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This week, Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority spoke out about American Apparel’s ad campaign last fall, according to Fashion Indie. Finally, someone is speaking out! I only wish these ads would be banned here in America too.

My junior year in college I took a Media Ethics class. After one case study on AA ads, I immediately wanted to go home and burn any AA I had in my closet.

The problem with AA is that their ads unabashedly exploit women. Most ads have women sprawled out on beds and barely clothed. These ads aren’t sexually suggestive, they are sexual. Period.

WARNING: The following images are not appropriate for anyone, let alone children. (I’ve only included some of the “softer” ads.)

Why on earth are so many or these women photographed lying on a bed?? I personally don’t fathom a scenario in which I’d ever wear a bikini or a hat and scarves in bed (except when the power went out for a couple days during the snow storm of 2009). Also, if it’s cold enough to wear gloves, why would the rest of you be naked? I could actually go on forever, but I’ll spare you.

It stuns me that a group of ad professionals, sat down in a board room, brainstormed this idea, drew it out on story boards, executed the campaign and ultimately approved these photos. Do these people not have wives, sisters, mothers or daughters?

To add to the disgust of these ads, AA claims that the, “images are basically what the kids are into these days.” Kids?!

According to International Justice Mission, “Today, millions of lives around the world are in the grip of injustice. More children, women and men are held in slavery right now than over the course of the entire trans-Atlantic slave trade: Millions toil in bondage, their work and even their bodies the property of an owner. Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 32 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry.”

This problem is not isolated to countries abroad. In fact, Portland has one of the biggest problems of sexual slavery in America today.

Don’t believe it? Check out the following articles:
Huffington Post-Pornland, Oregon: Child Prostitution in Portland
The Washington Times- Portland’s dark world of child sex trafficking
KGW- Former prostitute speaks out on sex trade
KATU- Is Portland ‘Pornland?’ Nightline highlights city sex trade

This is a real problem that requires real action. There is truly so much we can do and pledging to not buy or wear AA is the very least.

Like most college students (and PDX residents) I used to love AA and frequented its store right next to campus. The hoodies for my house in college were from AA. I personally believe that each time you buy anything, you have the power to make the world a better place. You vote with your dollar. Is it important that we keep jobs here in America? Do you care whether your breakfast eggs are free-range? Do you believe in human rights?

Communication is powerful, whether personal or professional. As a communications professional you have a responsibility to ask yourself, “Am I part of the problem, or part of the solution?”

You have the power to “be the change you wish to see,” as Gandhi said. Will you?