Monday, November 07, 2005

Splendid singing, music and message -- with a recent victory!

The hardest element of this posting is trying to figure out who should get top billing. All were excellent.

Emma Blackman-Mathis join with Emma's Revolution to bask in the glory of the recent victory.
Pgh's Emma and DC-based Emma's Revolution hooked up in Friendship. Check out the t-shirts. (Click image for larger view.)

Girlcott co-organizer, Emma, (16-year old from Pittsburgh) back from major network appearances, and triumph with A&F's decision to yank the t-shirt line. (keep reading)

Musical power.

In May 2002, the song, (my favorite) "Swimming to the Other Side" was featured on NPR's All Things Considered. In the interview, Pete Seeger said, "The powers that be can control the media (but) it's hard to stop a good song . . . Pat's songs will be sung well into the 22nd century." The tremendous and unprecedented response by NPR listeners made Emma's Revolution CD, "Hands," the #1 seller on for three days following.

Pat Humphries and Sandy Opatow, (neither named Emma -- but both want to dance at the revolution) were in the process of moving to the Washington DC area from New York City on September 11, 2001. Since then, they have been performing at concerts, teach-ins and rallies. At one event as Gulf War II began, the singers/songwriters lead 10,000 people in an outdoor concert in NYC in the singing of their song "Peace, Salaam, Shalom." That inspiring event, less than a month after September 11th, was requested and repeated at an all-night peace vigil in NYC on the first 9-11 anniversary.

"Democracy Now!" with Amy Goodman plays a number of their songs. Rhythms Magazine called the "Hands" CD a "powerful and energetic album. . . one of the best of 2001." Sheet music in PDF format of the peace song is online.

Anne Feeney stages another great event.

Back to the t-shirt story:

On November 2, 2005, the news was about free PR for A&F and the girls. Since then, the A&F changed its tune. The t-shirts are gone. Student 'girlcott' protests Abercrombie t-shirts

With a few words on their T-shirts, Abercrombie & Fitch lets young women send a message: 'Who needs a brain when you have these?'

A group of female high school students have a message for A&F: Stop degrading us.

The Allegheny County (Pa.) Girls have started a boycott -- or girlcott, as they're calling it -- of the retailer. The campaign, conceived three weeks ago during the group's monthly meeting, went national on NBC's "Today" show. (Emma was on all the major networks: CNN, Fox, etc.)

"We're telling [girls] to think about the fact that they're being degraded," Emma Blackman-Mathis, the 16-year-old co-chair of the group. "We're all going to come together in this one effort to fight this message that we're getting from pop culture."

Abercrombie has been a lightning rod for criticism:
  • In 2003, a catalog containing photos of topless women and bare-bottomed men provoked so much outrage that the company pulled the publication.

  • Last year, after the U.S. Olympic gymnastics team failed to win a gold medal, the company sold T-shirts with the phrase "L is for loser" next to a picture of a gymnast on the rings. Those shirts were pulled from the racks after USA Gymastics called for a boycott.

  • While Abercrombie backed down in those cases, it show no signs of doing so this time. (Ha! A&F did back down this time. The young women from Allegheny County won.)
  • "Our clothing appeals to a wide variety of customers. These particular T-shirts have been very popular among adult women to whom they are marketed," a company spokesman said in a statement.

    News of the girlcott hadn't reached Tawana Clark, 20, who was applying for a job at the Abercrombie & Fitch store in Water Tower Place on Tuesday. But she doesn't think the protest will work.

    "I think it's only older people that have a problem with it," she said. "Teenagers don't have a problem with it." (Ha, ha, ha!)

    Clark sees the shirts as funny, not offensive. "It's not to be taken seriously," she said. (Say what?)

    The aim of the girlcott is to convince people that the T-shirts are offensive, but young people don't care if they are, according to David Krafft, senior vice president of Chicago-based Graziano, Krafft and Zale Advertising.

    "You figure they're appealing to a younger audience demographic and (young people) are going to want go for brands that are more cutting edge, or viewed as more cutting edge," Krafft said. "So it's just going to be a benefit anyway to Abercrombie & Fitch."

    The attention from this boycott is likely to help Abercrombie's image, and its audience will be attracted to the controversy, said Steve Bassill, president of Libertyville-based QDI strategies, a marketing consulting firm. (WRONG!)

    "That's been their whole strategy, isn't it, to be radical?" Bassill asked. "I think that's what we've seen for quite a while from them."

    Krafft says the "Today" show appearance was tantamount to free advertising.

    According to Chicago-based media company Starcom USA, a 30-second commercial on "Today" costs approximately $58,000.

    The girlcott girls were on for several minutes. The girlcott almost is "playing into their hands," Bassill said.

    Heather Arnett, adviser for the girls' group, said it doesn't matter if Abercrombie gets free advertising. They're already a giant as far as she's concerned. What matters is empowering young women, she said, who in turn serve as examples to other young women.
    "A week ago, Katie Couric knew who Abercrombie & Fitch was, but she didn't know who Emma Blackman-Mathis was," Arnett said. "A bunch of teenage girls are being interviewed by national media about what they think. And that is the news."

    Blackman-Mathis admits that, at first glance, the T-shirts are a little funny.

    But the more she looked at them, the less amusing they were. She's still stunned to have appeared on national TV and is hopeful the message will reach young girls.

    "Worst-case scenario, I just want girls to at least think about everything that they buy," Blackman-Mathis said. "Think about the message that it conveys to themselves and other people when they wear it."

    Her best-case scenario?

    "They would stand up and say something for themselves and for girls."

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