American Apparel’s West Vancouver location was recently fined $100 for improperly displaying an “adult publication,” BUTT Magazine, within the store.
The fine was the indirect result of mother Trina Campbell’s complaint to mall management about the easy accessibility of the magazine.
On January 13, Campbell was shopping with her 13-year-old daughter in Park Royal Shopping Centre’s American Apparel store, when she picked up an unwrapped copy of BUTT Magazine, a quarterly gay culture publication from the Netherlands, out of a backpack of a mannequin in the window display, according to the local West Vancouver paper North Shore News.
Campbell told the paper that upon opening the magazine, she was exposed to “a double-page spread of two men having full-on sexual activity, not just suggestive.”
In a statement to the media, American Apparel called the incident “regrettable,” but defended the validity of BUTT as “a respected publication of art, fashion, and gay culture.”
Patricia Leslie, communications manager for the West Vancouver municipality explained that no direct complaint about American Apparel was filed.
“We responded to a complaint we heard through the media. The store was fined for not following by-laws,” Leslie said.
According to West Vancouver’s by-laws, any “adult publications” are to be stored on a shelf at least 1.2 metres from the floor, and covered by opaque plastic.
Media coverage of the event prompted reactions from those who supported Campbell’s complaints. In a letter to the editor of the North Shore News, a fellow Vancouverite applauded Campbell for protesting a “highly pornographic magazine.”
According to the supporter, “Our children’s innocence is a precious commodity and to defend this in the public forum takes a lot of courage. Hopefully other parents will follow suit and let retailers who market to children know that they will not spend their money in stores where the environment is highly sexualized.”
However, Campbell maintained that she was not so much concerned with the nature of the content, but the ease with which she, and youth such as her daughter, were able to access it, according to the report in the paper.
Ren Haskett, Policy and Equity Coordinator for Queer McGill, stressed the importance of having gay publications such as BUTT available to the public.
“Having representations of gay men – and queer people generally – in the media and easily accessible at stores such as American Apparel helps promote positive sexual images for people in the community, and especially for people who may be questioning,” Haskett said.
American Apparel recognized that some of the content within the magazine is classified as mature, but reinforced that the company has taken measures to ensure the magazine is not available to minors.
“We have always taken the precaution to shrink wrap the publication and we do require I.D. (18 and over) to purchase [it],” their press release read.
Moreover, American Apparel asserted that no nudity was in direct view of the public.
“The woman in question went out of her way to retrieve an unwrapped copy of the magazine that was inside of the backpack of the mannequin on an off-limits store display,” explained the release.
This is not the first time American Apparel has come under scrutiny for sexual content; the retail chain is well known for their infamously provocative ad campaigns, and CEO Dov Charney has faced several counts of sexual harassment.
BUTT Magazine will continue to be sold at American Apparel locations nationwide.