Relatives in West Virginia

by Brian on March 23, 2004

Most politicians have got the memo that says book-burning is a no-no, but it seems that not all of them realised that this was meant to extend to other forms of written expression as well. It seems an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt with the slogan “It’s all relative in West Virginia” (picture below fold) has upset the West Virginia governor Bob Wise (D).

“I write to you today to demand that you immediately remove this item from your stores and your print and online catalogues,” Wise wrote [to Abercrombie & Fitch]. “In addition, these shirts must be destroyed at once to avoid any possibility of resale and proof be given thereof.”(link)

I can see why some people would find the t-shirt offensive. And to be fair the governor is not advocating a law against it. But government officials campaigning for the destruction of written material because of what is written still makes me worried.

Story via Jonathan Ichikawa].

Here’s the actual t-shirt.

fn1. Who apparently wants the world to know that he runs a Brown philosophy student blog.

{ 33 comments }

1

Matt 03.23.04 at 7:45 am

I wonder if his next letter went out to the producers of Wrong Turn…

2

Maynard Handley 03.23.04 at 8:38 am

But seriously, what is up with Abercrombie and Fitch? Everytime I read about some lame-ass slogan on clothes that’s insulting, stupid and not even close to funny they are involved.

3

john b 03.23.04 at 9:44 am

Maynard – what, you’ve never heard of FCUK?

4

rachelrachel 03.23.04 at 10:57 am

West Virginia is one of a minority of states that prohibit marriage between first cousins.

5

rachelrachel 03.23.04 at 11:12 am

I should have said “absolutely prohibit.”

Although a majority of US citizens live in states where first-cousin marriage is permitted under normal circumstances. Note that the four most populous states are all green.

6

Chirag Kasbekar 03.23.04 at 2:04 pm

And to be fair the governor is not advocating a law against it.

We, here in India aren’t so lucky:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/3550257.stm

7

Henry Cohen 03.23.04 at 2:05 pm

You say that the governor is not advocating a law against the message on the t-shirts, but what he is doing may be worse. He is “demanding,” apparently in his capacity as governor, with law-enforcement authority, that the shirts be removed. This may cause people mistakenly to infer that he is using the power of the state to enforce an existing law. And that may be his intention.

8

tps12 03.23.04 at 2:20 pm

Eh. It’s pretty clear that A&F has adopted a strategy of putting out one or two offensive items each season to create buzz. It’s marketing, not discourse. Wise may not have a legal leg on which to stand, but I’m not going to lose any sleep over the poor megacorp having its voice silenced.

9

C.J.Colucci 03.23.04 at 6:01 pm

What do you expect from an obvious product of inbreeding?

10

Ophelia Benson 03.23.04 at 6:53 pm

Chirag, thanks for that link. You might be interested in this article by Latha Menon on the BORI attack and related matters.

11

VJ 03.23.04 at 7:11 pm

I say this puts them firmly in the running for the next SCSC if their Sen. Bobby Byrd has anything to say about it! With all the mountain top removal going on, they’ll now have plenty of level ground to work with.

12

Chirag Kasbekar 03.23.04 at 7:41 pm

Ophelia, let me, in turn, thank you for your link. A pretty long article, though. I’ll definitely give it a read once I get a breather.

Sounds good, though, on having skimmed it, it doesn’t seem to mention what I think to be the most depressing thing about this all.

The Hindu chauvinist/nationalist BJP/VHP/RSS goons are genuinely scary, but the biggest culprits in this particular case are actually the bloody Congress Party! Really depressing:

http://sify.com/cities/mumbai/fullstory.php?id=13437342

Can you imagine? Those idiots, instead of going after the vandals, are scooting around the globe trying to get the author!

13

Matt Brown 03.23.04 at 8:37 pm

I’m not even sure what the shirt is supposed to mean. Is it an inbreeding thing? Is it implying inferiority to the “real” Virginia? How weird.

14

Daniel Lam 03.23.04 at 9:51 pm

“West Virginia is one of a minority of states that prohibit marriage between first cousins.”

What, only siblings are eligible?

15

Ophelia Benson 03.24.04 at 2:59 am

Thanks a second time, Chirag. I’ll do some following up on that story tomorrow. That is indeed depressing about the Congress Party. So much for secularism then, eh.

Yes, Latha’s article is long, but it’s worth it. Very rich.

16

Ophelia Benson 03.24.04 at 3:00 am

Thanks a second time, Chirag. I’ll do some following up on that story tomorrow. That is indeed depressing about the Congress Party. So much for secularism then, eh.

Yes, Latha’s article is long, but it’s worth it. Very rich.

17

Coralius 03.24.04 at 3:03 am

The problem with this t-shirt is that it is equivalent to making shirts with jokes about black people eating watermelon and fried chicken. No one in their right minds would do so, because it is both offensive and, quite frankly, financial suicide.

18

Ophelia Benson 03.24.04 at 3:34 am

Changed mind, looked into story just now and posted links to same in B&W’s news. Bad stuff.

19

John 03.24.04 at 8:15 am

Coralius,

Abercrombie stock was up .90 today.

Their profits have risen. Excellent call on their financial demise. Perhaps you should work at Goldman, in the “Sensitivity and Equity” department.

They weathered the whole teen thong scandal. They’ll weather this one too. While I would not wear AF clothes, I think that getting upset over a t-shirt worn not as a serious insult but rather as cheeky humor is silly.

As for the slogan itself, I admire its creator. Everyone here may deride it as stupid, and I do not personally find it amusing or clever, but I would imagine this shirt will sell quite well amongst AF’s customer base.

Your friend,
John

20

Kate Davis 03.24.04 at 5:27 pm

I live in WV and think that this is funny! The gov. has more important things to do then mess with A&F. The shirt is selling like crazy. It is alredy on backorder!

21

Kate Davis 03.24.04 at 5:27 pm

I live in WV and think that this is funny! The gov. has more important things to do then mess with A&F. The shirt is selling like crazy. It is alredy on backorder!

22

Kate Davis 03.24.04 at 5:27 pm

I live in WV and think that this is funny! The gov. has more important things to do then mess with A&F. The shirt is selling like crazy. It is alredy on backorder!

23

Kate Davis 03.24.04 at 5:28 pm

I live in WV and think that this is funny! The gov. has more important things to do then mess with A&F. The shirt is selling like crazy. It is alredy on backorder!

24

Jim Miller 03.24.04 at 6:08 pm

Similar incidents happen all the time in the United States, most of them coming from those on the left. Few get much criticism from academics or the press.

One of the most dramatic was in Chicago, during the mayoralty of Harold Washington. An art student painted a parody of Washington, recycling a rumor that he was homosexual (as I recall). Members of the Chicago City Council, all Democrats, went to the Art Institute where the picture was being displayed and forcibly removed it. As far as I know, no one was ever charged in this incident and it drew relatively little criticism from the national press or academics.

25

K Lambert 03.24.04 at 8:59 pm

Actually, I am doing a South Carolina T-shirt that says “the second war for independance? South Carolina Never surrendered.”
Another that says
“In North Carolina, tobacco is a vegetable.”

Want one for your state?

26

Nathan Smith 03.25.04 at 12:41 am

I live in West Virginia and I am proud of my state and my states history. I think that people are entitled to freedom of speach until it is racial. People of Appalachia are an ethnic group and I do not understand why we are the only ethnic group that it seems to be politically correct to be prejudice towards. For the person making the South Carolina shirts, it only took West Virginia one time to win our independence!

27

Tom S. 03.25.04 at 5:37 am

When my wife and I went to the courthouse in Kentucky to get our license (before we were married, natch), one of the questions we had to answer is whether we were first cousins. I was about to pop off with a wise-ass answer when I saw this sad, yet steely look in the clerk’s eyes that just screamed “There is nothing you can say that will be funny or original.”

We meekly answered no, and finished our business.

I have faced death…..

28

Phyllis 03.25.04 at 4:48 pm

As a former West Virginian, I really must take issue with the T-shirt in question. For some who know nothing whatsoever about my homestate of WV, this shirt just inforces some of the ignorant comments that have been made in the past. For some who do not really know, they may think it’s all a fact. Someone has to stop this ignorancy! Who better than the Governor himself!

29

Beverly Glass 03.25.04 at 6:38 pm

I personally was not offended until I read some of the comments from others. Now I am offended. Why is it politically correct to demean people who live in other states? All of these comments were insulting and in essence saying that West Virginian’s are ignorant, morally deficient, and deserve all demoralizing comments one can think of…this I object –wear any T-Shirt you want, just stop ridiculing WV–after all it’s “Almost Heaven” Believe me!!

30

Anurag 03.25.04 at 8:46 pm

Kate – do you repeat everything thrice in West Virginia ?

31

Kevin 03.26.04 at 4:17 am

sorry, get used to it. west va just might as well have its slogan be “We’re All Relative”, because things like this just take time to die down, and having a whiny mayor demand apologies from everyone and their brother like he was pushed down on the playground and tattled to the teacher just reinforces his sensetivity to it and the fact that its obviously striking a nerve. UVA (where i attend) is known as being a rich white snob school. Somehow, i think you’d have trouble believing that if you went here, as among my good friends here the professions of parents are firefighter, medical lab technician, carpenter/7-11 worker, small restaurant chef, computer programmer, and one dentist (my parent is the computer programmer). But, if you thought uva was a snobby school and i told you that, would you care? no. people’s bias against uva isn’t based on truth, its based on it being fun to dislike something. And so, the People of The University don’t demand not to be called snobby, we just go around knowing we’re better than everyone else :P just kidding, but seriously, this isn’t like racism here. If the water company starts putting outhouses around the company and putting signs on bathrooms saying “no west virginians”, then maybe complain.

32

matt m 03.26.04 at 3:24 pm

Perhaps the reason I fail to see the humor in the Abercrombe & Fitch parody shirt on WV is that I can’t find anything humorous about domestic abuse. To many, incest connotes older relatives taking sexual liberties with those too young or too powerless to resist. I grew up in West Virginia, but if the shirt had read “New York: Beating Wives since 1788” or “Ohio: Thousands of Abused Children can’t be Wrong”, I would have been equally offended. Perhaps some people’s sense of social enlightenment or cultural superiority may allow them to laugh at such things, but I, for one, cannot.

33

David 03.29.04 at 5:42 am

For the analogy of UVA being a snob school, how do you equate being called a snob with being called an inbreed? That is like the rich kid complaining he is discriminated against because he is rich, although for him opportunity abounds everywhere. A&F is located in Columbus, Ohio, which is a large crossroads for Appalachian people. They know exactly the can of worms they are opening, and they don’t love America as they claim–they love profits. The t-shirt is pure bigotry for a market they couldn’t care less about. They said they also loved California in their statement, but with the population of a small country, they wouldn’t dream of making a shirt of equal degradation for California. This is the work of a company which has no new ideas and knows only how to make mony via publicity.

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