Perhaps Dov Charney is too sensational for his own good. Maybe that’s why he’s had four sexual harassment lawsuits. The founder and CEO of American Apparel has denied the charges in all the cases. Rightfully so, I say.
American Apparel’s image is sexually provocative and a little bit raunchy. This is evident not only in their ads but also in the store’s décor and products. At their Westwood location, there are naked pictures of women all over the walls and they also line the stairs. Obviously, employees must understand that it is a sexual environment.
In his most recent lawsuit, he is being accusing of saying sexually explicit things and acting inappropriately. It’s sort of like when someone sued for burning themselves on coffee because they didn’t know it would be hot. American Apparel is a company that has been successful because of their progressive image and unconventional ways. In fact, it would be shocking if the CEO weren’t a bit eccentric himself.
The women who are filing these suits do not understand Charney as artist. He is no more sensational than Andy Warhol was in his time. Not everyone could wrap their mind around The Factory’s aesthetic; they didn’t like what Warhol was doing. People who are offended by the explicitly sexual dislike American Apparel’s aesthetic, and therefore shouldn’t work there and represent the company.
When Charney invited the woman who is currently bringing him to court to masturbate in front of him, it was an extension of his offbeat persona. He has business meetings in his underwear for the shock and irony. The sexual nature of Charney’s creativity should not be taken offensively or seriously. It’s not personal. Everything he says and does purposely propels his image.
Situational context must be used in Dov Charney’s case. The problem lies in the understanding of the behavior and not the behavior itself.