by Stephanie Martoccia
Urban Outfitters is at it again: Production of offensive items is becoming part of its brand image, and the public is not happy.
The newest controversial item released by Urban Outfitters is a tapestry that strikingly resembles Holocaust concentration camp uniforms; it is grey and white stripped with pink triangles. The upside-down pink triangle was used on uniforms worn by gay prisoners at the camps.
This tapestry immediately caught the attention of the Anti-Defamation League, an organization that champions the fight against anti-Semitism, and it wrote a letter to the CEO of Urban Outfitters asking the company to remove the offensive item from its inventory.
Abraham H. Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said, “Whether intentional or not, this gray and white stripped pattern and pink triangle combination is deeply offensive and should not be mainstreamed into popular culture.”
This is not the first time ADL has had issues with items produced by Urban Outfitters. In 2012, UO released a shirt with a representation of the yellow Star of David, but when ADL confronted Urban Outfitters, the company stated the shirt was never intended for sale.
Why would any company waste time and money to design and produce an item it never intended to sell? Although Urban Outfitters has not released a statement on this item yet, can we assume that their statement will be truthful? Or will it only be a matter of time until ADL is pushed aside and another public is struck with offense?
What does a history of producing offensive products mean for Urban Outfitters’ brand image? The designers at UO are either targeting intellectuals to see if they catch the context of their items or targeting the ignorant who just see the aesthetic of their designs. They are obviously seeking inspiration from historic events, but the line between appropriate and offensive seems to be hazy. We may never know the company’s true intentions because whenever UO is questioned, the spokesperson plays dumb.
It is shocking that Urban Outfitters still has a strong customer base due to its multiple public relations fails. UO needs to be aware that its publics are not just ‘hipsters,’ and its items can’t merely rely on freedom of expression.
by Meghan Caprez
Last night, I attended “Real Talk: Uncut & Uncensored,” a discussion about issues in diversity in student media hosted by the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Student Voice Team.
If you haven’t heard about it, the Student Voice Team is a group of JMC students who are champions for diversity; they want to help solve issues in diversity as well as increase inclusion both in the classroom and outside it.
After identifying a need for students to be heard, the team worked with both student media and student organization leaders to create “Real Talk.” At the event, students discussed the problems they had with the language student media was using to describe certain organizations and events on campus, the mixed messages they received about getting involved and more.
While the discussion mostly focused on student media, I learned a lot about what PRSSA Kent can do as an organization to increase inclusion and be more welcoming to students from all walks of life.
We definitely aren’t perfect, but we’re working on it. With the help of some of our members and the Student Voice Team, we identified some places PRSSA can improve in terms of inclusion.
PRSSA is making a conscious effort to bring in a more diverse group of speakers this semester and next fall. We want to make sure our members not only feel connected to each other but also feel connected to the professionals in the public relations industry; there are many different kinds of people who do PR, and we want to make sure each of those kinds is represented at our meetings.
This year, our team of officers grew to an all-time high of 16 individuals, most of whom are straight, white females. We’ve discovered that a group of leaders this large who all appear to look and think alike is not inclusive, and it may seem to promote cliques. The PRSSA Kent e-board is currently working on adjusting the bylaws to decrease the number of officer positions while increasing the opportunities for members to get more involved.
PRSSA has changed and is changing the way it recruits new members. Following our parent organization’s (PRSA) guidelines, we have added new portions to our membership application to better understand the diverse group of people we serve at Kent State. Additionally, we are working with the Student Voice Team to organize a student involvement fair specifically for those who feel underrepresented in both student media and student organizations in JMC. We want everyone who is interested in public relations to be a part of our organization, no matter what they identify as in terms of race, gender, sexuality, etc.
If you have any other ideas or issues in PRSSA you would like to discuss, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We want to make PRSSA the most welcoming environment it can be for everyone, and with your help, we can be.