I had some interesting discussions on facebook today.
People were talking about the whole Abercrombie and Fitch debacle. If you have no idea what I am talking about, let me explain. The story is twofold.
First, the CEO of A&F said something really disgusting several years ago, that has now resurfaced. He explained that A&F doesn’t carry large girl sizes, because he doesn’t want fat girls to walk around in his clothes.
The large boy sizes are only for athletes. Also, if you are not a cool kid, you shouldn’t wear the brand.
I kid you not, that’s what he said.
So of course there was justified outrage over that one.
Part two concerns a vlogger who decided that the best way to stick it to the man, in this case the CEO would be to get A&F clothes and give them to ‘the homeless’.
He did so rather hastily and made sure to film the whole thing. In some cases it looked like he just threw the clothes at random people in passing. There was no conversation and no explanation. At least none of that was evident in the edited video.
Now I and several others argued that this stunt had several problems. First, homeless people are not a prop. They are people with names and stories who don’t need to be bombarded with random garments.
Second, considering that the clothes are tiny on purpose, most of the people in the video couldn’t have used them anyway.
Third, treating people with dignity should not stop, once they are too destitute to find housing.
Several people in the facebook group made these points in various threads.
I also posted responses from people who are or were homeless, who had exactly those same issues with the whole stunt. Some might consider that hearing from the targeted group themselves should lay any arguments to rest.
Far from it.
Many other posters decided to take offense with the more critical opinions regarding the video.
People who were reserved about the video were called ‘uber critical’, ‘too political correct’ and overall kill joys. Many argued that the vlogger did a good deed and that helping should be applauded and not over analyzed. People said that ‘any help is good, no matter the motivation’. And that ‘some people just like to be negative’.
I felt like I was running into a wall of ignorance.
Now, if this had been a hater group, I would have almost understood the sentiment. However this was a nerdfighter group who prides itself on being rather tolerant and understanding. I was rather baffled.
Most nerdfighters know these three John Green quotes by heart. “Imagine people complexly”, “The truth resists simplicity”, and “There is no them, there is only facets of us.”
None of the people who tried to shut the critics out employed any of those quotes.
You see, helping is nuanced.
If you give someone things you have, that they don’t need, you’re doing it wrong.
Just imagine you have a laptop and would really like a new solid state drive. Then someone would show up and while he held a camera in your face he would give you an old 90s tower, complete with a beige keyboard, a monitor that is deeper than wide and some floppy disks.
He would then proceed to ask you: “Why are you not grateful? I gave you computer stuff. Why do you have to be so picky? I’m trying to prove a point here about the computer CEO!”
How would that make you feel? I bet that the guy should watch out for flying computer parts coming from your direction.
So please, people, look at the nuances. Realize that help that is not wanted is not really help.
Understand that imagining people complexly also applies to people who are part of marginalized groups, like the poor, the disabled, the homeless… Maybe it should apply there even more so.
And don’t be afraid when critical thinkers ask questions and analyze things that seemed like a cool story at first look, but a bit weird on the second or third one.
I really would like to still be proud to be a nerdfighter in the future.