Urban Outfitters – The kiss that launched a million Tweets

Recently, American anti-gay group One Million Moms issued a WARNING!

Recently, American anti-gay group One Million Moms issued a WARNING! to other mothers to quickly destroy their offspring’s copies of Urban Outfitters’ latest catalogue, the reason being that the publication includes a photo of two female models sharing a kiss. One Million Moms have declared that ‘The content is offensive and inappropriate for a teen who is the company’s target customer.’ This will come as news to people like myself who thought that girls kissing girls was as de facto a part of teenage life as eyeliner is.

Slightly flippant remarks aside, whether it really is what they call ‘youthful experimentation’ or the first expressions of the sexuality you will use to define yourself for the rest of your life, the teenage years are usually the time when you first begin putting your lips to other people.  Doing this, whether with a member of the opposite or same sex, is not usually an act performed without a belly full of sicky butterfly feelings or dizzying angst.  What, however, does not help matters, especially if you are opting for a member of your own sex, is a torrent of moralistic trash telling you that your actions and feelings are inherently wrong.

This is exactly what the One Million Moms (whose actual membership number is reported to be around 46,000), campaign does.  There is no realistic chance that it will get the picture retracted or dramatically dent Urban Outfitter’s spring/summer sales.  Instead, it has produced a lot of media attention towards OMMs’ bigoted viewpoint on homosexuality, a viewpoint that could be both upsetting and potentially harmful to LGBT teenagers.

The majority of coverage on the story has repeated the same skeletal facts without much commentary.  However, Robyn Harper, a blogger at the Huffington Post, has written an elegant and understated open letter to OMM entitled ‘An Open Letter to One Million Moms: Bullies by Another Name’, in which she highlights the exploitation of the saying ‘Mom always knows best’ by an organisation which  seeks to impose a moralistic code against the will of others.

Harper softly and adroitly states,

‘Your target of intolerance is a kiss. Your dispute centers on a kiss. What does a kiss represent? It’s an embrace; you call it that yourselves. Kisses represent affection. Are you condemning affection? You label a kiss ‘offensive and inappropriate to teenagers.’ What’s a more popular sign of love? You could even call it a sign of the times. ‘But it’s between two women!’ you’ll shout in response. Exactly. So who’s getting left behind?’

It may be that Urban Outfitters are not using this image solely to promote equal rights.  Indeed, as Diva Magazine pointed out, companies – including H&M and French Connection – have in the past used female to female sexuality to add a degree of ‘edginess’ to the brand.  However, no matter what the original motive for use, OMM’s campaign still carries the same moralizing and divisive message, where as a greater inclusion of images of same sex love in advertising could help to reassure LGBT people that their actions are acceptable and legitimate.

On this issue I will agree with Urban Outfitters’ own slogan: Always open, always awesome.