“Shocking Pink: Homophobia and Abject Marketing in the Digital Age” Conference Presentation: Fashion, Style & Queer Culture, May 20-22, 2021

Good news! I will be presenting my research”Shocking Pink: Homophobia and Abject Marketing in the Digital Age” at the Fashion, Style & Queer Culture Conference: May 20-22, 2021 https://drexel.edu/fashion-style/ #queertheory #fashiontheory

Conference Abstract: “Shocking Pink: Homophobia and Abject Marketing in the Digital Age” Conference Presentation: Fashion, Style & Queer Culture, May 20-22, 2021

Dolce & Gabanna recently got into hot water with an advertising campaign that was so unbelievably tone deaf and racist, that it caused substantial business losses in Asia, and virulent backlash from pretty much everybody else. While this particular incident was not planned, there have been other examples of egregious marketing…‘abject’ marketing that have deliberately it would seem, engaged with abhorrent, racist themes. In the case of Urban Outfitters one such incident involved a crypto-homophobic misappropriation of the iconic pink triangle, the demarcation used to identify queer concentration camp prisoners during the Holocaust (Plant 1985). Sales suicide one would presume. Actually, fashion brands are notorious for dropping crypto-offensive items into their marketing and then backing off with a negligible apology when customers react with legitimate offense. Meanwhile, social media hashtags multiply, disseminate and generate viral visibility, and the associated brand is still amplified exponentially. Unscrupulous, but very effective, nonetheless. However, as consumers become increasingly habituated to the shock, brands must go to ever-greater lengths to generate that negative reactive publicity that may well translate to higher sales. This presentation looks at the real-world applications of “abject” fashion marketing, the term that I have adopted to describe this type of content that has been designed deliberately to shock. It also looks at the theoretical frameworks around the abject as set out by Julia Kristeva in Powers of Horror (1982), whose work was the basis of my analysis, and have re-contextualized into the fashion theoretical context. Shocking visual tropes become ever more provocative to engage the online masses, and now move into repugnant, racially charged and homophobic territory at times. Offensive? Definitely, of larger concern though: are there deeper consequences to the reckless creation and dissemination of this abject content? Also, who has the motivation, the vested interest in the destabilization of those who actively disrupt rigid gender constructs, and those who wish to equalize racial hierarchies? Those are the ones who benefit most from these forms of abject marketing, as it resonates and amplifies other messages of both covert and overt racist and homophobic messaging.


Kristeva, Julia. (1982), Powers of Horror, Vol. 98. University Presses of California, Columbia and Princeton.

Plant, Richard. (1986), The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals, New York: H. Holt.

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