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Clothing drive draws ire

Use of striptease videos to promote donations enrages charity

MINNEAPOLIS – A new national Web campaign that encourages young people to post striptease videos of themselves as a way of raising clothing donations for homeless youth has quickly run into a firestorm of protest from some of the groups it is supposed to benefit.

A national network that serves homeless youth said Saturday it is reconsidering the controversial campaign after Catholic Charities and other outraged groups in Minnesota and across the country complained that the effort is inappropriate and exploits young people.

Virgin Mobile, one of the largest cell phone companies in the country, and the National Network For Youth (NN4Y), a Washington, D.C., lobbying group for more than 150 organizations that help homeless youth, decided last week to begin testing the edgy campaign.

They asked young people to post videos of themselves stripping to music. In exchange, clothing companies would provide donations of new clothes based on the number of times the videos were viewed.

Called “Strip2Clothe,” the campaign carries the tagline, “You take off yours, we donate ours.”

No full nudity was permitted, but organizers were hopeful the videos would still attract attention.

They did.

“Strip2Clothe” has sparked outrage among NN4Y’s own members. Some groups say they were never consulted about the concept and are appalled by the idea of young people stripping as a means to get clothes for other young people. The organizations’ names have since been taken off the site.

“It was a shock to everybody,” said Trudee Able-Peterson, coordinator of outreach services at StreetWorks, a Twin Cities collaborative of outreach programs. “This is the message we send kids? That my granddaughter, who’s 17, should strip to provide clothes for other kids?”

Rebecca Lentz, a spokeswoman for Catholic Charities, called it “distasteful and inappropriate and exploitative. We never authorized this nor were we ever approached to be involved.”

The concept is especially jarring, Lentz said, considering that many kids on the street find themselves sexually exploited within a day or two of becoming homeless.

Victoria Wagner, chief executive of NN4Y, said the campaign has so far been limited and is being re-evaluated.

“It’s unfortunate it’s become so explosive,” Wagner said. NN4Y is discussing the issue with Virgin Mobile and expects to have a resolution by Tuesday.

Virgin Mobile, which said it had established “good taste” criteria to keep videos “fun but not salacious,” was more defiant.

“(We) believe that promotion (of the site) will result in thousands of new clothes being provided for those in need,” spokeswoman Jayne Wallace said in a June 9 letter to the NN4Y urging members to support the campaign.

Virgin couldn’t be reached for comment Saturday.


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