Abercrombie & Fitch, the clothing company known for provocative ads featuring sexual images like those at left, will affix its brand to a children's hospital trauma center after donating $10 million, and a bunch of children's groups find that a little pervy and are trying to derail the whole thing. The groups allege Abercombie pushes sexual images on pre-teens, and judging by a 2006 Salon profile of the company they are probably right. In it, Abercrombie CEO Mike Jeffries defended thongs for middle school girls, which had been imprinted with statements like "Eye Candy" and "Wink Wink," by saying "You know what? I still think those are cute underwear for little girls. And I think anybody who gets on a bandwagon about thongs for little girls is crazy." But unless Abercrombie posters go up in the new hospital or medical staff start getting hired based on their looks — basically unless the place turns into the set of E.R. — it's hard to imagine the brand traumatizing kiddies just because it's attached to a hospital wing. After the jump, an outraged anti-Abercrombie letter signed by 16 "advocacy organizations" and "about 800 Ph. D.'s," according to one of the signatories.

Steve Allen MD, Chief Executive Officer

Rick Miller, President and Chief Operating Officer

J. Terrance Davis MD, Interim Chief Medical Officer

Michael Brady MD, Physician-In-Chief and Chairman of the Dept. of Pediatrics

Abigail S. Wexner, Chairman, Board of Directors

Nationwide Children's Hospital

700 Children's Drive

Columbus, OH 43205

Dear Dr. Allen, Mr. Miller, Dr. Davis, Dr. Brady and Ms. Wexner,

We are writing to urge Nationwide Children's Hospital not to sell naming rights to the

Emergency Department and Trauma Center to Abercrombie & Fitch. Given growing

concerns about the sexualization of young girls, it is troubling that a children's hospital

would name its emergency room after a company that routinely relies on highly

sexualized marketing to target teens and preteens. The Abercrombie & Fitch Emergency

Department and Trauma Center marries the Abercrombie brand to your reputation; a

company with a long history of undermining children's wellbeing is now linked with


Abercrombie & Fitch is one of the most popular brands with preteens,1 yet the clothing

company routinely includes nudity and explicit sexual situations in its advertising. In

2003, the company was the target of boycotts and protests when its catalog featured

young people engaging in group sex.2 In February of this year, in response to complaints,

police carted away two large promotional photographs from an Abercrombie & Fitch

store in Virginia and cited the manager on obscenity charges.3 One current Abercrombie

website promoting its Gilly Hicks line features graphic nudity, boasting "(o)ur site shows

a lot of skin."4 While visitors to the site are told that they must be eighteen to enter and

"see what we're wearing under our clothes," Abercrombie does not verify that they are

actually of age. In other words, the preteens with whom Abercrombie & Fitch is so

popular can easily enter the site.

The role that fashion, media, and marketing industries play in the sexualization of young

girls is well documented, most notably in a 2007 report by the American Psychological

Association.5 Research links sexualization with some of the most pressing and common

mental health problems of girls including eating disorders, low self-esteem, and

depression or depressed mood.6 Research also demonstrates a link between sexualization

and the objectification of women in the media and body dissatisfaction and appearance anxiety.7

Appearance anxiety is in turn linked to the earlier onset of cigarette smoking

among adolescents.8 Adolescent girls with an objectified view of their own bodies are

also more likely to have poor sexual health.9 It is worth noting that the sexualization and

objectification of girls and women can have negative effects on boys and men, including

making it more difficult to have satisfying relationships.10

It is equally distressing that a children's hospital would promote a company that features

impossibly thin and idealized body types in its advertising when 10 million girls and

young women in the United States are struggling with an eating disorder. 11 Frequent

exposure to such advertising is linked to higher rates of eating disorders.12 Mike Jeffries,

Abercrombie's CEO has publicly stated that his company's clothes are not for kids that

are overweight, unattractive or unpopular.13 In 2005, high school students launched a

""girl-cott" of the store for selling T-shirts that demeaned and objectified girls by

featuring slogans such as "Do I Make You Look Fat?" and "Who needs brains when you

have these?"14

Abercrombie has described its clothing as "age-appropriate with an edge"15 but that edge

often means objectifying or demeaning young people. In 2002, the store sold thongs for

10-year-olds with "eye candy" and "wink wink" printed on the front.16 As stated in the

APA report, "Given that girls may be developing their identity in part through the

clothing they choose, it is of concern when girls at increasingly younger ages are invited

to try on and wear teen clothes designed to highlight female sexuality. Wearing such

clothing may make it more difficult for girls to see their own worth and value in any way

other than sexually."17 The company was also the target of protests for selling shirts that

demeaned Chinese-Americans through the use of racist caricatures.18

Given how much criticism has been aimed at Abercrombie & Fitch, it is not surprising

that the company would want to associate itself with the good name of Nationwide

Children's Hospital.19 It is distressing, however, that you are willing to promote a

company whose tactics and products are so antithetical to the hospital's mission "to

enhance the health of children everywhere."20

We understand that it is common for public health institutions to seek gifts from the

business community. But when these gifts include a quid pro quo like naming rights,

they cross the line from philanthropy to advertising. And, given this company's

appalling history of targeting children with sexualized marketing and clothing, no public

health institution should be advertising Abercrombie & Fitch. We urge you – for the sake

of your hospital's reputation and the heath and wellbeing of children – to rescind your

offer to name your emergency room after Abercrombie & Fitch.


[names cut]

Times: When a Corporate Donation Raises Protests

Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood: Original letter (PDF)