Dear Lands’ End,
I am a feminist and a mother and I spend waaaaaay too much money on Lands’ End clothing, backpacks, parkas, boots, and so on every year.
Look, here is a pile of Lands’ End stuff.
I have been a loyal customer. The shit from H&M is cuter but it falls apart and The Gap is too expensive and not that cute nor that well made. You send me those emails saying extra 30% off and sometimes I actually click and buy! But now… I don’t understand what is happening. You issued a formal apology for featuring an interview with feminist icon Gloria Steinem in your spring catalog after backlash from the anti-abortion movement?
I just looked at my new catalogs today.
First I looked at the “School Outfitters” one. “Huh, I’ve never seen this before.” My kids don’t have to wear uniforms so I’ve never noticed, but I think it was the first time I got it. I flipped through, noticed that the Iron Knee pants I like for my kids (even though you only market them to boys, but that’s another story) come in uniform chinos. Filed that info away in case I need it in the future.
Then I see the regular catalog. An Easter family party on the cover. I flip through a little. “New paper,” I thought, it was matte and seemed more expensive. “Ooooh, interviews! In the front with Gloria Steinem, in the back with a model. Hmmmm… they seem to be commercializing feminism. But we need all the help we can get. Oh look, those ultra high waist bathing suit bottoms I love are in the middle pages!”
I started at the back and worked forward. I actually READ the interview with the model who usually plays “the mother” in the faux family tableaus, Marian Thieriot—about yoga and walking and spirituality. You even did a cute “Marian’s Musts” list, like J.Crew did, oh I don’t know, 8 YEARS AGO.
I hear J. Crew is in trouble too. (Though there is a super cute orange red coat I keep seeing on the street and I finally stopped a woman and asked and she said “J. Crew!” and I want to buy it for my partner.) And if you RECALL, Lands’ End, I hope you don’t mind me calling you by your brand name, when Jenna Lyons and J. Crew had a cultural moment where conservatives complained about a photo of her painting her son’s toenails (and please, everyone does that), THEY DECLINED TO COMMENT.
I’m getting ahead of my own outrage. Let’s go back to that new catalog.
You announced “a new way to shop at Lands’ End” even though I liked the old way. You have been around since 1963. Sears owned you from 2002 to 2014. Recently you hired Frederica Marchionni as your new CEO. According to Glamour, Marchionni is 44 (my age), Italian, worked for Samsung, Eriksson, and then took over North American Dolce and Gabbana. Ooohh, Dolce. Fan-say. You had a pop-up store in Manhattan over the Holidays.
See I like you, Lands’ End. At the preppy school I went to in Buffalo, a lot of kids got their stuff from you. I couldn’t afford it. I was a scholarship student, and felt like I was never allowed to forget it. My family got the Sear’s Catalog and the JC Penney catalog, huge phone book things full of utilitarian stuff for middle class families and those that aspired to be middle class, like mine. But you, Lands’ End, you were at the rich girls’ houses that I sometimes went over to. My best friend got Lands’ End, L.L. Bean, Tweeds, and J. Peterman. Tweeds was the Anthropologie of the late 80’s. J. Peterman had the little stories about each item, like the wrinkle-free safari dress I dreamed of wearing on a flight to Africa while drinking gin next to my adventurous husband.
I like you. I like the little reflective strip you put on snow pants and parkas and gloves. I like that I can get snow boots that will last for an entire season for $20/pair if I time it right. I like the little embroidered fox my daughter picked out to go with her initials on her backpack. And I like that I can give my kids what I didn’t have. You are a symbol of me not being poor anymore, Lands’ End.
When I saw the interview with Gloria, it barely registered. More commercialized feminism, fine.
Yes, this is a woman who deserves respect and recognition and yes she is a legend.
I want so much from feminism. I want feminist economics. I’m sick of struggling for recognition, I want redistribution. I want a Universal Basic Income and reparations for nurture work. Reparations for all who used to be white man’s property.
Gloria Steinem said nothing so radical. She is hoping that we can get an Equal rights Amendment passed, finally. She said, “We need a constitutional principle of female quality. The Equal Rights Amendment would give us a constitution that prohibits gender discrimination.”
Pretty light stuff. She looks good. Probably has had some work done, but subtle enough. The clothes are fine. She’s on brand.
She wants an ERA. So do I.
( In case you need a refresher, go to the ERA coalition website, where you will find basics like this, “The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would expressly prohibit discrimination against girls and women on the basis of sex. The Constitution does not guarantee equal rights for women.” )
I thought little of this catalog—in fact, I was proud that I put it in the recycling bin right away. No clutter! Kon Mari!
But then I logged into Facebook and I saw that you, Lands’ End, have apologized for featuring Ms. Steinem? What? Do you think women don’t need an Equal Rights Amendment? You made the choice to celebrate her, and interview her. ABORTION IS LEGAL in this country.
This is your apology, according to The Huff Po:
“We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality. We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t. For that, we sincerely apologize. Our goal was to feature individuals with different interests and backgrounds that have made a difference for our new Legends Series, not to take any political or religious stance.”
I looked a little more online, and found that some Christian schools that get their uniforms from you made a bit of a fuss? They made references to the A word? Even though the ERA says nothing about the A word. Guess what, I’ll say it again: ABORTION IS LEGAL IN THIS COUNTRY. I mean I know you would barely know it, with all of the conservative hate-filled attacks and clinics closing down because of GOP restrictions.
Lands’ End, your caving to conservative extremists is an example of how the GOP’s climate of fear gives power to bullies.
You took the interview off your website, and, according to Jezebel, the option to donate to the ERA has also been eliminated. I wanted to choose a pre designed embroidered ERA logo, instead of my daughter’s fox, or the the pink ribbon for breast cancer, or the preppy palm trees or the light house. I wanted a little bit of that money to go to changing the world.
Please hear me as your customer: you have nothing to apologize for. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO APOLOGIZE FOR. Support women and mothers and women who choose not to become mothers and women who chose not to become mothers at that moment but maybe at a different moment.
There is NO WAY I will purchase a single item from you until you come your senses.
Alice Paul fought presented the first Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 in Seneca Falls. You should go to that feminist history museum there, in Seneca Falls, New York. It’s pretty great. Women have only had the right to vote in this country since 1920. THAT’S LESS THAN ONE HUNDRED YEARS. OUR GAINS ARE VERY FRAGILE. We need an ERA. And my kids need snow boots. Don’t make do this. Don’t make me boycott you.
In an interview in Glamour, CEO Marchionni said, “Respect is number one. My boss at Samsung used to say, “In the room we can have different opinions, we can argue and go crazy until we make a final decision. When you walk out the door, forget about your opinion. The winning opinion becomes yours forever.” I still have that approach. I’m not a saint; I have my weak moments where I get frustrated, but I always come back to people and explain why.”
Respect your customers. Respect women and girls. Respect female autonomy. Do you really want to go back to when women were property and couldn’t use PayPal to keep their kids warm and dry? I don’t.
Christen Clifford is a feminist performance artist, writer, mother, curator at Dixon Place and teacher at The New School. She has published in The Brooklyn Rail, Salon, Smith Magazine, Culturebot and The Evergreen Review. Her essay “Mother, Daughter, Mustache” from the anthology Women in Clothes was read by Molly Ringwald on Selected Shorts on National Radio. Her latest art project is the Pussy Bow. Twitter and Instagram @cd_clifford