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5 Sexist T-Shirts That Send Harmful Messages to Girls

5 Sexist T-Shirts That Send Harmful Messages to Girls

What was your best subject in school? History? Literature? Science? If you’re a girl, it probably wasn’t math, according to a t-shirt from The Children’s Place. The t-shirt, which has received a great deal of controversy lately, lists a checklist for a girl’s best subjects and checks off shopping, music and dance, while leaving math unchecked with the words “Well nobody’s perfect.”

The shirt clearly plays into sexist notions that girls are not good at math and prefer more feminine things like shopping. The store eventually pulled the shirt from shelves after making the following announcement on Facebook:

We take feedback from our customers very seriously. It has come to our attention that some of you view our Best Subjects T shirt as insensitive towards girls and women. This was not our intent. There are countless women in all walks of life who excel in math, including our very own CEO. We have pulled this product from our stores and we want to express our apologies to anyone we may have offended.

The post received nearly 3,000 Facebook likes and over 2,000 comments. The t-shirt also spurred an online frenzy with countless articles claiming the harmful message such a shirt sends young girls. Interestingly enough, a blog from ABC says the shirt is sexist, but insists on putting the word sexist in quotes as if to say it’s really not. I find this all the more insulting. The shirt is sexist period. Let’s not pretend like it’s not or like people who claim that it is sexist are crazy or too sensitive. I don’t have a daughter yet, but when I do, I don’t want her to have shirt like this to choose from.

Take a look at a list of other sexist t-shirts, many of which have have thankfully been pulled from shelves, too. Hopefully one day we won’t have to worry about them being created in the first place.

1. Need a Hero

This pair of shirts from Marvel, the comic book publisher, plays on the damsel in distress stereotype girls are confronted with all the time. The boys shirt encourages boys to be a hero for the girls who are in desperate need of one. Remember that Footloose song, “I Need a Hero”?

Can’t designers come up with some more original concepts? Or why not have a “Be a Hero” shirt that is marketed to girls?

2. Allergic to Algebra

Like The Children’s Place, Forever 21 doesn’t think girls are good at or like math. Their “Allergic to Algebra“ t-shirt continues to play on the stereotype that girls and numbers just don’t mix.

 

 

3. Too Pretty for Homework

Not only are girls terrible at math, but they are “Too Pretty for Homework,” or so says a t-shirt from J.C. Penney that was eventually pulled from shelves with the following apology from the company:

J.C. Penney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the “Too pretty” t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.

I’m glad the shirt has been discontinued but you have to wonder how such a shirt made it through the approval process and actually ended up on shelves.

4. Eat Less

The pressure to be thin on girls is overwhelming to say the least, and now you can add to the mix a t-shirt from Urban Outfitters encouraging them to “Eat Less.” The company not so-surprisingly faced a huge amount of controversy for the shirt and promptly pulled it from it’s website. However, it turns out they are still selling the shirt in stores.

5. You Provoked Me

Of all the t-shirts, the one below from Topman is by far the most offensive in my eyes. The shirt can be interpreted as a list of reasons for why a man raped a woman. The shirt was quickly discontinued after the the company issued the following apology:

We have received some negative feedback regarding two of our printed T-shirts. Whilst we would like to stress that these T-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning we have made the decision to remove these from store and online as soon as possible. We would like to apologise to those who may have been offended by these designs.”

There is nothing “light-hearted” about this t-shirt, and violence against women is a very serious problem. This apology really does not address the larger picture.

Have you come across any other sexist or offensive t-shirts? Please share in the comments and consider taking matters into your own hands by writing a petition demanding they be pulled from shelves!

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164 comments

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7:38AM PDT on Sep 11, 2013

I don't really care about shopping, although I ADORE playing music and dancing... But I always kicked ass at maths... So has every girl in my family

6:30AM PDT on Sep 4, 2013

My beautiful teenage daughter (a model) doesn't listen to music very often, doesn't dance, HATES SHOPPING, and is a MATH WHIZ !! So take all those stereotypes and throw them all out the window ... HAA !! :)

2:40PM PDT on Aug 23, 2013

I think more women need to wear T-shirts offered by streetharassment-dot-com.

12:47PM PDT on Aug 22, 2013

Don't buy them & they will stop making them.

9:27AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

It's so sad that the retailing market seems to lower their standards with each passing year. I was appalled when Victoria Secret came out with their 'kid's version' store. But then I realized that the current generation is affected by choices, acceptability and tolerance purported by their parental/previous/older generation's acceptances and tolerances. If my mom or older sister, for example, verbalized thought processes like 'most girls just don't have the mind for math' or 'science is a guy's field' or 'Madonna was my idol in the 80's' or if an older sister talks about the remade Footloose soundtrack, claiming that 'I Need a Hero' was her favorite song, then we shouldn't be so surprised when the next generation is affected by those comments. Now days, so much bombardment of ideas into the mind of young people, only serves to disconnect further their own innate ability to think and act individualistically. It's often times easier to not think for oneself and let others do that for you.

9:15AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

Awful t-shirts.thanks for sharing

12:20AM PDT on Aug 21, 2013

noted

11:34AM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

I do agree that the ones targeted at young children give them the message that girls should not be good in math (or being good in math is not "girly"). Further, women get plenty of subliminal messages that they need to be thinner without having a blatant one on their shirt to remind them. However, I feel that many of the other shirts should be taken as they are, which are just t-shirts. When I was in school I was terrible in math and would have loved to have a shirt that said I was "allergic to algebra" instead of admitting I was just plain awful at it.

11:18AM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

Anyone, male or female, who buys one of these shirts is an idiot, period.

11:16AM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

unbelievably sexist and outrageous! Why stereotyping women on these t-shirts, did they remember to stereotype man? Noooooo!!! At least, they ended up having the common sense to pull it out of stores ans apologise. That's right!

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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