Strip2clothe vs. Strip2titillate
Virgin Mobile USA
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We the undersigned are writing to express our grave concern about the strip2clothe campaign and the harmful message it sends to homeless and street-involved youth, too many of whom have been victimized and sexually exploited in their daily struggle just to survive. While we understand and appreciate your goal to raise awareness and resources for homeless and street-involved youth, the National Network for Youth in partnership with Virgin Mobile USA and their apparel partner, American Eagle, should be using interesting, innovative and entertaining methods to generate the donation of brand new American Eagle clothing to homeless youth across the country that do not feed into the stereotype of the prostituting runaway.
Homeless youth providers certainly understand the need to provide appropriate clothing to runaway, homeless and street-involved youth. We have generated clothing closets in our drop-in centers, shelters and transitional living programs for decades because we understand the importance of visually fitting in as a key component of healthy adolescent development. Providers are also all too aware that many youth have only the clothes they are wearing and therefore appropriate apparel is a basic need.
Therefore, we are disappointed that basic needs and belonging are being exploited through a behavior that is traditionally seen as a degrading means of survival for young people who are homeless or have run away from home.
We find that Virgin Mobiles Strip2Clothe project is exploitative in its promotion of a tradition that is steeped in sexual degradation, namely that of the striptease. Stripping is a titillating technique used to generate a sexual response in the individual watching it. We know too many youth who find themselves taking off their clothes at roadside strip clubs or who work private parties (oftentimes resulting in prostitution), in order to make the money to survive in their homelessness. Also, stripping is often accompanied by substance use, which helps the individual garner the bravery to perform.
Our concern is that the unspoken message of this project will outweigh its intention. We understand that Virgin Mobile and The National Network for Youth is seeking to build some semblance of a partnership in hopes of generating awareness of homelessness among adolescents in the US and perhaps developing public support for its advocacy efforts in the context of product promotion. However, promoting the potential for sexual exploitation of young people via the internet is contradictory to the message we have been working for years to correct.
Sexual exploitation has long been a key concern in addressing the needs of runaway, homeless and street-involved youth. A young person removing their clothing in front of others in private or public, regardless, carries a connotation of titillation and exploitation. We do not agree, or support the message this project communicates, however humorously it may be executed.
As one homeless youth professional asked, why does all this work have to be done to get people clothed? It is trivializing of homeless kids' experience
Despite the goal of National Network for Youth and Virgin Mobile USA, the campaign is exacerbating the sexual exploitation of disenfranchised youth in this country by encouraging stripping as a means of quid pro quo. Perhaps, we can watch these videos and see the intention, but what about those who are titillated by young people removing their clothing? Yes, there may be limitations as to approved submissions, but does that remove the response to young people removing their clothing online?
We are disappointed in The National Network for Youths support in Strip2clothe and are unified in our resistance to Virgin Mobile USA and American Eagle clothiers exploitative project. We believe that this is not an acceptable means to raise social consciousness regarding the crisis and plight of homelessness among the youth living on the streets of our country.