Friday, September 2, 2011


It's back to school time for most, and with that comes the excitement, nerves and anticipation of the first day.

Apparently, it also bring with it a huge helping of sexism.

JC Penny has made the news for selling back-to-school shirts for girls that reinforce the stereotype that as long as they're pretty, they don't need to worry about their intellect. My friend Melissa over at Pigtail Pals breaks it down and explains why JC Penny screwed up so poorly.

To their very little credit, JC Penny heard the backlash loud and clear and removed the shirt from being sold.

However, they continue to sell shirts that portray similarly sexist messages.

I guess girls are no longer taking Science, Math or History? BTW, I'm pretty certain I received an F in "shopping"

While most people get why the above shirts are offensive, many others have been espousing the whole "if you don't like it, don't buy it" notion. The problem with that is that folks don't need to buy it to buy into it. Just the fact that these shirts exist - pushing the stereotype that girls don't need to be brainy as long as they have their looks - reinforces a falsehood that some little girls might actually buy into.

Of course, I had to be fair. I went through all 22 pages of JC Penny's t-shirts for girls. Not all were this blatant. But, most of them did have qualifying words on them: Princess, Diva, Cutie, etc... Others had messages like "I heart bling." None besides a super cute & nerdy Hello Kitty shirt left me feeling all that groovy, to be honest.

I then decided to look through all 15 pages of the boys t-shirts. Hardly any had descriptive words. Lots of numbers and sports themed shirts, but not much was suggested beyond boys being "Rock Star!" "X-Treme!" or.... "boys."

What's with the disparity? The sad thing is, if I looked beyond JC Penny and compared other big box clothing stores, I'm certain to find similar trends. Girl style automatically equals commentary on looks and attitude, while boys' clothes tend to either be plain or lame.

I'm well aware that awesome kid-positive clothing exists out there. But these kinds of clothes are not available in big box stores where many people shop. These clothes are not the majority. But, perhaps, if more people are vocal about what they don't want to see on their children's clothes, perhaps retailers will start taking the hint...


Rachel said...

I, too received an F in the following "girly" subjects: Shopping, Makeup, Doing Hair, and Dating.

Fortunately, I recieved As in Physics, Chemistry, History, Algebra, Band (woo!), Ass-Kicking, Name-Taking, and General Badassery.

I have a girl. Who starts school next Wednesday. We are currently failing at shopping, mostly because we already own every Hello Kitty shirt in existence, so why add to the pile?

This shirt disheartens me, not only because it is fuckin' ugly, but the message and the impetus that created this message is still seen as okay by A LOT of people. Shirts like this aren't created in a vacuum, and a big store like JCP knows this. Someone (probably many someones) approved this at each stage of production and marketing and nobody, not one person, said "heyyyyy, wait a minute, this sort of sucks?"

Probably someone did, but then the "aw, it's cute, don't buy it if you don't like it and oh by the way, this is your job so learn to love it" people probably spoke up. SIGH.

The best I can do is to not buy this ugly (in more ways that one) stuff for The Jiller and to continually reinforce the idea that yes, she's beautiful and that's great, but she's also smart and strong and hilarious and rocks glasses like nobody's business.

A. Mama said...

The description of the shirt is also just as bad. "Who has time for homework when there's a new Justin Bieber album out?"

WTF? really?

b/c I'm pretty sure the Biebs ain't gonna pay the bills. I agree that there's this unspoken acceptance of sentiments like that, Rachel. People joke about it or just roll their eyes and by doing so normalize these notions until little by little folks buy into it. I mean, how else can you explain stuff like Jersey Shore? sigh.