"Too Pretty for Homework..." T-shirt Uproar Shuts Down Sales

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Being a feminist in tranistion to a womanist, my natural inclination was to shoot out copies of my 4.0 gpa graduate school transcripts to every JCPenney store in the United States upon viewing this "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother does it for me"t-shirt that was being sold online by the company. The message crosses a multitude of lines beginning with female oppression and reaching all the way to unhealthy self-esteem. However, women are the number one consumers in the marketplace for a good reason....we are GREAT at allowing them to make us feel like we're not pretty enough and it didn't start with nor will it end with this t-shirt.

Being a teacher puts this ideal of pretty clashing with intelligent into a new perspective because I see repeatedly that girls are indeed outperforming boys in the classroom and recent research on college degree holders also supports this change in trend...at least as it relates to the black community. I've watched sets of paternal twins come through my classroom and each time, the girl twin earned much higer grades than the male twin. But again, this is in regards to the black community. This concept of, "I'm too beautiful to think" seems to be growing out of control as we revisit the age of young girls referring to themselves as Barbies(thanks Nicki MiNOT) and becoming all too familiar with acrylic and lip gloss before they can solidly write a research paper. I hiss at not only the disservice this does to young girls but also to young boys by training them to believe women are to be seen and not heard and that their "boy parts" alone will make them smart. This negatively impacts male/female relationships by projecting gender roles that undermine the most important task of a couple and that's teamwork.

Despite all that is clearly wrong with this t-shirt, including it's horribly tacky design, I've come to a crossroads about the way it's been handled. The question I am inclined to ask is "Why do we need people to police us?" JCPenney resorted to pulling the t-shirt off of their website (it wasn't available in stores) due to outrage spurned by clothing designer Melissa Wardly reposting a tweet on Facebook and Laura Todd's online petition on Change.org that was viralized by women's right organizer Shelby Knox via the same media outlets. On the surface it seems to be a victory for women's rights however when deeply analyzed, it just might be a loss for human rights. Freedom of speech is one of the most valuable privileges one can have, as expressing differences of opinions is what makes us all unique. Thus, I can't support the fact that the company was forced to stop selling this merchandise simply because a great deal of people didn't care for the message. This seems to be a fanciful cover-up of a freedom of speech rights violation that finds itself in a pile marked "unnecessary" because after all, consumers do have the option of simply not buying the t-shirt. The more powerful message would've been to see the t-shirt for sale and keep our money in our pockets out of disgust; but I think people at least deserve that option of making their own decisions.

This is a sticky situation that JCPenney has gotten us into and it appears there wasn't really a way to fix this, even though the company has issued an apology statement to the masses. A few months ago, David and Goliath-makers of message tees, went under fire for their shirts that read "Future Trophy Wife" and "I'm Too Pretty for Math." But I haven't heard anyone vocalize disgust for their "Boys are Stupid, Throw Rocks at Them" message tee yet....don't worry, I'll wait. What we seem to be promoting is an agenda just as lopsided as the "others" who don't want to respect the brain power of women by stepping on freedom of speech to get our way; making us something more like bullies than advocates. The solution to the ill's that lie deep within gender roles will not begin with the pulling of a message tee. It will begin when we fight just as fiercely for human rights as we do for women's right. For once, I would just like to see people make the right decisions on their own and not because they've been left without a choice in the matter. Fashion is about freedom and while it does have a responsiblity for what it perpetuates, it is also vulnerable to being ignored. When we don't like something, don't support it but controlling others freedom of expression is a dealbreaker. I am a woman and I approve this message(not the one on the t-shirt though).







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