Saturday, November 15, 2008

Kenneth Cole's Awearness Campaign

Today marks the nationwide protests against California's proposition 8. I thought this Kenneth Cole t-shirt (100% cotton) is particularly relevant today:
To the left is a blow-up of the t-shirt's graphic. It reads "Love Is . . ." followed by depictions of a bride and groom, two grooms, two brides, one groom and two brides, and then a groom and two sheep (I assume these are all depictions of "marriage").

The t-shirt is part of Kenneth Cole's "Awearness" campaign under which the company has established a non-profit organization that will continue Kenneth Cole's philanthropic efforts with a special focus on amFar and Help USA. Historically, Kenneth Cole's philanthropic efforts have included supporting socially relevant issues.

In addition to the non-profit organization, the campaign is releasing a book titled "Awearness: Inspiring Stories About How To Make A Difference." According to the "Awearness" blog, the "book consists of 86 essays and conversations by individuals who have been inspired to do their part to effect meaningful social change."

The campaign also includes a line of t-shirts and accessories for women and men, such as the t-shirt pictured above. The accessories include a drawstring bag, a canvas tote, and a large zip tote that looks similar to Lululemon's and Puma's gym bags. Of the items, I think only the canvas tote is vaguely work appropriate, such as to carry some extra books or gym clothing. All of the items are vegan, except for the large zip tote, which is made from leather.

Although I am all for "awearness," I find it strange that one of the items used to market the campaign incorporates leather. That doesn't seem very "awear" at all. And although I enjoy the above t-shirt for its positive message about sexuality and equality, I have some issues with it.

First, though I don't have totally concrete views on polygamy, I am disturbed that polygamy is only depicted as a man and two women. Where is the woman with two men? The fact that the t-shirt really only depicts polygyny (one man having more than one wife), as opposed to polyandry (one woman having more than one husband) is unfortunate and glosses over women's (include lesbian's) fight for equality.

Also, I do have views about bestiality. It is rather impossible to know if those two sheep consented. I don't think bestiality has anything to do with the fight for gay rights and I think it shouldn't be on the shirt. In fact, as with using leather to market "awearness," depicting bestiality as "awearness" is actually anti-awareness. And why is it two sheep with one man? Why not two men with one sheep? Or a woman with one sheep? What does the depiction say about who is dominating what?

Finally, I understand that aesthetically the five "instances" of marriage may need to be arranged vertically. But, I find the order very telling. Looking at it, it seems as though it is ordered from most legitimate to least legitimate: traditional marriage, two men marrying, then two women marrying, etc., etc. The underlying message may have been more powerful if the depictions were ordered differently. Just a thought.

Kenneth Cole's "Awearness" products are available for purchase online here. The accompanying blog is available here.


Erin said...

Nice breakdown on the shirt. While some of it is meant ironically, the hard part is figuring out where the line should be drawn as to what the shirt's meant to support.

Side note have you seen this shirt at Target? It looks very you and vegan friendly.

The Professional Vegan said...

Indeed -- very well put.

Dre said...

exactly- the shirt's ironical message is too ambiguous or subtle.

animals can't consent. but you'd think the wearer might think they might.

also, word verification is going to get annoying pretty fast.

Dre said...

oh- and i forgot to add that i really think you need to read pretty far into the shirt to see it as a statement on male sexual dominance.

two women with a guy is the most obvious and most traditional model of polygamy. The shirt doesn't contradict the (similar) validity of 2 women and a man. It simply doesn't display it.

Likewise, the animal polygamy is riffing on this; it's not extending the concept of male sexual dominance. After all, the two sheep may be males. The shirt is mute on the point.