This is the letter by 17-yr old Gabrielle Singh in full:
To whom it may concern:
First off, thank you for taking the time to read this, because it may be long; it is the reason I’m boycotting your brand. Sorry in advance. Earlier today, around 8pm, I was in your Somerset 313 outlet. I was there with my mother and my baby sister, and the moment we stepped in, your store was blaring rap music. Fine. I don’t mind rap. What I did mind was the lyrics, which declared “half you bitches like pussy too”. Yes, I know, rap is a genre that typically tackles anti-social issues; drugs, sex, violence, bring it on, am I right?
I brushed this off because maybe you guys were playing a Billboard Top 100 mix, or somebody’s 8tracks, and this was some sort of anomaly. I continued looking through your merchandise, slightly uncomfortable, but okay. I figured once the song changed, everything would be fine.
I hate to tell you that everything was not fine. The songs got progressively more derogative: more condoning of abuse towards women, more explicit in descriptions of sexual endeavours… more disgusting, if I can put it flatly.
Typically, I wouldn’t have a problem with this. No, I don’t agree with it, and it definitely isn’t my cup of tea, but I understand that this is a genre that people listen to, that makes money.
And if I stepped into a shop that had shaped its general brand image around fellatio and breasts, then I would understand the demand for this sort of music in that sort of shop.
The problem is that you guys are not that brand. You guys are a brand that caters to women. You are a store that thirteen-year-old girls frequent. You are a store that women can bring their children to. While I was shopping, I saw a woman, her husband, and their two-year-old son. I saw a couple of girls no older than fourteen. You are that kind of store.
So when your store decides to blast music that screams “you have a right to rape her” and “I won’t have sex with her unless she has big breasts” and “I’ll only love you if you suck my penis”, I have a problem with that. I have a problem with the fact that your target audience is young girls and women, and yet somehow, for some alien reason, your store decided blasting horribly misogynistic, uncensored, woman-shaming, woman-blaming lyrics would be a perfectly acceptable thing to do.
It disgusts me that while we’re trying to deal with problems of rape, assault, and misogyny, your store took the liberty to piss all over all that. You fed a bunch of kids the idea that boys deserve sex, and girls are sex toys.
Great job, Forever 21.
And don’t tell me that lyrics don’t affect us, because I’m looking at the American Academy of Pediatrics’ article “Committee on Public Education” right now, and on page 341, it explains that explicit lyrics warp our perception of the world around us. Flip to the next page, and apparently explicit lyrics are linked to increased aggression in some people. Go to That CD Shop or HMV, and you can’t even buy most of the rap albums without an IC that proves you’re above age 16.
I’m seventeen. I’m old enough to buy a rap anthology, but it still made me uncomfortable taking off my clothes to the sound of a man rapping about his right to have sex with whoever he feels like having sex with. I wanted to throw up when, while trying on your apparel, your store literally yelled at me that date rape isn’t real rape. I was tempted to spit on your dresses when your music proposed that girls ask for sex by going over to boys’ houses.
This is disgusting. Not just because the lyrics are horrible, but because your target buyer is young impressionable girls, who will start accepting this sort of mindset as “normal”. Because majority of your buyers are girls, whatever their ages, who deserve to be viewed as something more than warm holes for penises. Because the men who walk into your store should not be inadvertently taught that sex is their right.
Thank you for your time. No thanks for your music.
Oh yeah, this might be one of the songs she was talking about. Lyrics very explicit, you have been warned!
*Article first appeared on http://just-selah.tumblr.com/post/99317540444/an-open-letter-to-forever-21
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