As the mom of a newly-minted middle school girl, I’m now reliving those worst days of my own junior high years — friendships start going south for no apparent reason, all of a sudden fashion is more than soccer shirts and sports shorts, and real self-doubt begins to creep into once confident “girls can do anything” brains.
So I don’t need any help from corporate profiteers to further erode my daughter’s changing sense of self.
We’ve all read the studies and news accounts that suggest when girls reach a certain age they stop participating in class and defer to what the boys say, even when those boys have no more of a clue than anyone else. PunditGirl already struggles with whether she’s smart enough to keep up with a fast-moving math curriculum, so it’s no help to me when corporations like JCPenney decide to sell T-shirts specifically aimed at my daughter and her peers emblazoned with “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”
Where to even begin with how many things are wrong with that — girls can’t do their own homework? Girls can’t be pretty and smart? Tween girls are lazy and flighty? As a result of much protest, this shirt is no longer for sale and JCPenney has sort of apologized for its lapse in judgment. But it’s not so sorry that it isn’t still selling another tee that says, “My Best Subjects: Boys. Shopping. Music. Dancing.” The price has been knocked down to $4.99 though, so maybe their marketers think that makes it better.
JCPenney selling shirts like these runs counter to the major announcement it made last year about the creation of a new tween line of clothing that was “age appropriate and Mom-approved.” This mom senses a major disconnect between that corporate announcement and the shirts they’ve decided are this season’s must-haves for tween girls, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one of the two women on JCPenney’s Board of Directors might step in to school the buyers on these shirts’ inherent offensiveness and ridiculousness.
As for our own daughter, we’ve tried to counter these typical tween issues with chats about what it means to be a good friend, embracing her love for sporty attire and hiring a wonderful tutor, as well buying Danica McKeller’s book Math Doesn’t Suck. And one other thing is for sure — I won’t be doing any back-to-school shopping at JCPenney or anywhere else that’s looking to profit from tween girls’ insecurities.
When she’s not wondering what the hell is wrong with corporate America, you can also find Joanne wondering what the hell is wrong with politicians at her place, PunditMom.