NPR recently ran a story about sexist T-shirts and the power of the interwebs to get them pulled from store shelves.
You may have seen these shirts. JCPenney started off the controversy with its “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me” monstrosity, and then retailers like Forever 21, Topman and Gymboree jumped on the moron wagon with shirts like “I’m allergic to algebra” or “pretty like mom” for girls and “smart like dad” for boys.
I was fascinated by the back-story of how these shirts were eventually pulled from shelves and the power of internet do-gooders to do, well, good. NPR, sadly, offers a headline that makes it sound like only moms care about this stuff, but the rest of the story was pretty good. I especially liked the context of how these shirts make it to the marketplace to begin with. The reporter, Ashley Milne-Tyte, talks to a shirt designer who says these are basically “easy” sales — all these princess shirts and stupid logos. Everyone thinks they’re “funny” … until they don’t.
I was actually interviewed for this story and while I didn’t make the final cut, I think it’s worth repeating that these shirts aren’t just simple shirts. Yes, one is ok. Two, meh. Three, four, five, ten … really? At what point is enough enough? I do the clothes shopping in our house, and it seems like the market is absolutely saturated with shirts for girls that focus on looks and glamor and fashion, while shirts for boys focus on action, adventure, sports, etc. I’ve written extensively elsewhere about these so-called innocent butterfly/ice cream cone shirts and no longer think they’re so innocent because there are just so damned many of them. I’m really glad Michele Yulo over at the Princess Free Zone was interviewed, because she nailed it with the idea that not every shirt has to be as blatantly sexist as those named above. The “slow drip” of sexist messages sink in. Boys do things. Girls look pretty. Is that what we want our kids to think?
It drives me batty. I would wager that if you looked in the closet of your average young American girl, it would look like a My Little Pony got together with a Care Bear and birthed a Bratz line of clothing: rainbows, lollipops, peace signs, perfume bottles — whereas a boy’s closet would be all about sports and getting dirty and playing. I’m all for a little frilly shiny happy people T-shirts every now and then, but come on, show some restraint. You don’t let your kids choose pancakes and waffles for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You don’t let them watch TV all day, every day. I’d like to see the same type of moderation applied to clothing. Not every T-shirt you buy for the kids should give them the idea that girls have nothing more to offer than appearances. You may think they’re innocent and that it’s no big deal — “humph, it’s parents that parent kids, not T shirts” — but I have to agree with the idea of the slow-drip messaging. How much is too much?
What’s your take on these shirts? OK, or too much?
— Mike @ Cry It Out!