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Why Lands' End had to apologize for publishing an interview with Gloria Steinem

Gloria Steinem proved to be too much for Lands' End customers.
Gloria Steinem proved to be too much for Lands' End customers.
Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

Lands' End, the clothing retailer known for its monogrammed backpacks and all-American family aesthetic, published an interview with Gloria Steinem in its catalogue to honor her as a feminist legend.

Instead, the company ended up enraging its customers, apologizing, and removing all mention of Steinem from its site.

The Wisconsin-based company was met with a deluge of attacks from pro-life advocates on its Facebook page after publishing an interview with 81-year-old Steinem, a bastion of second-wave feminism – or as critics put it, an "anti-child" and "vocal pro-abortion celebrity."

The interview with Lands' End CEO Federica Marchionni focused on Steinem's career as a writer and her life as an equal rights activist. It didn't mention abortion:

FM: What do you think key challenges are for women in today's workplace?

GS: It differs from woman to woman. For some, it's trying to both look after children and have a work life. For others, it's inequality in general. Every group of women is most effective when we're working on that which we really understand and know. We just need to support each other while we're doing it.

Still, the company's conservative customer base wasn't pleased.

"We understand that some of our customers were offended by the inclusion of an interview in a recent catalog with Gloria Steinem on her quest for women's equality," the company said in a statement Wednesday. "We thought it was a good idea and we heard from our customers that, for different reasons, it wasn't."

According to the Associated Press, at least two private religious schools that used Lands' End to order school uniforms, including the Missouri College of the Ozarks, have now boycotted the company because of its alleged Steinem endorsement.

What Lands' End was trying to do isn't unusual: Feminism is a hot marketing trend. Beauty companies like Dove and Pantene have long reached out to their customers by celebrating womanhood. "Female empowerment sells," Ad Age concluded in 2014. But Lands' End just learned that it doesn't work for everybody.