Yesterday, one of my friends sent the New York Magazine article “Things to Keep You Warm and Dry at a Protest ” to a group message, demanding both the writer and editor to be fired. We later discovered the writer was the editor.
At first glance, the article might seem innocent. It’s suggesting that protesters stay warm at the Women’s March on Washington. However, after reading the article a second time, I noticed what the issue was. Although many of the items are common sense, they all seem to be plugs for particular brands. One of the first items on the list was a bodysuit from American Apparel (which is incidentally being sold to a Canadian firm): telling the reader that it’s a great option for someone who is always cold.
Next, the writer suggests two relatively expensive shoe brands: Hunter Wellies and Timberlands. “You could, of course, wear sneakers, but to keep your toes warm, boots are the better option.” Lindsay Peoples says. She goes on to make suggestions for gloves (to keep your fingers warm while you use your iPhone of course!), headgear, scarves and portable chargers.
While I don’t think it is unreasonable for any media outlet to create a checklist for people who plan on coming to the March on Washington, I do have a problem with this particular article for two different reasons.
First, the advice is actually terrible. It’s expected to be unseasonably warm and cloudy this weekend; chances are you will be sweating if you’re wearing that many layers and you will look ridiculous wearing sunglasses if the sun is barely out. There is also potential for rain Saturday night, so if you’re wearing those fur-lined boots they might end up ruined. This leads me to believe that she didn’t even take the first step in writing this article: checking what the weather in DC will actually be like. Although some people might not be used to an East Coast winter, just about everyone can look at the projected weather and pack/decide accordingly. Wearing a bodysuit underneath your clothes also makes it inconvenient, and potentially filthy, when you have to use the port-a-potties.
The second concern that I have is much more serious. If you’re telling your audience to go out and buy a whole bunch of winter gear as if they’re preparing for a trip to the Arctic, you’re missing the point of the protest. The Women’s March on Washington is about women’s rights that are threatened by the new administration. The March also brings together communities that are hurting: the LGBTQ community, communities of color, the Muslim community and immigrants.
It’s a poor choice to plug American Apparel more than once, considering the brand’s history of sexual harassment lawsuits and racism under the leadership of former CEO Dov Charney. For protesters who are not DC locals, they spent a lot of money on flying out here and lodging: a sacrifice they made to fight for the rights that they fear they may lose, like access to health care and contraceptives for one. Promoting items that are around $100 when they probably have something perfectly good at home is just tasteless.
The nods to specific brands hint at sponsorships. Why is she specifically mentioning Hunter boots? Most girls I know own at least one pair of boots. Most people also already own a pair or two of sunglasses. What’s the significance of a pair of $129 sunglasses when I have some that I bought almost two years ago? As someone who has studied and worked in the communications field, I find myself jaded to sponsorships. But in this instance, I tend to empathize with the audience; the article seemed to hint at looking cute for social media pictures and possibly other attendees; defeating the purpose of attending a women’s rights protest.
While I don’t agree that Peoples should be fired, I feel that this article ruins her integrity as an editor during a very dangerous time for the media industry. It would be disingenuous of me to say that I don’t like shopping. But I’m disappointed in The New York Magazine’s decision to capitalize on the pain and stress of other people.