Forever 21′s “Allergic to Algebra” Shirt Makes Me Ill


School’s back in session and ’tis the season for yet another t-shirt insulting girls’ intelligence. In answer to JC Penney’s “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me” shirt Forever 21 launched an “Allergic to Algebra” shirt for the teenage set. As of this writing, Forever 21′s shirt is “out of stock“; you can still see what it looks like via Gawker and the Washington Post.

It’s not yet clear if Forever 21 is actually pulling the shirt or getting ready to rake in the sales, thanks to all the publicity the shirt has garnered.

Forever 21′s anti-female-intelligence shirt takes things a step farther than JC Penney’s, suggesting not only that “girls don’t do algebra,” but that it makes them sick; that algebra — mathematics — is like pollen or peanuts, something to be avoided. Such a sentiment is simply disappointing to hear at a time when women remain underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math, and thereby unable to make their way into fields that require such knowledge, from engineering to medicine to computers.

A quick review of Forever 21′s t-shirt offerings for women suggests the “subjects” deemed suitable for them. There’s the love love love t-shirt;  a so so happy hugs t-shirt; a love now t-shirt; a c’est love t-shirt; a crazy love t-shirt. A shirt proclaiming la musique la vie l’art is, you could argue, somewhat “academic” — it is in a foreign language — though the subject matters noted, music and art, are those “fine arts” that women have tended to be shepherded into as they’re urged to leave the “hard stuff” (the dreaded math and science) to the guys.  There is a “nerdy monster” mega geek t-shirt for those techno-girls, but the graphic on this shirt, a three-eyed creature with glasses, is not only a geek but a “freak.”

Nothing wrong with love, music and art (or French), of course. Browsing the 21 Men offerings, you can find a whole separate section of graphic tees with ecological messages, a university of success t-shirt (there is a generic university one among the women’s offerings),  a shirt proclaiming the ideals of Liberty Justice Freedom.

While the “Allergic to Algebra” shirt is no longer being sold form Forever 21′s website, the other t-shirts offer a no less offensive messages. Forever 21 apparently doesn’t want women to worry themselves too much about anything aside from love. If you’re going to do the geek thing, you’re a three-eyed (albeit cute) monster.

Something tells me that more than a few women (and men) will be using their brains and choosing other options for their apparel.


Related Care2 Coverage

JC Penney Pulls “I’m Too Pretty to Do Homework” T-Shirt after Social Media Uproar

French Designer Releases Sexy “Loungerie” For Young Girls

Girls Can Solder Too: Gadget Camp Teaches Manufacturing Skills


Photo by go ask alice


Joy Jin
Joy Jin5 years ago

i don't think that this shirt is as bad as the other one. it's not bad to say that you hate algebra. but it's different when u bring looks into it.

Gemma M.

I think a good movement is to not buy anything at that store.

colleen p.
colleen p.5 years ago

if it makes you feel better, whats-his-face from the Family Circus is allergic to homework. so, there you go. a comic has a little boy who says he is allergic to homework. put that on a shirt(if legal)

Julimar C.
Julimar C.5 years ago

I understand the article's point about the girls' shirts being full of silly messages. That is a sad aspect of fashion everywhere, not just Forever 21, though. I personally don't take offense at this shirt, though. After all, I do hate algebra :) But I think this is more a product of the idiocy of marketers with a "cute" back to school frame of mind, rather than an insinuation that women are dumb at math. I am much more inclined to believe that all these companies think most women are dumb, period, considering the vast amount of "dumb" clothing styles and shirts with silly messages that I see around.

colleen p.
colleen p.5 years ago

LOL. like all schools can afford top notch math teachers? When some are letting so many go?

I draw and paint. maybe there will be someone to do math for me.

Michelle K.
Michelle K.5 years ago

I signed in agreement, but I what I wish was really pulled is all the stupid things that manufacturers and retailers target to sell to girls and women, including poisonous stuff in the name of "beauty".
Since I did struggle with math as a kid, I would rather like to see a T- shirt that said "Hire teachers whom can teach Math!" The public schools across this country just can't seem to find or get enough teachers whom can teach math. Maybe like that L.A school that hired now famous Jaime Escalante from Boliva, they're going to have to outsource out of the U.S to find decent teachers.

colleen p.
colleen p.5 years ago

maybe a shirt about sports scholorships will make people happy? "I'm only here to play football"?

Jose M. C.
JOSE M. C.5 years ago

Meh, it's not like I would ever even shop at Forever 21. The name evokes images of a clientele who spend their adolescence in a mad frenzy to grow up, only to pass the next few decades trying desperately to salvage their receding youth.

Anando Das Gupta
Anando DasGupta5 years ago

i am going to say something now that will earn me massive number of bricks and bats but will say it nonetheless, I dont understand the duplicity of femine rights. I am not talking about the plight of women in third world islamic countries where women have to prove rape by getting 4 adult males to stand as witness. I am talking about women in good condtions who have got all the same advantages and assets as a man who still keep shouting for women rights. I have had female friends and few girl friends who are hard core feminist. One cliched stereotypical word out of my mouth would mean 3 months of cold shoulder. They are highly educated, earning more than me in some cases and have got more love and care than their brothers and do so well in everything. They drive their own cars and make their own money and have their own mind and stand up for what they believe in but at the end of the day they still want someone to open the car door for them, take their coats at a restaurant, hold their purses outside the women's room and pull the chair for them whenever we can. You wanted equality, you got equality now open your own God damn car door.

Anando Das Gupta
Anando DasGupta5 years ago

You have got to be sh**ting me, so its ok to wear I support LGB t shirts even though its offensive to many people (not to me , I am just putting forward a point) but its not ok to say that some one doesnt like algebra. When I was in school many years ago, I detested algebra or maths for that matter, I was always into arts or computers (well not that excessive mathematical part of it) . Rather than pulling the T shirt of the line I would recommend that they have a male counter part for the t shirt so that I can wear one too.