American Apparel has built its image through controversial advertising and clothing. In April, the United Kingdom banned advertisements depicting women in body suits with their legs spread and with a tagline saying, “Now open,” according to The Huffington Post UK. Go to the American Apparel website, and you’re sure to see women modeling hosiery with their legs wide open, photo spreads of a woman undressing to reveal her bare chest, and images of barely dressed women among fully clothed men.
The brand’s latest joint venture is now celebrating masturbation and menstruation in a graphic t-shirt, now available for purchase and designed by artist Petra Collins and Alice Lancaster, according to an Oct. 8 Time story. The illustration shows a woman touching herself while she is on her period. The only colors in the image are her brightly painted nails and the blood. The image also takes up the majority of the front of the shirt.
Now, there is nothing shameful or dirty about menstruation, but usually the topic is pretty private. If a female talks about “that time of the month,” she usually mentions it, but never delves into any details. People tend not to talk about it at length, and people are still expected to carry on with their daily lives while menstruating — even if they are in extreme pain.
So in that context, the t-shirt makes some semblance of an argument. It celebrates normal bodily functions, and screams the message, “There is nothing wrong with being sexual!” But that’s the thing. Whoever wears it is sure to offend people at home, in the street or in class. The artistic thinking behind the message the shirt sends is somewhat clear to see, but where will people wear it?
There is a point after which where broadcasting sexual freedom becomes obscene. People should not feel suppressed, especially when discussing sexuality and what comes along with that concept. The shirt allegedly makes a conscious effort to educate people on women’s health, but because American Apparel sells the shirt, it’s hard to ignore their past — and current — oversexualization in advertising.
People should not be ashamed of their periods. They should not blush when purchasing Vagisil or tampons. People understandably get embarrassed when discussing their bodies — especially how their bodies work — because those are private functions. If people want to talk about the details of menstruation or masturbation, there are plenty of opportunities you have with your friends or family to open up. However, these opportunities will not be prompted by a tasteless t-shirt.
American Apparel and their models notoriously push the envelope and spark discussion, typically around sexual topics. However, instead of being an attempt at unconventional artistic expression, the project comes off as an obscene, thoughtless publicity ploy which will result in controversy and hopefully few sales.