've heard about Abercrombie & Fitch's institutionalized fat-shaming, or its CEO who comes off like a snarky schoolyard bully. If not, here you go.

The brand's refusal to carry XL women's clothing and boasting about how it goes "after the attractive all-American kid," noting that "a lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can't belong" has generated a solid backlash. Now it's also generated a movement to provide America's homeless with as many pieces of A&F clothing as possible.

In a two-and-half minute video, which has been viewed more than four million times on YouTube, Greg Karber lays out his plan to turn the tables on Abercrombie. He visits a Los Angeles Goodwill, inquires where "the douchebag section" is then finds as many unloved Abercrombie items as he can, buys them and proceeds towards L.A.'s notorious Skid Row saying it's "time to do some charity."

Karber says some of the city's most downtrodden residents were hesitant to accept the free clothes and wonders "perhaps they were afraid of being perceived as narcissistic date-rapists." But after distributing armfuls of items to exactly the types of people A&F didn't want wearing their clothes, he concludes that "my expedition was a huge success" and encourages viewers to donate their unwanted Abercrombie gear to homeless shelters.

However, proving that no good deed goes unpunished, there's now a backlash to the backlash.

In presenting homeless people as the opposite of Abercrombie's ideal, is Karber also belittling them? The most popular comment beneath his YouTube clip says Karber "wants homeless people to become the new face of the clothing brand, which continues the vicious cycle of society's negative perspective of the homeless as being 'dirty' and 'undesirable'."

By attempting to humiliate Abercrombie & Fitch, Karber, the argument goes, is instead humiliating the homeless -- however well-intentioned he may be. On Patheos, Thomas McDonald writes: "This stunt is based on the exact same premise offered by [A&F CEO Mike] Jeffries: that some people are “unworthy” to wear A&F clothes... their humanity and dignity is denied so a callow twit can burnish his reputation as a Right Thinker."

A "callow twit?" Reducing society's most desperate citizens to props is a pretty tone-deaf form of social protest, but this guy's heart is still in the right place, right? Right?

What do you think of Abercrombie's statements and Karber's response to them? Let us know in the comments.

Follow Jonathan Anker on Twitter @JonFromHLN

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