One Million Moms Take On Urban Outfitters, Urban Outfitters Probably Wins

One Million Moms are giving moms everywhere a bad name. First they tried to organize a boycott against JCPenney for hiring Ellen as their spokeswoman. As if hating on the most lovable person on television (sorry, Oprah) wasn’t bad enough, they proceeded to suck by failing to actually get anyone on board. I don’t know about you, but my mom knows that rounding 46,000 up to the nearest million is bad effing math.

Now they’re hard at work TAKING ACTION against Urban Outfitters for publishing a picture of two women kissing in their April catalogue.

Can you blame them? Look at that filth. No self-respecting gay lady would kiss another girl so indifferently. There is only one place where a fist is acceptable in a romantic situation and that place is not “balled up against your activity partner’s back so that you don’t really have to touch her.” If somebody kissed me like that, I’d have to try really hard not to punch them in the face (because “in a violent confrontation” is also not the correct place for fists to make a guest appearance).

While the Million Moms are worried about what these kinds of images can do to children, they don’t seem nearly as concerned as I am about the proper sexual development of our next generation of baby dykes.

“WARNING! The April 2012 catalog from Urban Outfitters has begun arriving in home mailboxes the last couple of days. On page two of this catalog is a picture of two women kissing in a face holding embrace! The ad and catalog are clearly geared toward teenagers.

Before your child has a chance to read the newest Urban Outfitters catalog call to unsubscribe from their mailing list at 1-800-282-2200, and then throw it away…The content is offensive and inappropriate for a teen who is the company’s target customer.”

In all honestly, though, the irony of an anti-gay group going after a company run by a notoriously anti-gay C.E.O. is just a little too much to stomach. Co-founder Richard Hayes made headlines last year after getting blasted on twitter by Miley Cyrus (God bless the children) for donating $13,000 to the Santorum campaign. Since then, Urban Outfitters’ revenue margins have fallen and analysts’ expectations have dropped, putting the once-prominent company in a new and not altogether comfortable position. More recently, lawsuits over a line of “Navajo” underwear, flasks and other novelties brought the company back under scrutiny and caused some customers to question the integrity of a store they thought shared their values.

Which brings us back to the real problem with the photo: money. After all the bad press, Urban’s got to do something to bring wayward teen and twenty-something customers back into their stores. Rebranding isn’t an option; the attention span of their demographic isn’t nearly long enough to warrant an expensive makeover. Instead, it looks like they’ve opted to stir up some free press with one innocuous — and calculated — photo.

While I’ve managed to get over my shock that queers have been deemed a group worthy of pandering to, I’m not sure if I’m down with the way Urban Outfitters is doing it. While JCPenney’s C.E.O. stood “squarely behind” Ellen during the attack of the Million Moms, so far the Urban team’s plan seems to consist of sitting quietly on the sidelines while the Internet comes to the conclusion that there’s nothing wrong with a picture of two girls kissing. Ultimately, moms aren’t really the people Urban needs to win over; if anything, being disapproved of might help them appear “edgy” to the demographic they’re trying to reach. It doesn’t seem likely that the backlash will really hurt Urban’s sales or image at all. At the very least, it won’t be nearly as hurtful as the pervasive othering of same-sex relationships that allows that picture to be considered “edgy” to begin with.

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

Join AF+!


Laura is a tiny girl who wishes she were a superhero. She likes talking to her grandma on the phone and making things with her hands. Strengths include an impressive knowledge of Harry Potter, the ability to apply sociology to everything under the sun, and a knack for haggling for groceries in Spanish. Weaknesses: Chick-fil-a, her triceps, girls in glasses, and the subjunctive mood. Follow the vagabond adventures of Laura and her bike on twitter [@laurrrrita].

Laura has written 308 articles for us.


  1. If they get to call themselves “One Million Moms” when they don’t even have one tenth that in membership. Then from this point forward, I insist on being referred to as “Worlds Hottest Lesbian”. Because apparently just saying it makes it so.

  2. This picture is so painful for me to look at. Like maybe next time try putting people together who would actually like to make kisses together.

    • this picture practically does the job for One Million Moms. like, on a scale of things-that-turn-straight-girls-gay, ten is this video and this picture is zero.

    • yeah. THEY ARE NOT INTO IT. sorry UO, i will not pay out of my ass when forever 21 is across the street until there is at least some tongue.*

      *disclaimer: irl i am above horndogging.

  3. Of all the silly/maddening things to note about One Million Moms, this sentence: “On page two of this catalog is a picture of two women kissing in a face holding embrace!” Putting poor grammar aside, I’m curious to know why a face-holding embrace is so scandalous as to be noteworthy. I mean, it’s not like they’re putting their fists where Laura suggests is the appropriate place in a romantic situation.

  4. The real offensive content here is pairing those hideous neon sandals with that pretty pink dress.

    • I was thinking the same damned thing. Neither one of them is an appropriate choice! It’s like Urban Outfitters thinks as long as it’s not Birkinstocks, that lesbians will think it’s dressy.

    • Dunno, I think the ugly heavy black shoes with the floaty blue dress could give it a run for its money.

  5. I just stated at that picture for a long time trying to decide of their lips are even touching. Picture looks photoshopped.

  6. To be totally honest, sometimes when I kiss a girl I get really overwhelmed and can’t touch the other person for a second because I feel like I might explode. Hopefully it doesn’t look at totally awkward and unappealing as it does in this picture!

  7. Two very skinny, young, white, feminine-presenting women fake kissing for publicity/ratings/more money. What exactly is so shocking/new about this? One Million Moms obviously aren’t up to date with tired lesbian tropes in pop culture.

  8. I agree whole-heartedly with the Million Moms that this photo is a travesty. If you’re gonna show a kiss, at least make it a good one! Wait, that -was- what they were arguing, right?

  9. There are a gazillion reasons no one should shop at Urban Outfitters, ever. This is not really one of them.

  10. I’m sure someone has already said this but it bears repeating: I would love to know how many of those million moms or 46k or whatever have daughters who like to kiss girls…regularly. Hopefully they are better dressed (or not at all) while engaging in such proclivities.

  11. I think there are a few noteworthy facts missing from this article. First being that this catalogue (like many UO catalogues) was shot by none other than the super talented, out lesbian, Cass Bird. Also, as a queer employee of UO, I think it bears mentioning that the “notoriously anti-gay” CEO who donated $13,000 to Santorum/Republican PAC, donated the money, with the exception of $1000 (which was given in 2005), during the late 90s. Santorum made his anti-gay remarks in 2003. While I don’t support Hayne’s Republican leanings, everyone has the right to vote in the way they see fit. UO as a company employs and supports a significant amount of queer employees. They not only provide same sex partner benefits, but a welcoming environment for their queer employees- the most famous being the former CEO Glen Senk (UO employee for 17 years) and his husband Keith Johnson (also a UO employee). I don’t think this can be said for every company. Ultimately, I don’t think Urban always makes the right choices for their brand, but they (and Hayne himself) are hardly the anti-gay establishment everyone makes them out to be.

  12. I agree with k. i work at the home office and Urban is extremely gay-friendly and supportive of their queer employees. i also work on the actual catalog depicted in this article … i don’t really see anything shocking or controversial about. i really wish people would actually get their facts “straight” (no pun intended) before just jumping on the mass media bandwagon. not to say that UO is perfect, far from it. but i have worked there for over five years and have never had one experience to believe this company does not support gay people.

  13. “If somebody kissed me like that, I’d have to try really hard not to punch them in the face ”

    Bahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaaa…oh man. This article was amazing for me because I love irony and this is the most ironic choice of “public contention”. Anti-gay moms vs. Ant-gay douchebag company.

  14. The picture is so awkwardly awful that I think I dropped two gay points just glancing at it.
    Urban Outfitters are, aparently, the most awful thing ever…
    but does any of this apply to UO in the UK? Like, if I buy stuff here in England from OU shops, am I contributing to homophobica / racism / awful lesbian kisses?
    Because I’m a total OU whore and I don’t know if I can stop unless I have to.

  15. Has nobody yet brought up the fact that Urban Outfitters regularly thieves ideas from independent designers and doesn’t pay or acknowledge them? Trashy.

    I’ve never shopped there and never will, altho I have been in it (drunk) when my gay bff wanted to try on skinny jeans.

    • I’ve been in a pair of their skinny jeans..But I should clarify that someone else was wearing them at the time.

    • I was gonna link to the ancient Urban Counterfitters blog but it seems to have disappeared in the last few years.

      Urban steals from big and small designers (as does Forever 21 and other big retailers).
      Their clothes (with some small exceptions) are also made by underpaid and overworked women and children, so there’s also that.

      There are tons of reasons not to buy from them.

  16. This reminds me of when I was in high school, and there was this local community of angry conservative moms called the Troy Community Coalition who went to the local Urban Outfitters (at Somerset Mall, Troy, MI) and got a bunch of books on alcohol, pot and sex removed from the store, with the aid of the police. The police said the way the sex books were being displayed violated a local obscenity statute, but also had them remove the alcohol and drug books even though they weren’t in violation of any laws. I wrote a story on it for my high school newspaper. I don’t know if it got the books back in the stores, but I did see them back in there a few years later. And it won me an Honorable Mention in the Detroit Free Press’s Student Journalism Awards that year!

  17. “they don’t seem nearly as concerned as I am about the proper sexual development of our next generation of baby dykes.”

    Haha, yes! I got this catalogue in the mail last week and when I saw this picture I was digusted. Not only because it seems to be a complete marketing ploy, but just how sad/awkward they look. Also how many straight girls will see this and think it’s trendy to be gay? (not that that’s anything new)

  18. Can we discuss how offensive the fashion is as well? Because the “let’s have two straight, white, pretty girls kiss for ratings” has been going on forever, so I’m over it. The fashion though – ugh!

  19. I’d love to offer some context to this image that may appease some of you….Photographer: Cass Bird. If you aren’t familiar with her work you are missing out she has done some beautiful work capturing the transgender community and is married with babies to a gorgeous woman. Models: Ashley Smith and Julia Nobis. Julia is a lesbian, and Ashley has been known for her racy modeling history, and having worked with her before, I feel pretty confident in saying that she probably truly enjoyed this moment captured on camera.
    I believe that the intentions behind publishing this image in the catalogue were to bring controversy, but in a good way. Cass is calling attention to the fact that a kiss between women should be celebrated and shared nationwide through a brand that is a household name, and furthering the discussion of gay visibility.
    Can we stop hating on this now?

    • Great response, Sarah! I feel that all the replies picking on the “bad fashion” and awkwardness of poor Julia are actually completely missing the point of how relevant and amazing this pic truly is. It’s awkwardness is actually what makes it so sweet and ‘true’, and I can certainly relate to it a lot more than your typical porny, OTT, hot ‘n heavy ‘straight girl kiss’. Not to mention the fact that it features a lesbian model and was taken by a very inspiring and remarkable lesbian photographer…

      btw, you are lucky to have worked with Ashley, are you in the fashion or photography industry yourself? Have you ever met or worked with Julia?

Comments are closed.