On Wednesday, Wisconsin-based clothing retailer Lands’ End issued an apology for featuring a profile of Ms. cofounder Gloria Steinem in its Legend Series, after anti-abortion customers flooded the company’s Facebook page with angry comments and threats of a widespread boycott.
Appearing as an insert in its print catalogue and referenced heavily on the company’s website and social media pages, the series, including the Q&A with Steinem (conducted by Lands’ End CEO Federica Marchionni), was published as an “ode to individuals who have made a difference in both their respective industries and the world at large.” Given Steinem’s immeasurable contribution to women’s rights, the company could hardly have chosen a more appropriate person to honor and thank for “paving the way for the many who follow.”
But after several hundred comments attacking Steinem’s lifelong pro-abortion-rights stance landed on the company’s Facebook page, Lands’ End chose to remove all references to Steinem on its website and issue a public apology to customers.
Said the retailer in a statement:
We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women’s equality. We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn’t.
Though Steinem does not shy away from supporting abortion rights publicly, such views are not included in this particular interview. In fact, at the heart of Lands’ End’s sit-down is the renewed push for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a constitutional provision that would guarantee women’s and men’s equality if passed.
“We’re still not part of the constitution of the United States,” said Steinem in the interview. “One reason we need an Equal Rights Amendment is because nowhere in the constitution does the word ‘women’ appear. We need a constitutional principle of female equality. The Equal Rights Amendment would give us a constitution that prohibits gender discrimination.”
For years, feminists across the country pushed to enshrine the ERA in the U.S. Constitution, but the effort stalled in 1982 when only 35 of the 38 necessary states had ratified the amendment. The call for ratification has been renewed in recent years.
The interview directed readers to the official ERA Coalition website and included an offer from Lands’ End to monogram the ERA logo on clothing items, such as its no-iron shirt. Lands’ End promised a donation of 50 percent of the fee for every monogram ordered to the Fund for Gender Equality, a program of U.N. Women that endeavors to empower women politically and economically worldwide, but it appears the company has pulled its monogram offer since the controversy over Steinem erupted.
Yesterday, Lands’ End posted on its Facebook page,
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 the recent promotion that way, we heard them. We sincerely apologize for any offense.
Click here to sign our petition telling Lands’ End to retract its apology and reinstate Steinem’s interview!
Photo via Lands’ End
Kitty Lindsay is a Ms. blogger and works at the Feminist Majority Foundation. Follow her on Twitter!