American Eagle Thinks Body Positivity is a Joke

facepalmSeveral weeks ago Aerie, a subsidiary of American Eagle Outfitters, launched a series of videos that they described as a body positive approach to marketing men’s underwear. I was excited to see them making their work more inclusive, I even have a half-finished blog in my drafts about it.

Unfortunately that draft will never see the light of day because, before I was able to finish it, they put out a press release saying that the whole thing was …get a load of this… an April Fool’s Day Prank.

The brand reveals today its #AerieMAN campaign, featuring a mix of quirky characters of different sizes and personalities sharing “real life” stories in their skivvies, was all in good fun to parody the #AerieReal campaign by Aerie, a leader in body-positive marketing.

Let me take a stab at translating this from Asshole to English:

The brand reveals today that we are not anywhere close to being leaders in body-positive anything, but we are willing to use the concept (and plus size male models) to forward our brand, though of course the idea that we would actually market using men of diverse sizes is so ridiculous that we think it’s hilarious that anybody believed this.  #AerieRealBigotry #AerieNoFatDudes

What Aerie is actually planning to do is stop retouching their (sterotypically sized) models. That’s not a bad thing, it’s some progress, but why announce that progress by pointing out the major progress that you could have made, but didn’t.

Almost unbelievably, it gets worse. It turns out that at least one of the models in the campaign wasn’t in on the joke. Blogger/model Kelvin Davis told Buzzfeed that he was never told that it was a “parody.”

We were asked questions about male body image and those were our responses. Everything I said was heartfelt from a place we all can relate.

I have had people in the body positivity community upset with me about this whole thing. My part and contribution to the project was 100% authentic and real.

My stance and advocation for body positivity has never been a joke. What I represent is 100% authentic.

So not only is American Eagle willing to promote their brand using what amounts to a fat joke, they are willing to hurt the brand of the models they lied to in order to do it. I guess since they think that body positivity is a joke, they think that these guy’s careers are a joke as well.

Happily, Kelvin has not been deterred from his work by American Eagle’s shitty behavior:

I represented male body positivity before the #AerieMan campaign. I represent male body positivity after the #AerieMan campaign.

I can only hope that the positive response that they got to their campaign to use diverse bodies will help American Eagle realize that body diversity is a real opportunity and not a cheap joke. Until then, I’ll continue to treat American Eagle like it’s a parody of a clothing brand – something to laugh at, but never to buy from.

EDIT:  Thanks to reader Jenni for pointing out that another model who was part of the campaign has also spoken out against the way it was handled. You can read his excellent statement here!  

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14 thoughts on “American Eagle Thinks Body Positivity is a Joke

  1. Wow. 😳 That is the shittiest thing I’ve heard in a while. Seriously… It makes me want to boycott their products, and hold protests in front of their stores.

  2. Sounds like American Eagle needs to grow up and hire a marketing firm that isn’t fresh outta 7th grade PE. Morons…

  3. Now, if they had followed this with a post later in the day, saying, “Hahaha! That wasn’t REALLY a joke, after all, but you thought it was, so, April Fool!” that would still be a rotten thing to do. It would get attention, but it would still be rotten.

    What I saw of their “April Fools Joke” was so uplifting, and heart-warming, and they really could have had a great thing there. WHYYYYY?

  4. This seriously about made me puke. American Eagle took pictures of fat men under deceitful pretenses and posted them online to be mocked. I don’t care how they try to spin it. It’s repulsive.

  5. Well, I guess I know whose clothing I won’t be purchasing any time in the foreseeable future.

    My body may not be perfect, but their clothing is not worthy to cover even my pasty white tush.

  6. I’d never heard of Kelvin/Notoriously Dapper before. What a gorgeous man. What a gorgeous statement. I think I’m in love! 😉

  7. I already hate April Fools Day for personal reasons, but even were that not true, this is seriously fucked up. There are plenty of things to joke about; body positivity is not one of them. If the only jokes you can come up with are “fat jokes,” than your comedy isn’t worth shit. Sorry for the profanity if it’s a problem. I hate bullying, and it’s even worse that some of these men didn’t even realize they were the butt of a cruel joke 😡

  8. Thanks again for giving me strength to respond appropriatelly to bullies. Had today repeated encounter with one of those ‘good old ladies’ (‘entitled’ by being thin while having fat relative) to give ‘valuable’ advice like eat potatoes only or die at 50 …. it was so refreshing to see her quickly escape embarassed after i told her to i will call police on her if she will not stop abusing strangers in a street :]

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