The controversial t-shirt

Years ago, before I became a mom, I bought a shirt from Abercrombie and Fitch—a graphic long sleeved t-shirt with this saying on it: Dependently Wealthy.

I thought it was a perfect shirt for me, since I always relied on my parents to pay off my credit card debt. I shopped freely, knowing that even though I'd get one heck of a lecture from my father, I'd do it all again the next month. I was very convincing, I guess, when I solemnly looked at my parents and said: "I promise I won't shop not even once this month!" No, this is not behaviour I am proud of, but since handing over my Gold AMEX to my parents before I walked down the aisle, I have learned a few things.

I still love to shop, a lot.
Having a credit card WITH a limit has helped, a lot.
I don't like shopping with cash, ever.
I'd rather put cotton balls in my ears then hear about how I spend too much money, again.
The message on the shirt is still funny, at least to me.

Now, let's talk about inappropriate messages on shirts. "Who has time for homework when the new Justin Bieber album is out?" is the description for the new shirt that JC Penney was selling, until the social media uproar caused them to pull it from store shelves.

Liz wrote an excellent blog post about this t-shirt, and about sexism in ads in general.

"We live in a world right now that makes it harder and harder for girls to want to succeed. Snooki is getting more air time than the First Lady, and there’s a pervasive culture of sexuality that children are getting sucked into far before they should."

And I absolutely agree with her. Also, Snooki has published a book, and I. have. not. We live in a backwards world, I tell ya.

Every day I walk by teenage girls wearing jean shorts so short Daisy Dukes look conservative. Not trendy short, like Marinka's daughter wears, but shorts so short they're just... little pieces of jean fabric sewn together. I know the message that's portrayed when these girls wear these shorts is not the message they necessarily want to be giving, but maybe the parents should have been paying more attention when they were shopping for their child. And when a t-shirt comes along that says: "I'm Too Pretty To Do Homework, So My Brother Has To Do It For Me" I get an awful feeling inside, because... really? Did anyone actually buy this? You're too pretty for homework? And your brother has to do it for you? Why is okay for boys to do homework? Oh, because girls aren't as smart? Is that story we're going with? What if the boys are OHMYGODCUTE like Bieber cute? Then are they also exempt from homework? Come on. REALLY? There are a million reasons why this shirt is offensive.

It was ridiculous when Abercrombie was selling padded bikini tops for young girls, and it is ridiculous that JC Penney was selling this t-shirt. A little more effort and thinking beforehand would have prevented this company from having to deal with the backlash of angry consumers today. If I was the mother of girls, I would never buy this shirt. I'm glad the shirt is no longer for sale.

A few points I want to make:

1. It is okay to be pretty AND smart. Not one OR the other. Just look at Cher in Clueless. She was pretty and smart! And it's okay to like make-up and the colour pink and to spend hours in the book store reading. You can be whatever you want to be. You are not defined by your looks or by your IQ score. Stand up for what you believe in.

2. Sexism exists for boys, too. I don't approve of how men are portrayed in advertising, for the most part. My husband cooks. My husband cleans. My husband reads books to our children before bedtime. My children are taught something new every day because my husband teaches them things, important things, about the world, our planet, history, nature. My husband cleans up the vomit every time one of our children get sick. My husband doesn't drink beer, ever. And he doesn't watch sports. I hate how my boys are already portrayed before they even have a chance to prove that they are not the "steroptypical" male. They're smart little boys, so smart is scares me, and I have no doubt they'll be able to cook and clean and go grocery shopping just as well anybody else, just as well as their father did. Why is it okay to make fun of the guys?

3. Don't support what you don't like. It's okay if you want to boycott JC Penney because of the ridiculously sexist t-shirt. However, I'd much sooner boycott a store like WalMart because they sell guns and bullets, and I am hard-core against guns. I made a 10 minute documentary on gun control when I was in college, and I learned some awful facts about guns, and who they kill. Hint: usually an innocent victim, usually in the home. We should stand up for what we believe in, and for what we are against. Keeping quiet never achieves anything.

What are your thougths on this t-shirt? Are we doing enough to try to stop stereotypical sexist ads that still exist? What more can we do?

Just wanted to add that I am featured on a fabulous blog today - Parenting by Dummies! I met this awesome blogger this year at the Moms Fashion File party at BlogHer in San Diego, and I LOVED her! (And have loved her blog for a long time, too!) Check out her What's In Your Closet feature with me!
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mom101 said...

I'm so glad you bring up the point about being both pretty and smart. You're right, the reason movies like Clueless and Legally Blonde work is because the main character was clever, and got further in the end with her brains than her figure.

I hope that message keeps coming through.

Anonymous said...

I love point #2!! People sometimes forget that sexism exists both ways. We've always focused so hard on feminism and abolishing sexism for women, but it clearly exists for me, too. Bravo!

CMURPHY said...

Thanks for the flip side of the coin. It made me change my opinion to the whole shirt thing. I myself just jumped on the band wagon before thinking of the other size of it :)

Dumb Mom said...

Yes, I'm totallt pretty and smart:)! Ha! Seriously, good point. Personally, I don't boycott stores, I just don't buy the things they sell that I don't like. I don't think it's the store's job to really police everything people want to buy. That's what stuff like prohibition was about, right? Some people want to buy guns, some people want to buy beer, and some people want to buy shirts that make them look like idiots. For me it's about teaching my kids how to recognize what's important and learning to not judge people who want to be dependently wealthy (or whatever they want to do that I don't agree with). That's it!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I have a bad habit of seeing things like that and just telling a friend how appalled I was. I rarely take a public stand on anything - and when I do, it's usually in a soft "here's what I'm thinking - what do you guys think?" way. Hats off to you and all of the other brave women who took the time to take a stand on this. It's important.

Mouthy Housewife said...

love this post. And I can so see you wearing that tshirt.

Anonymous said...

Liz's post really was phenomenal. I understand how the shirt was made, I don't like it, but I get how people thought it was clever and funny. Much like the Abercrombie shirts I wore in College that said "Always on Top" and "Party Favor." The problem is of course the fact that its not marketed to teenagers or college kids (not that it would've been much better) but its marketed to young girls that don't see the humor in it. That truly believe that maybe all they need is to be pretty. And what if they're not? What then?

Very Bloggy Beth said...

This shirt made me feel just...sick. I don't even have a daughter yet. But, growing up female in this country a half a generation ago was hard enough, perpetuating this awfulness will only make it worse. SHAME to whatever JC Penney buyer is responsible for this.

Elaine A. said...

I hope they made a damn bonfire with every single one of these horrible shirts. I can't believe someone even thought this was a good idea AT. ALL.

Evie said...

I agree with you 100%. I am a single female, 30, no children, and I'm appalled at what people MY AGE wear too.

Why is ok for a girl to be a tomboy but a boy can't be the slightest bit feminine without being labeled? Not right. Not right at all.

Rant over. :) Evie

Shell said...

The shirt is ridiculous. Glad they were smart and pulled it, but they never should have had it out in the first place!

Avitable said...

I still don't know how I feel about this shirt. I don't think it's the big deal that everyone has made of it, but I don't have kids, so I don't really care one way or the other.