How to wreck your image in one easy step

Jennifer Baumgardner, a feminist artist and documentarian, produced a t-shirt which says “I was raped.” It is intended to raise awareness help women end the shame they feel when raped. It’s a delicate topic, so I’ll send you to Scarleteen for background information.

The t-shirts are controversial, and they’ve led to a lot of discussion. I noticed an interesting theme in the comments at Jezebel. The very first commenter says, “If these are printed on American Apparel tees, I will shoot myself in the head.”

American Apparel has gone from being viewed as an important, ethical company to a sleazy demeaner of women. In about four years. Because of the advertising and marketing choices the company has made. (Yes, the CEO is also controversial, but I bet no one would notice if it wasn’t for the racy ads.) They’ve lost a ton of respect from the kind of ethical consumers who they need the most.

I wonder how many NGOs undermine themselves the same way, obscuring their good work with poverty-porn pictures that demean the communities where they work.

Lesson: Your marketing should be worthy of your programs.