From The “What Were They Thinking?” Files, Corporate Section: The Lands’ End Gloria Steinem Debacle

"Wait...Gloria Steinem is political????"

“Wait…Gloria Steinem is political????”

Clothing retailer Land’s End lost its collective mind and chose Gloria Steinem as the first interview in the company’s “Legends Series,”a new feature in the Lands’ End’s catalog and website. What were they thinking? Steinem’s presence is inherently political. A company spotlighting her isn’t like a news medium interview: it looks like an endorsement. This is an election year. Not only is Steinem divisive between men and women, pro- and anti-abortion activists, radical feminists and more traditional women, old feminists and new feminists, Democrats and Republicans, progressives and conservatives, but even among Democrats and progressives. Steinem is campaigning for Hillary Clinton, after all.

I know what the company’s management  was thinking, if you can call it that. They thought this was a great way to attract the young female market, you know, like having more pink in the ad artwork, or mentioning “Twilight.”

So guess what happened. Land’s End was inundated with protests from customers who said they wouldn’t shop there any more. Did you guess? Sure you did. Why didn’t Land’s End? With all the relatively benign, non-controversial figures to profile, what dimwit in marketing chose Gloria Steinem? What lazy executives approved it? This is business incompetence writ Jupiter size.

Having made an astoundingly stupid mistake, Land’s End had no choice but to retrench, and pull the feature. This was unavoidable, and the right thing to do, as in competent. Political, partisan figures representing contentious social and political issues don’t belong in a merchandiser’s catalogue, unless that merchandiser wants to identify itself with ideological and political camps, like Ben and Jerry’s, and risk alienating a portion of its market. It especially doesn’t do this when an emotional issue like abortion is involved. Even Ben and Jerry haven’t come up with a flavor called Late-Term-A-Portion Peach, or Planned Parent-Good Peppermint, or Gosnell Gooseberry.

(Yet.)

Once the completely predictable push-back began, Land’s End management had an ethical duty to its stockholders to try to stem a disaster of its own making. In a prepared statement, a company spokesperson said,

“We greatly respect and appreciate the passion people have for our brand. It was never our intention to raise a divisive political or religious issue, so when some of our customers saw a recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize for any offense.”

If the company really chose Gloria Steinem as its first “legend” and had no intention to raise “divisive political or religious issues,” I’d sell that Land’s End stock if I were you, because the company is managed by Barbary Apes. Was Kim Davis going to be its next legend? Would it be similarly shocked if its gay and thinking customers found offense with that? Oh, probably. Next up: Dan Savage, then Pat Robertson, and maybe Trayvon Martin’s mother. “What? Controversial? We had no idea!”

Equally predictably, the left is mocking Land’s End for  trying to exit  the irresponsible corner they recklessly and needlessly painted themselves into. This article by the Huffington Post is typical. “The interview itself did not feature any discussion of abortion,” it says, as if that matters one whit.  And if a feature on that legend Ted Cruz stuck to his favorite recipes, pro-abortion advocates and same-sex couples would have no problem with it at all, right?

The company also discontinued a campaign allowing customers to donate to the Fund for Women’s Equality, where Steinem serves as  a board member, including the sale of items embroidered with the the logo of the ERA Coalition, still pushing for the Equal Rights Amendment. According to the the HuffPo piece, the proposed amendment, which has been dead in the water for decades, “would prohibit discrimination based on sex.”  Actually, it wouldn’t do a thing. There are already unequivocal laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex, and HuffPo’s statement is incompetent and misleading to imply otherwise.

Lands’ End was also going donate $3 to the fund for every logo ordered, and that’s fine, if it wants to align itself with a very contentious political position. That has consequences, though.  Land’s End wasn’t dedicated enough to  feminist causes to accept those consequences, it just wanted to pander.

The problem is, once a company aligns itself with a cause, it can’t go back to neutral. Reversing the endorsement looks like opposition to the cause: all of the feminist and progressive sources are slamming Land’s End now for siding with women-hating, uterus-controlling right wing pigs. The company will suffer greatly for its reckless use of feminism as a cheap and insincere marketing ploy.

A lot of people should be fired for this. So what are you now, Land’s End, for abortion, or against it? For equal rights, or are you waging a war against women? Because, now, thanks to your ineptitude, you have to be one or the other.

17 thoughts on “From The “What Were They Thinking?” Files, Corporate Section: The Lands’ End Gloria Steinem Debacle

  1. There are already unequivocal laws that prohibit discrimination based on sex, and HuffPo’s statement is incompetent and misleading to imply otherwise.

    But that would simply constitutionalize it.

    Remember, states still reserve the power to prohibit women from practicing law, merely because they are women.

  2. Funny. I thought the Lands End demographic would be essentially the same as the L.L Bean demographic: earnest, Volvo station wagon (with lots of Ivy league decals plastered on the back window) driving, super enlightened, earnest (did I already say that?), well-intentioned, highly educated, Norwegian fisherman sweater wearing Northeasterners who would have of course considered GS an icon. I guess the marketers at Lands End did as much research as I did.

  3. Even Ben and Jerry haven’t come up with a flavor called Late-Term-A-Portion Peach, or Planned Parent-Good Peppermint, or Gosnell Gooseberry.

    Maybe not, but Stephen Colbert helped the company (which by the way is one of 400+ brands of Unilever who now produce over a third of the world’s ice cream and swing pretty far Left for a multicorp themselves) to put out a new flavor called Bernie’s Yearning, while jokingly (?) announcing on The Late Show the following “equal time” flavors for Caramel Fiorina, Martin O’Mallomar, Mike Huckabee’s Life Begins at Confection and Hillary’s Whatever Flavor You Want This to Be.

  4. It was a very insular decision. The leadership of a company whose school uniform division actively seeks Catholic and other Christian school business (they have a booth at all NCEA conventions) didn’t think there would be push back? Not good. They had an opportunity to present someone making a positive difference. First example coming to mind: Astronaut/Teacher Barbara Morgan with funds supporting STEM education.

    This follows the resizing plans. Instead of a company with options for everyone in the work place it will remove itself from business apparel consideration. Yet, I don’t foresee teens flocking to their clothing in the numbers needed to makeup for both the loss of the school and business market.

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