A few weeks ago, I heard about a great new project: Urban Outfitters, a clothing store mostly targeted at college students and 20-and-30-somethings, decided to start selling Proper Attire condoms on its website. The proceeds of the condom sales would go toward Planned Parenthood’s reproductive healthcare services.
Strangely, the condoms were marketed mostly toward women, even though Urban Outfitters carried men’s clothes, but the campaign seemed mostly to be clever and well-intended. The site offered explicit information about condom use, and the contraceptives came with an 800 number that would connect the caller with their local Planned Parenthood, a direct route to general women’s health information. The condoms themselves had a clever tagline: “Proper Attire: Insist on a dress code. It’s required for entry.”
It seemed like a fantastic campaign, and a good way for Urban Outfitters to redeem itself after a series of scandals (most recently, a t-shirt with “Eat Less” printed on the front).
But of course, this stirred a small firestorm within the anti-abortion/anti-contraception/pro-life community. Rita Diller, National Director of STOP Planned Parenthood, a project of the American Life League, emailed her supporters, an email that was soon circulating among, according to RH Reality Check’s Eleanor Bader, “dozens of local anti-choice and church groups and…major national organizations including the Alliance Defense Fund, Women of Grace, and catholicnewsline.com.”
The next day, Proper Attire condoms were pulled from Urban Outfitters’ online catalogue. Planned Parenthood’s spokesperson claimed that it was a mutual business decision, and that its supporters were unhappy to learn about the alliance because of Urban Outfitters’ conservative leanings, but Diller’s gleeful response shows that there may have been more at play. She wrote in an email,
“Retailers should take note that, if they choose to partner with Planned Parenthood or sell any of Planned Parenthood’s products or services, there is a vast network of parents across the country who are ready and willing to protect their children…Parents want to know that they can allow their teens to browse a youth-oriented retailer’s website without being exposed to Planned Parenthood’s sexually oriented merchandise.”
It’s hard to know what really happened here – and certainly, there are reasons for wanting to avoid supporting Urban Outfitters. Richard Hayne, its founder, has supported right-wing Republicans who have extreme policies against gay marriage and abortion, and it’s hard to believe that he would have okayed these condom sales in the first place.
In any case, the whole fiasco provides yet another reason to avoid Urban Outfitters.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.