The Santa Cruz, Calif.-based sock company, MERGE4, apologized and pulled a pair of socks carrying an image of Hindu deity Lord Ganesha after Hindus protested, calling it “highly inappropriate.”
Their removal follows a request in a press release from Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism in Reno, Nevada, for a formal apology and a recall from online sales and retail stores.
“Such trivialization of Hindu deities was disturbing to the Hindus world over,” Zed said in the press release. “Hindus were for free artistic expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it hurt the followers.”
“We offer our sincere apologies to the Hindu community,” MERGE4 CEO Cindi Busenhart said in a statement. “We have removed the Ganesh socks from our website and plan to discontinue the design. Our production of these socks came from a place of cultural appreciation, not appropriation. We were inspired by Ganesh’s symbolism of prosperity and protection against adversity, and it was not our intention to trivialize the Hindu faith in any way. Had Mr. Zed taken an alternative approach such as reaching out to us first, rather than posting a worldwide press release, he would have achieved the same result. MERGE4 will continue to respect all cultures in our artistic expressions, keeping in mind their sensitivities.”
The socks were selling for $20 and $11.
MERGE4 was founded in 2017 in Soquel and has 181 retail locations nationwide, according to Haley Turner, MERGE4’s marketing coordinator. The company partners with artists and musicians to make socks with animals, people, nature, sports and other graphics. MERGE4 hasn’t been asked to remove designs from its socks before, Turner said.
Zed suggested that MERGE4 and other companies send their senior executives to training in religious and cultural sensitivity, according to the press release.
“It happens mostly out of ignorance, it’s not intentional in my experience,” Zed said in the media release.