sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue

June 28, 2011

Freedom of Expression, Gay Culture and Jihad Against Abercombie

Filed under: society, taste — Tags: , , , , , , — edge of the sandbox @ 2:16 pm

Back when I worked retail I wore black head to toe.  Popular 90s wisdom held that if a young woman wants to work retail, she needs to visit a make up counter of a nearby department store, preferably a Mac counter, and copy the salesgirls’ look.  They were all girls there, even the boys.  So yeah, the Mac counter was no Middle America.  I’m not sure what it looks like now (hey, I’m a busy mom!) but in the 90s no blonds were not allowed there save a rare tint of platinum.

mac ad

Ru Paul modeling for Mac.

Actually, no, all salesgirls didn’t have to look Mac, with it’s mesh and leather and what not, but we looked secular, severe and sufficiently air-headed to convince the customers that they are on top of the trends.  Foreign accents helped, especially if used to describe how certain garments ought to be worn.

And now for reasons not at all obvious (or maybe too obvious) a religious Muslim woman wants to work at a store that has this on its front page:

Abercombie half nude
Decadent displays are an Abercrombie specialty.

And she wants to work there badly:

A former stockroom worker [all new Abercrombie hires probably start in stock room, — ed.] for Abercrombie & Fitch Co. sued the clothing retailer in federal court Monday, saying she was illegally fired after refusing to remove her Muslim headscarf while on the job.

Hani Khan said a manager at the company’s Hollister Co. store at the Hillsdale Mall in San Mateo hired her while she was wearing her hijab. The manager said it was OK to wear it as long as it was in company colors, Khan said.

Four months later [when they might have to promote her to salesgirl, — ed.], the 20-year-old says a district manager and human resources manager asked if she could remove the hijab while working, and she was suspended and then fired for refusing to do so.

Hani, of course, is not the only Muslim taking the retailer to court:

In 2009, Samantha Elauf, who was 17 at the time, filed a federal lawsuit in Tulsa, Okla., alleging the company rejected her for a job because she was wearing a hijab.

The EEOC filed another lawsuit for the same reason, saying the company denied work to a hijab-wearing woman who applied for a stocking position in 2008 at an Abercrombie Kids store at the Great Mall in Milpitas, Calif.

Why pick on Abercrombie?  It might be that hijabed women applied to other stores and worked without incident.  Abercrombie could be the only company that dared to keep women in headgear off the sales floor, but it’s also an easy target because it was in trouble before:
Abercrombie has been the target of numerous discrimination lawsuits, including a federal class action brought by black, Hispanic and Asian employees and job applicants that was settled for $40 million in 2004. The company admitted no wrongdoing, though it was forced to implement new programs and policies to increase diversity.
And “increase diversity” they did:

Abercrombie defended its record in a comment provided to The Associated Press, saying diversity in its stores “far exceeds the diversity in the population of the United States.”

“We comply with the law regarding reasonable religious accommodation, and we will continue to do so,” said Rocky Robbins, the company’s general counsel. “We are confident that when this matter is tried, a jury will find that we have fully complied with the law.”

Plaintiffs understand that the company has an aesthetic:

“Abercrombie prides itself on requiring what it calls a natural classic American style. But there’s nothing American about discriminating against someone because of their religion,” said Araceli Martinez-Olguin, an attorney with the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center.

Oh, Araceli.  You are the one who said “style”.  I know plenty of people who wouldn’t hire a white religious Christian not because he dresses any different, because he doesn’t, but because he’s a white religious Christian and their values clash.  Gosh, I don’t know, maybe it does create a better work environment.  Abercrombie, on the other hand, does not reject employees because of their religion but because of their look.
Look, the company wants to create an atmosphere in its stores, and it’s rather invasive to tell them how to do it.  When Abercrombie goes for a natural American classic, they think of versatile sportswear and beach-toned bodies.  It’s a secular look and an American tradition.  Like all other styles it’s discriminatory because it includes some cuts, colors and articles of clothing and excludes others.
If Araceli Martinez-Olguin sees a natural American classic exclusively through the lenses of multiculturalism, she can create a look that incorporates parts of national costumes from around the world.  In this case she should open her own store and sell that particular look, which, by the way, will do more good to society than taking people to court.  So please don’t interfere with other people’s creative process.
As for Hani Khan, she’s hardly a poster child for religious Muslim sales force.  Not to get catty or anything, but San Mateo is out in the boonies.  I doubt a San Francisco store would hire a lady with ethnicy make up like hers.  Hani, you need to visit a Mac counter and let the homosexuals teach you how to do the smokey eye.  Otherwise you are just not going to intimidate me into buying a dress.  Sorry to put it this way, but I’m just trying to give you the management’s point of view.
Hani Khan
A new Abercrombie sales girl?

Gay people who pretty much had the fashion industry to themselves since the 90s need to watch this case closely.  Care to guess where Hani stands on gay marriage?



  1. She worked in the back room, and they originally told her it was fine to wear it. I would be a bit miffed as well.
    I understand that the company has a dress code set out for it’s employees, though.

    Comment by Emma — June 28, 2011 @ 2:36 pm

    • I suspect that they started her in the backroom, but after working 4 months she was due for a promotion whether or not she asked for the promotion. That’s what the timeline suggests. A backroom person still shows up on the sales floor from time to time so the company can demand the dress code compliance.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — June 28, 2011 @ 3:23 pm

  2. I’m curious, would the store hire someone overweight? In a wheel-chair? With a facial deformity? If they have a certain look they want for their salespeople, wouldn’t this be like complaining that I can’t be a runway model because I’m not six feet tall and 72 pounds?

    Comment by Alina Adams — June 28, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    • Six feet tall and 72 pounds [shudders]. You’d probably have to be in a wheelchair then.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — June 28, 2011 @ 3:24 pm

      • I exaggerate for comedic effect. But not by much.

        It reminds of the Russian joke of a guy who stammers explaining that he didn’t get a job due to anti-Semitism. What was the job? Radio announcer.

        Comment by Alina Adams — June 29, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

  3. “Care to guess where Hani stands on gay marriage?” Well, since dead people can’t get married, she is eleviated from that moral conundrum.

    Comment by fleeceme — June 28, 2011 @ 3:29 pm

  4. I think the issue I have with this is when she was hired she was told she could wear her hijab and then, months later, was told she could not. A company is allowed to change its dress code at any time and I think what message this lawsuit sends out is don’t hire Muslims wearing hajibs – or Muslims at all.

    Comment by Harrison — June 28, 2011 @ 5:46 pm

  5. In my view, companies should be allowed to enforce their dress code of choice.

    These hijabed Muslimas are making a show of Islamic supremacism with their insistence upon wearing Moslem headgear. It’s about much more than “freedom of religion.”

    Comment by Always On Watch — June 29, 2011 @ 6:27 am

  6. […] Edge of the Sandbox – Freedom of Expression, Gay Culture and Jihad Against Abercombie […]

    Pingback by Last night’s links 6/29/2011 « Fleece Me — June 29, 2011 @ 11:05 am

  7. Let’ hope this case doesn’t fall in the hands of some liberal moron judge.

    Comment by Conservatives on Fire — June 29, 2011 @ 3:27 pm

    • It probably will. It doesn’t say where the hearings will be held, but I assume it will be somewhere in the Bay Area.

      Comment by edge of the sandbox — June 29, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

  8. […] wrote about a Muslim woman suing for hijab before, in that case the suit involved Abercrombie.  If an employer wants a certain look for his venue, it’s his prerogative to ask his […]

    Pingback by Legal Jihad on Disney « sitting on the edge of the sandbox, biting my tongue — September 12, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

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