Over the weekend, several readers let me know that Land’s End is currently embroiled in a controversy surrounding their decision to print an interview with Gloria Steinem in a recent catalog. After pro-life customers began complaining and protesting, LE issued an apology and may even have reneged on their year-long commitment to help funnel donations to the Fund for Women’s Equality. I hadn’t caught wind of this because I’ve been absolutely swamped with freelance projects and haven’t been terribly tuned-in for the past few weeks, so I was baffled and dismayed by the news.
The readers who contacted me also asked me to comment, so here are my thoughts: I feel that this is an incredibly disappointing and cowardly thing for Land’s End to have done. According to the commentary I’ve read (can’t find the actual interview at this point), the catalog piece didn’t mention abortion, but the people who spoke out against it seem to believe that Steinem’s pro-choice stance is the only thing that matters about her. Despite the fact that Steinem’s work has had a positive impact on countless women, despite the fact that her writing and leadership helped change how women are viewed and treated in this country. This interview could have been a welcome and unexpected tribute to her many accomplishments. Instead, it brings yet more controversy and negative attention to a movement that is constantly under fire for preposterous reasons, a movement that exists simply because its members believe that women deserve equal rights and opportunities to men. Myself included. This is a spineless move on the part of the company and I find their choice incredibly frustrating.
Now, here’s why I will continue to feature links to Land’s End products on this blog:
Land’s End is one of a teeny, tiny group of companies that creates quality women’s clothing for a true variety of sizes and shapes. Regular, petite, and plus are nearly always represented in every style, with petite plus and tall also in the mix, albeit less frequently. They do swimwear in regular, petite, plus, tall, and tall plus sizes as well as offering suits for women who have had mastectomies. And this is important. It’s important because most of the women who wear specialty sizes are excluded from mall brands, or forced to shop online to get access to clothes that actually fit them. It’s important because some brands that offer plus sizes create them separately from their regular-sized designs, which means that when plus sized women admire clothes from the regular section, they are reminded that the company believes they’re different and “can’t” wear the styles that smaller women can wear. When Land’s End creates its garments in a true variety of sizes, the underlying message is that all women belong, all women are welcome, all women deserve the full attention of their design staff. Most vendors don’t even bother with specialty sizes, and the ones who do make it difficult and frustrating for those customers to try and buy. Land’s End wants all of those women to have access to the same designs, and wants all of them to feel like they are equally valued as customers. And this is important.
Is this decision hypocritical? I’m sure some of you will believe it is. As I’ve said many times before, I believe that hypocrisy is an essential part of the human experience and anyone who claims to be living a life free of it is delusional. I also believe feminism is a huge movement that encompasses a vast number of varying viewpoints and agendas, and I’m quite sure I’m not the first to break with one of the movement’s early leaders for my own reasons. If you think this decision makes me a “bad feminist,” you won’t be the first to think that about me. And while you’re certainly entitled to your opinion, it will not shake my own dedication to the movement and its central goal: Equality.
Like the vast majority of mainstream brands, Land’s End isn’t producing its merchandise sustainably, so I, personally, will probably never shop there again. And, as a feminist, I am saddened by the company’s reaction to pushback from a segment of its customers. A group who took an interview that is said to have focused on Steinem’s views on equal rights and being a woman in the modern workplace, and turned it into an argument about religious and political beliefs. But in addition to making this misguided choice, LE has and will continue to be one of the only clothing manufacturers that silently champions size equality. And that is important. So you’ll continue to see links to their merchandise here. Naturally, I completely respect anyone’s choice to boycott or never shop with the company again, as I’m sure many of you will do. But what I’m trying to do here on this blog is build an informative and supportive community that makes all women feel important and welcome. So even if they make the occasional disappointingly profit-driven or PR-centric choice, I want to support companies that go out of their way to show women that – no matter who they are or how they’re shaped – they are important and welcome.
- If you feel strongly about this issue, express your views respectfully and civilly or they will not be published. I’m happy to facilitate a discussion that includes contrary opinions, but will not tolerate cruelty.
- Be courteous and kind to each other when responding to remarks from other readers.
Image cia CNN