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Abercrombie and Self Esteem

By Tzipporah La Fianza

When I first read about what Michael Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch, had to say regarding their target market, I had nothing more than an eye roll to offer. I’ve never shopped, nor do I ever intend to shop at A&B, so it didn’t seem worth wasting time forming an opinion on it.

But then I got to wondering if perhaps, I should be a little more upset by it. Though I personally wouldn’t want to walk into a store targeted towards teens, especially one with the high price tags and blatant sexual images that Abercrombie and Fitch displays, the idea of this 68 year old man targeting teenage girls in such a negative way did not sit well with me.

I’m a curvy–that’s how we’re qualifying females over size 10 these days, in case you didn’t know–32 yr old woman myself, and no doubt A&F cares very little about what I think of their marketing practices. But I was once a young, impressionable, self-conscious, teenager dying to fit in like so many others are now. I remember clearly how it feels to have your clothing, your car, your weight, your nose, and your hair, all judged harshly by your peers. Only to then look into your worst critic’s eyes in the mirror every morning. Sizing yourself up, comparing your thighs to the model in the magazine, comparing your shoes to those of your friend’s; the worries of fitting in with just the right crowd all the while pretending you don’t really care at all. Working to get that “I just rolled out of bed looking this incredibly good” look without letting on that it took you nearly 40 minutes of teasing, blow drying and sixteen different hair products to look that casual. Oh, and school work too, because you are in school to receive an education after all, right?

Teenagers live in an emotionally exhausting head-space and even with juggling my very busy adult life with four kids to care for, I still don’t think I have anything on them. Honestly, I don’t miss it at all.

Though I feel that many companies’ marketing to be distasteful at best, I’m quick to remind myself that I am free not to support them with my hard earned money. At the end of the day, a company is going to do whatever is quickest to push its product. This isn’t the first nor the last company that will play off of the insecurities of their consumers in order to make sales. In fact, I researched a few more fashion stores generally targeted at teenagers and I found much of the same. This portion of the popular teen store 5.7.9.’s “about us” statement makes it abundantly clear that they know exactly who they are marketing to:

“…featuring sizes 00-9. The target age group is the 13 to 22 year old. She lives in the suburbs, comes from a middle & upper income background & uses malls and a social meeting places as well as a place to shop…”

Michael Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch

How can I find any particular fault with A&F that I don’t find with other stores targeting the same demographic? Maybe it was a bit of a faux pas for Michael to publicly state that “good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”  But under the surface, is there really any difference in what other stores that target teens and young adults do? I’m not so sure.

Time has taught me that self-esteem is not only an important asset to developing your own sense of identity in school, but it is the way you feel about yourself during those formative years that tends to stick with you like glue, becoming hardened in the cement of growing older, and eventually becoming nearly impossible to change once we hit out early thirties. Our self-esteem and that of our children, is something truly worth fighting for because when all is said and done, all of those high school relationships and BFFs will be behind us and all that we will really have left from the four year experience, is a diploma and a seed planted in us about our worth in this world. It’s clear that in this day and age, if you don’t fight hard to be the master of your own sense of self-worth, you’re going to have it stripped away or handed to you on a silver platter by any number of sources.

I know that I will never be able to walk into a Target and fit my size 14 body into one of their maxi dresses or skinny jeans. I accept that when I need a new shirt or skirt, I will have to head over to the “petite” (that’s a nice word for short) section of JC Penney to scavenge through the various racks of pre-shrunk cotton shirts and rayon blouses for something that doesn’t make me feel 82. I can even deal with the fact that my body shape isn’t within the framework of the American ideal. Honestly, it’s no skin off my back, I’ve never prided myself in my astounding fashion sense nor have I ever wanted to, as I like being my own person. But that’s not to say that I don’t recognize the effect this sort of marketing does have on teenage girls.

As far as I am concerned, Abercrombie and Fitch’s marketing might as well follow a you into high school and stand in line right next to that mean girl who pretends not to see you and shoves you with her shoulder in the hallway, or the group of girls who crack into sudden hysterics as you as you walk by their lunch table, causing you to both check the bottoms of your shoes for toilet paper and your nose for rogue boogers while you walk away blushing. If there is one thing teenagers do not need from their elders, is the encouragement to divide up into groups to bully and outcast.

Do I think that Abercrombie and Fitch should retract their statements or be shamed into coming out with a secondary clothing line for us of larger stature or of dorkier social status? Not at all. I still stand by my conviction that it is within their right to market as they see fit. Instead, I turn my attention to you, the consumers and the parents of the consumers, and implore you not to buy into this ideal of the perfect American body type. Instead of stressing over wardrobes so much, consider investing in who you are as a person. As cliché as the saying is, it’s quite true that beauty is only skin deep. Mothers, remember to tell your daughter how beautiful they really are because every teenage girl really needs to hear that, no matter how much she might deny it. Fathers, make sure your little girls know that they are treasured and respected, because someone who truly values themselves will always value others. Girls, demand for yourself respect from society, from your peers and always question companies who are willing to eagerly take your money and in exchange, hand you a token of your perceived net worth as a human being.

And for goodness sakes, never let a 68 year old CEO of a clothing store define who you are in this world.

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A Moment of Silence

Exactly one week has passed since the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre. As the world continues to mourn the loss of 26 innocent souls, we hope and we pray for comfort and clarity during this painful time. This poem is in loving memory of Noah Pozner, the youngest and the only Jewish victim. It is also in dedication of the other 25 lives that were lost. Noah, please beseech our father in heaven to free the world of evil and darkness. “May G-d comfort your family, together with all mourners of Zion and Jerusalem”. Thanks to the Galenas, your Taco dream is becoming a reality.

In their final moments
Inhaling their last breath
They did not hear silence
Facing the angel of death

They heard sounds of gunfire
Piercing the once innocent air
The gut-wrenching cries of children
Mourning a world they thought was fair

When the bullets stopped flying
Wailing sirens took its place
Sheer terror and utter havoc
On every survivor’s face

TVs and radios cackle
More opinions and banter
Asking the one big question
Though there will never be an answer

Shots, sirens, cries, no silence
The world yammers on and on
How? Why? Who? Still no silence
People are hurting, children are gone

Little smiles lost forever, be silent
Grieving parents’ arms left open and bare
Brave teachers now angels, keep silent
Our world needs a moment to hear….

Please join in on this “Random Acts of Kindness” campaign to bring more goodness and love into this world. Let us remember: Charlotte Bacon – Daniel Barden – Rachel Davino – Olivia Engel – Josephine Gay – Ana M. Marquez-Greene – Dylan Hockley – Dawn Hochsprung – Madeleine F. Hsu – Catherine V. Hubbard – Chase Kowalski – Jesse Lewis – James Mattioli – Grace McDonnell – Anne Marie Murphy – Emilie Parker – Jack Pinto – Noah Pozner – Caroline Previdi – Jessica Rekos – Avielle Richman – Lauren Rousseau – Mary Sherlach – Victoria Soto – Benjamin Wheeler – Allison N. Wyatt 

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Unforgotten Soldier

This poem is being published as a tribute to all of the Israeli soldiers that are fighting for Israel. As Israel takes a stand and retaliates against Hamas and the terror that they unleash on a daily basis to the citizens of Israel, we pray for our Jewish Chayalim to be protected and for the safety of the Holy Land during these trying times. If you live anywhere in or near the danger zone, we are sending thoughts and prayers your way. Three causalities are three too many.  Hashem Yikom Damam. To all those who are reading this, if a chapter of Psalms can be said or simply a good deed done, that would mean a whole lot. Please share and be safe.

Written by: Lieba Bard-Wigdor

From the city of Tel Aviv
He walks to the door
Gradually turns around
And kneels on the floor

Aba, please don’t leave me
We need you right here
The child sounds so desperate
His voice is filled with fear

Our Jewish brothers need me
My son, please understand
This is what I must do
To protect our holy land

Wherever Elokim takes me
My son, I want you to know
You will be with me always
But now I really must go

He watches his father leave
As a tear rolls down his cheek
He waves the soldier goodbye
For he can no longer speak

Many years pass on by
Since that very last day
His father’s final departure
And forever taken away

He looks into the mirror
He sees his father’s face
It brings back memories
Of a familiar time and place

From the city of Tel Aviv
He walks to the door
Gradually turns around
And kneels on the floor

Aba, please don’t leave me
Your father did the same
I do not want to lose you
To be another forgotten name

My son, Saba is remembered
Although we may be apart
He’s been watching over me
As he is always in my heart

Now I will watch over you
As my father did the same
I love you, B’ni Hayakar
I won’t be a forgotten name

Stay strong, my dear son
I will be okay, don’t cry
For this land is ours forever
B’ni, Am Yisrael Chai

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Swirling Thoughts on Sandy

On August 24, 2011, just one day after the famous Virginia earthquake, Hurricane Irene took over the Bahamas. As I watched the short weather man and his hands spread across the map of the east coast, his grim looking face matched the swirl of dark clouds on the map that hovered over the island in its whirlpool motion. The hurricane is said to be heading towards New York and that certain areas will be instructed to evacuate.

The “paranoid” people (meaning, me) ran to the nearest food shops and bought out the aisles of bottled water and canned goods. The shelves were left as bare as an in-compliant school boy’s notebook. I watched the windows of neighboring buildings seal their windows as though they were trying to keep out the devil himself. People blew up their inflatable boats in case they had to row down the flooded streets. Luckily, the storm wasn’t half as bad as expected.

Between the earthquake and Hurricane Irene, New York got to experience Nature’s fury twice within one week. Just days after, it was as if nothing threatened the tight and fast schedule of the New Yorker’s bustling life. The sun yellow cabs drove on and the latest rap song found its rhythm in the pungent polluted air. The New York people, from all walks of life, blended once again into the picture of a city that will forever be home to the millions of people – that have come to paint their story onto the grand canvas of a bright and successful tomorrow.

Fast Forward to October 29, 2012…

When I wrote about Hurricane Irene a week after its occurrence, and I recall how it was broadcasted to affect New York and the other states down the east coast, never did I think that its narrative would be so different to that of Hurricane Sandy. After all, Irene started out as a category 3 while Sandy was only a category 1 a few days before she hit. We have been told before that evacuation would be necessary, we were told to hunker down and stay indoors, we were told to take it seriously. But we heard it before and it was not that bad. We bought out the shelves once before, and so we personally did it again. But I know others who did not, and I could understand why. Why would we do this again, when these weather forecasts seem to overhype the storms and how bad it is going to be? My friends in Florida, who frequently experience storms, seemed to agree. It is exaggerated. It is not really that bad.

Only this time, it really was that bad. People had good reason to buy out the store shelves. People were not over dramatizing the dangers when pinning up their doors and windows with large boards of wood. Stores had cause to build a wall of heavy sandbags along the sides of their businesses. Families were not silly to inflate their boats, and were foolish if they did not take heed to the call of the authorities, whom announced mandatory evacuation in areas prone to flooding. Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc in her wake, as fires, floods, fallen trees and electric lines affected the lives of millions. Seeing pictures of destruction and yellow cabbies floating about, all I can think of is how they were right…It was the worst we have ever seen.

A flooded parking lot filled with taxi cabs in Hoboken, N.J.

I grew up in the amazing state of New York. When I settled down in New Jersey to live with my husband and child, I did not look back. I love suburbia. Well, maybe I looked back when storms were a threat, as New York hardly ever loses power in a storm because of the underground wiring. In New Jersey, power is easily lost when a tree rips down the electric wires that run above ground. When we heard that Hurricane Sandy would be serious enough to run down power lines, my husband and I decided that it would be best for us to stay by my parents in New York, where we can have proper heat and food for our child. If we lose power in mild storms, then we probably will lose power in this one. We were right. Our neighbor informed us that indeed, we do not have power.

So here we are in New York with power and I cannot help but wonder. In life, how often do we brush off something attention worthy, only because it did not end up being as serious as expected the first time around? I know I do that sometimes. I do not always take heed and listen, as I would sometimes rather not be inconvenienced than staying on the safe side. Little do I realize that it may not hurt to keep caution. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. It is telling my child that I will listen to what he has to say. You have a tummy ache? Let’s get it checked out. It is telling my parents that I will listen to them when I take my family on a road trip and we will sleep in a hotel overnight, instead of driving with droopy eyes. It is telling my husband that I would rather spend a nice evening at home, than hire a babysitter that we do not know well enough. It is telling myself that I have a life, a family, and many responsibilities.

Mistakes happen, accidents occur, and at often times, we cannot control them. But when we can, see your life, listen to your loved ones, and feel contentedness in your grasp. Know that safety always comes first. Care enough to go the extra mile by getting out of harm’s way, and not taking a single moment in life for granted.

Sandy taught me this…what did she teach you?

Streets are flooded under the Manhattan Bridge in the Dumbo section of Brooklyn, New York.
A surveillance camera captures water surging into the PATH station in Hoboken, New Jersey, as it flooded.
Seawater pours into the Ground Zero construction site in New York, on October 29, 2012.

Photo Credit:

Charles Sykes, AP – Yellow Taxi

Bebeto Matthews, AP – Bridge

Port Authority of NY & NJ, AP – Path

John Minchillo, AP – Ground Zero