Thursday, September 1, 2011

We're Too Pretty and Smart for Bullshit

by Megan S.

I once owned a tee that read "Ladies Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society."  It was 1998 and I was a teenager.  It was my favorite shirt because the feminist tee from the 60s was ironic.  Obviously I wasn't in either type of organization, so it was funny, you know?

No one ever got it.  Well, except for my mother, but she doesn't really count seeing as she's the one who introduced me to the concept of feminism, but getting back to my point.

No one EVER got it. 

When anyone bothered to read what was actually emblazoned across my boobs, I was inevitably asked,"You're in a sewing circle?" This was posed by college students and faculty who supposedly had mastered basic reading comprehension.  They never noticed the terrorist society bit.

Yesterday, JC Penney was selling a little girl tee that reads "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me."  It wasn't supposed to be an ironic, pro-feminist statement.

It was supposed to be sassy. 

If college kids don't question something like the combination of a terrorist society and a sewing circle, does anyone really believe little girls and boys will think a statement such as "I'm too pretty to do homework" is amusing because it's completely ridiculous?


I'm not going to rail against the designer that created the shirt or JC Penney's purchaser or advertising department that supported the sale of the tee.  Individuals make dumb mistakes.  For crying out loud, the Kardashians just published a press release the other day that referred to their family as a "klan"... with a K.  See?  Dumb mistakes.

What is a problem is that our society continues to produce bullshit like this.  This isn't an aberration.  Despite having won the right to vote and equal protection under the law, we continue to accept products geared toward little girls that promote the notion we expect less of and for them.  Remember the Barbie that complained "Math class is tough"? This isn't just a one time thing in the recent past.  We have a history of sending a message that beauty and sexuality are prized while knowledge and education are best left to the boys.

We need to raise a commotion, not to condemn a retailer for their dumb mistake, but to ram home the idea that this subtle, unintended sexism cannot continue.  We need to raise a commotion because most girls and boys of any age won't see the irony.

Spread the word.  Speak out.  Subtle sexism is unacceptable. 
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  1. I thought it was a take off of a local court case that got nationwide attention. Debra Lafave was an 8th grade teacher in the Tampa, Florida area that had sex with a student. Her defense attorney stated that she was too pretty to got to jail. It was a joke for a long time around here.

    It still is a stupid shirt and hopefully the ruckus it has caused will make J C Penney remove it.

  2. J C Penney removed the shirt and issued an apology yesterday (Aug 31, 2011) within a few hours of outrage on the internet.

  3. They did! Unfortunately, they're still selling a shirt that says "My Best Subject is" and supplies only these four choices: boys, shopping, music, dancing.|tops+%2b+tees&Nao=21&N=4294932515&dep=GIRLS&SelDim=4294957900~&deptid=77892&PSO=0&CmCatId=77892|81457&sa=1

    However, the problem doesn't go away because JC Penney stopped selling one t-shirt. We have to continue the discussion in order to raise awareness so that products with messages like these won't be marketed to little girls in the future.

    I am happy to note JC Penney's also sells pro-nerdy tees.|tops+%2b+tees&NOffset=0&pagesize=1&x5view=1&shopperType=G&N=4294932515&Nao=99&PSO=0&CmCatId=external|81457&sa=1|tops+%2b+tees&NOffset=0&pagesize=1&x5view=1&shopperType=G&N=4294932515&Nao=99&PSO=0&CmCatId=external|81457&sa=1|tops+%2b+tees&NOffset=0&pagesize=1&x5view=1&shopperType=G&N=4294932515&Nao=99&PSO=0&CmCatId=external|81457&sa=1

  4. I have a young school age daughter. She would not want to wear that shirt.

    First of all - it's not pretty enough (the girl goes out to hunt monsters with her friends and do science experiments, but she must be doing it in a sparkly ensemble - just the way she is). Then once I read all of the words to her, she would be incensed at the thought that her brother was smarter than she was. But then, we've always stressed the importance of thinking, using our brains, doing well in school (that goes for both girls & boys).

    My daughter loves math, science and being at school. That's something I want her to continue doing. It floors me that anyone would want to encourage vapid stupidity, but at the same time I can picture moms (yes moms - other women. You know few dads are going clothes shopping) thinking that this shirt's "cute and sassy."

    I know of several moms who feel the same way I do, and want to raise smart, thinking women, but then more than a few go to the complete opposite end of the spectrum, banning anything too girly (princesses, pink, glitter). If I did that, my very smart, math-loving girly-girl would be miserable. We need to find a balance, and that seems to be the sticking point.

    One of the things that keeps bringing me back to Stellar Four is that you embrace the fun girly stuff, but you are all very intelligent women. And I think that's the angle that might work to get through to some of today's young girls - it's fine to be girly, just use your brain too. That's what I'm doing in my small way, and I have hope.

  5. kindle-aholic -

    I applaud your determination to show your young daughter that she can be smart and still love the girlie side of life. It's not only possible, it works. I did the same thing a couple of decades ago. My daughter had pink frills but also a lot of rugged little jeans and tees for hard play. As soon as she was old enough to rebel, she told me she hated pink, but she did go on to embrace the sparkly side of life, including jewelry and an incredible eye shadow collection.

    Because she liked action figures, I got them all for her, from He-Man to She-Ra and especially her beloved Star Wars collection. Her interests in science were always reinforced and she went on to win science fair awards in school and to discover, much to her dismay at the time, that she was also gifted in math.

    So hang in there and do it your way, because it's obvious to me that you're doing a great job :)

    I happen to be a lifelong liberal and feminist, and I guess some of that wore off on my kid along the way, including a little something from my grandmother who worked tirelessly to get women the right to vote. My grandmother also loved her jewelry.

    Best to you,

    Megan S's Mom

  6. wow I read about this. People really dont think things thru anymore

    love from San Francisco,


  7. @ Megan S's Mom: Thank you, you made my day!