JC Penny t-shirt (now pulled): "I'm too pretty to do homework"

 Wp-Content Uploads 2011 08 Runninscared Screen-Shot-2011-08-31-At-11.03.48-Am JC Penny was called out for selling this t-shirt, emblazoned with the words "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me." What a positive, empowering message for girls aged 7-16, apparently the target market for this design. The Village Voice reports that JC Penny has quickly pulled the shirt and issued a statement, saying in part "We agree that the "Too pretty" t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale." Good for them. I wonder if they calculated what impact, if any, the PR hit and this decision are having on their revenue. Probably not. After all, math class is tough.
"J.C. Penney's 'Too Pretty To Do Homework' T-Shirt Is Too Stupid for Words" (Thanks, Puce/Sarah Wulfeck!)



  1. They could sell a T-shirt that says, “I’m not creative enough to design & make my own T-shirt, so I bought this one at JC Penney.”

  2. My seven-year-old son has a whole set of shirts that make fun of homework and no one, his teacher included, sees that as a problem.  Or is that because he’s a boy?  

    If the shirt was for a boy and said “I’m too handsome for homework, so my sister does it for me,” would that have been okay?  Or if it said “I’m too handsome for homework, so my girlfriend does it for me?”  Maybe bad taste, but I doubt it’d get pulled.

    1. The major reason it’s not okay for females is because for the longest time they’ve been seen as subservient to men and less mentally and physically capable. The last thing you want to do is perpetuate this stereotype. I am all for humor and like some of the darkest, most obscene stuff you can think of, but unlike a 7 year old child or young pre-teen I am mature enough to discern the difference between humor and truth.

      As much as I’d like to keep the shirt around for its humorous appeal, I believe JCP made the right call in discontinuing its sale.

      1. At the age group that it is targeted for, women are not subservient to men, no different as to how people our parents and grandparents age grew up with racism, and younger generations have lived in a mostly racism-free world. Except that they’re told that the world is full of racism and sexism by all the old farts that can’t move on, even though most people below the age of 30 don’t actually think along racist and sexist lines.

        So when is it OK for men and women to finally be equal? When all the old people are dead? I thought equality meant “it’s ok for A to make fun of B AND for B to make fun of A.”

        1. Except that they’re told that the world is full of racism and sexism by all the old farts that can’t move on, even though most people below the age of 30 don’t actually think along racist and sexist lines.

          Do you live in a plastic bubble in Pleasantville? Men and women, white people and non-white don’t even get equal pay for equal work.

    2. Okay, I’ll bite…
      YES, it would have, because we live in a society where women are more oppressed than men. Saying “men are stupid” is hurtful and dumb ; saying “women are stupid” is hurtful, dumb, and reinforces a common sexist stereotype.

      tl;dr : reverse sexism does NOT work.

      1. I agree with jaambo.  It seems like an overreaction.  I wouldn’t buy the shirt for my daughter, just like I don’t buy the short shorts or the “Juicy” butthuggers for her.  And that’s all that’s needed here.  Don’t like it, don’t buy it.  My $0.02.

          1. Why not save yourself time and make one post with a link to the site, and just used ‘edit’ to add names as appropriate.

        1. As a math teacher I’d like to say it isn’t your daughter I’m worried about. The fact is that there will be people who do buy this, and they are the sort of parents who don’t care if their child completes her homework. The thing is, the goal of education is to change those patterns, helping kids from lower-class, less-educated families break the cycle and learn what they need to in order to live a life they want. We don’t need a huge department store selling anti-education propaganda.

    3. I’ve been wanting a unisex shirt for years that quotes my favorite philosophers,  “Books are for losers, if I wanted to read I’d go to school.”

      It would be perfect for my little girl, who reads way too much and doesn’t play nearly enough video games.  I couldn’t believe she ignored the video game I bought her for a book of short stories!  It was a really violent and gory game, too!

    4. “handsome” isn’t weakly coupled to “not too bright” in the way that “pretty” is. in fact, the “too handsome for homework” version makes much less cognitive sense to me, though admittedly not none.

      1. “handsome” isn’t weakly coupled to “not too bright” in the way that “pretty” is.

        And that’s the stereotype that has to go. I may be biased, but I’m pretty sure that my eight-year old daughter is gorgeous and brilliant, and I have no problem with that. As opposed to pretending she isn’t pretty– or making her pretend — instead we should be teaching our children that they’re both OK, and they sometimes come in the same package.

        For what it’s worth, while I wouldn’t want her wearing the shirt, when I read it I think more along the lines of “I’m pretty, and smart enough to get someone else to do my work.” I don’t see “pretty and smart don’t go together,” as some people seem to. Really, I see those attitudes as more of a problem than the shirt per se.

        And I agree with some of the comments above: instead of pulling the shirt, it would have made more sense to offer a boy’s equivalent (something like “I’m too cool to do my homework, so…”). By pulling the shirt they’re just reinforcing the “pretty and smart don’t go together” stereotype.

      2. Alright, I can see that point.  I just think that for me there’s this line between what’s really sending bad messages to women and what feels like an overreaction, and this one feels like the latter.  Why none of this public outrage over the entire programming content of ABC Family or magazines targeted towards young women that have messages more insidious and harmful.  In the long list of things I worry about for my daughter’s sake this shirt is near the bottom. 

        1. I see what you’re saying.  But I constantly see and experience outrage over many of the things that you are referring to.  And maybe that’s kinda the point?  This isn’t an isolated thing.  It’s not just “here’s this crappy t-shirt that devalues girls’ brains and reminds them that their looks are more important”.  It’s all over the place.  All the time.  Everywhere.  And there are plenty of people pointing this stuff out all the time, but then we have to have these same arguments over why it has a cumulative effect, ALL THE TIME.  

          So while you may see this as one time of people getting upset about a t-shirt, I see it as yet another instance of a stereotype that’s been perpetuated and accepted for a VERY long time.  

      3. Projecting your own stereotypes, much? Handsome and pretty are synonyms…. dumb is not related to them. Of course there are lots of images of ditsy blond girls that have boobs instead of brains. SOMEBODY CALL THE FUCKING NEWS because there are also at least as many images of retarded frat boy men that are walking penises. But that’s OK, because it’s making fun of men, right?

        1. Is is possible that you’ve never come across a male being called “pretty”. I have (its happened to me, and I’ve seen it done to others). It can be in jest, or serious. It almost always means something importantly different from “handsome”.

          As for the claim that there are “at least as many images of retarded frat boy men that are walking penises” as “[images of] ditsy blondy girls that have boobs instead of brains”, I beg to differ. The former is not a typical component of much advertising, the latter is ubiquitous (admittedly its not always clear whether the implied-ditsy female has boobs and brains or just boobs, but the ambiguity seems to be entirely intentional).

          1. i admit to not watching much TV (almost none), but I do see truck and beer ads from time to time. its been a long time since i’ve seen a truck ad featuring a dumbass dude. beer – a bit more common, but it hardly puts the occurence of this cultural stereotype on a par with the ditsy attractive female one.

    5. Maybe the point would be that the messages pushed to young girls are that their looks and their bodies are more important assets than their brains, which has contributed to women thinking they’re not smart enough, which also has a lot to do with why math, science and technical fields still have only a trickle of women getting into them.  

      But what the hell do I know?  I’m just a girl.  I’m too pretty to do critical thinking.

      1. LOL.  

        I’m sorry you’re too pretty to think critically, but I feel your pain.  Per TV and popular culture, as a father I’m too dim-witted and slow to really understand what’s going on around me, but I’ll do my best to muddle through…

        I get that it’s pushing that message to girls, but then, when was the last time Teen Vogue ran with “Ace Your Next Math Test” on the cover?  When was the last time Tiger Beat did a story on MKB and other inspiring women in science?  Never. There are plenty of bad messages girls get from all kinds of sources and I work hard to make sure my daughter’s not party to them as best I can.  It just seems like people are making a big deal about this shirt while not caring very much about the other things.  Or maybe people do care and I just don’t see it.Like I said, the shirt’s in poor taste, I’d never buy it, and if my daughter asked me for it I’d say “No, because I think it’s silly” but I don’t believe she would because she loves doing homework, she’s very much into learning and being smart and she’d never trust her brother to do her homework.

        Good luck with your debilitating case of beauty.  I believe if you work hard enough you can overcome it.

      1. I’m sorry you feel like I don’t understand or am marginalizing the problem.  I promise I’m not trying to.  Like I’ve said before here and in other places I think there are a lot of problems that women endure, and that I worry for and about my daughter.  I want her to have the best opportunities in life and to be judged purely on her abilities.  That’s all I want, in fact, for both my son and my daughter.  I’m not going to claim to know how it feels to be a women or to be objectified for being one.  I don’t know.

        But sometimes a stupid shirt is just a stupid shirt, based on a stupid idea.  It’s such a small piece of a larger problem that it seems ridiculous to expend this level of vitriol about it.

        Maybe I misunderstand what’s really at play here.

    6. Neither one of your suggested shirts would be ok. It’s not ok for anyone to shirk education for the sake or celebration of superficial beauty.

  3. God save us from “inappropriate messages”, or any humor at all… 
    Everything’s going to piss off someone.

        1. OMG – I have never heard that bit before. Carlin was a genius and I am soooo lucky to have seen him live.

  4. I read the t-shirt text as “I’m too petty to do homework”, so I got pretty disappointed when I clicked to read the article

  5. I still see it for sale: http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=SIZ&ItemID=1c9c22f&DeptID=77892&CatID=77894&SO=0&Ne=5+29+3+1031+8+586+18+949&x5view=1&NOffset=0&shopperType=G&N=4294939995&Nao=63&PSO=0&CmCatId=77892|77894

  6. Please people!  Are we getting that incredibly politically correct that a shirt such as this gets any attention?

    What’s next, we won’t have the obligatory “My mom went to (fill in place here) and all she got me was this (fill in expletive here) t-shirt” shirt because it will hurt the feelings of the people living in whatever community they visited?

    This wreaks of over censorship!!!

    1. The word is “reeks” and it’s not censorship. It’s JC Penny getting tons of complaints about a shirt that they are marketing towards little girls (who already live in a society where women are fighting to be seen as something other than stupid girls with pretty faces) and realizing their image and profits would be best served by pulling the shirt off the shelves.

      It’s capitalism, not censorship. :)

    1. Not to mention she is presumably using her looks to convince her _brother_ to do her homework for her…  shades of that one season of Rome where Augustus was seduced by his sister.

  7. Picture from an anime called Hanasaku Iroha. Here, the bossy older sister gets her homework done by her brother.

  8. Clothes have to deliver ‘an appropriate message’ now do they?

    What a strange world we live in!

  9. …. Really? Have none of you heard of T-Shirt Hell before ( http://www.tshirthell.com/hell.shtml ). And yes the do have a kids section too. People are such busy bodies these days. Face palm.

  10. Found a picture from an anime (japanese animation) called Hanasaku Iroha (currently airing).
    The bossy (and pretty) older sister gets her brother to do her holidays homework.

    Links with this picture:




  11. You’ve got it all wrong.  The T-shirt was a tool to help pretty girls develop their managerial/delegation skills.  Now you’ve ruined everything.

  12. They should turn around and sell them in the men’s section of American Apparel. I would only find this t-shirt amusing if worn by a college-aged male.

  13. I’mmm too sexxxyyyyyy for homework!
    Tooo sexxy for homework
    Tooo sexxy for homework
    Ohh my brother is a jerk!

      1. Would it surprise you to know that I own that CD? I think that I got it in a roommate divorce. I got Right Said Fred and he got a Stickley rocking chair.

        1. You got the short end of that stick…I mean I like Right Said Fred and all, but I’ve got a house full of Stickley and for the price of a rocking chair I could by a lot of Right Said Fred…

        2. You may not believe me, but I swear I was thinking about you when I posted that and I wasn’t even sure why.   I’m not even kidding at all.  Fricken’ bizarre.

          Right Said Fred Extra Sensory Perception yo.

  14. I could have sworn I was on 4chan/adv/ for a few posts there…

    reverse sexism… lol…

    No seriously.  So it’s not cool to make girls think of their looks and how to abuse (I mean use) the system with them at 7-16, but it’s alright for highschool and college age girls to wear short shorts and skin tight sweats that have words like “juicy”plastered across the ass…

    Double standards EVERYWHERE.

    If this WAS 4chan I’d use the appropriate /adv/ response, but I fear that would lead to a ban here.

    1. reverse sexism… lol…

      If sexism is defined as treating someone differently (and unfairly) because of their gender, reverse sexism would be…. not treating someone differently because of their gender?

      1. Actually I made that reference to two things:  something that pkp said above, and how sexism is treated on the seedier boards like 4chan’s advice area (and a lot of places on 4chan in general).  You come across people who see sexism as being a female only issue.  Where as when women find men “attractive” there is no issue.

        You also find people who apply that logic to every ~ism there is.

        (Not that pkp was directly implying that f2m/m2f issue or your point of unfair/fair, but it made me think of other viewpoints I’ve seen on this issue.)

          1. From your link:

            “Sexual attraction is not the same as sexual objectification:
            objectification only occurs when the individuality of the desired person
            is not acknowledged. Pornography, prostitution, sexual harassment and
            the representation of women in mass media and art are all examples of
            common sexual objectification.”

            So in essence these women/girls are objectifying themselves since they are expressing their individuality in a anti-feminist way.

            And given the nature and frequency of your posts I thought I’d leave you with this link:

          2. What she wrote doesn’t make sense at all! So, if I know the woman personally, her wants and likes and tastes etc… and I feel a sexual pull to her in addition, then it’s attraction… but it has to happen in that order, cause if it doesn’t than it’s sexual objectification. And God forbid that I know nothing about her but feel attracted to her… oh wait, then it’s objectification. Actually, what if I’d be open to getting to know her likes and dislikes etc…….. is that ok then? Ok, then I guess I sexually objectify women CONSTANTLY!!! And guess what! Men on the whole do as well. and guess what, Women sexually objectify men constantly as well. WHAT A WORLD!!! Heck, I was sexually objectified by a very cute looking blond woman while exiting the subway earlier, but I did wink back at her, so I guess that evens things out. But maybe not, as I was admiring the pretty face of brunette earlier on the train… if she wasn’t aware of it, is that sexual objectification? Or would it only be so if she didn’t find me attractive… Jeez, this is confusing. Especially with the mixed up uses of ‘Attraction’. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But then again I didn’t major in Womyn’s Studies, so I haven’t been properly re-edumacated. How’s about some common sense! The problem with all of this craziness is that there’s a ‘cry wolf’ effect.

          3. I think this cartoon explains some of your confusion: http://www.leftycartoons.com/street-harassment/

            The fact is that many women are frequently harassed and/or hit on in entirely inappropriate situations (like at work, when picking their kids up a daycare, etc). This is all part of the culture that says that women should endeavor to be pretty above all, and available to men. This T-shirt is a small piece in a larger culture.

  15. Hilarious! What an uptight society we’ve become. We’re scared that what’s written on a Tshirt will make our daughters have a corrupt or tarnished impression of what is right in the world. 
    The ‘C’ in JC Penney stands for ‘Chicken’. LOL. 

  16. Thanks everyone for removing this t-shirt from the market so that I can’t wear it ironically.  But then it probably didn’t come in XXL anyway.

    That’s right.  Some people still wear ironic t-shirts.  Yes, we are aware that it annoys you.

  17. There just aren’t enough roll-eyes in the world… 

    Maybe America should stop boo-hoo-hooing about T-shirts and start… oh, I don’t know… training engineers and scientists?

  18. If they sell it in the boys’ section too, does that fix it? Good to know they’ll replace it with a more appropriate message, like a brand logo or military recruiting message.

  19. I certainly wouldn’t buy it for a young girl (pretty, handsome or whatever) and yeah it is in poor taste but it is a T-shirt. Is it worth getting worked up about? Especially with so many more significant issues with sexual relations? I don’t think so but I guess a T-shirt is something that can galvanize people…

    For instance, a couple weeks ago, my family and I were at a large block party. A young women in her early 30’s, wearing striped stockings and roller derby shirt accosted my wife and criticized her for having our son in a shirt that “forced our belief system” onto him. I assume she thought we were using him as a billboard to propagandize our political agenda.

    The shirt in question was this one:

    My wife tried to figure out what exactly that belief system was: other than being pro-swings, trees, cute and simple art. Then my wife asked what belief system does a 2 year old boy have which can be usurped by our fashion choices for him. The woman got angry and stormed off….

  20. Seven year olds don’t grok Irony. Hell, I know a lot of adults who don’t understand irony either.

    1. Like everybody else, it depends on the child (and a whole lot on the parenting of said child).  I’ve seen some kids dense as hell at age 12 (raised by my more [cough] conservative acquaintances) and also seen a 6 year old that is brilliant (raised literally by a librarian flaming liberal woman).  The latter would definitely wear that t-shirt with full-on irony and “get it” (well, especially because he’s a boy).

      Beyond anecdotal stuff, there’s also this study…

      … research findings from the Université de Montréal reveals that children as young as four are able to understand and use irony.


  21. Putting an “equivalent” shirt in the boys section would not fix the problem any more than making a “Black Power” t-shirt in response to a “White Power” t-shirt would.

    1. Putting an “equivalent” shirt in the boys section would not fix the problem any more than making a “Black Power” t-shirt in response to a “White Power” t-shirt would.

      And pulling the shirt fixed which problem, again? I ask because I didn’t notice any social problems evaporating recently when they decided to pull it.

      And I don’t know about your analogy (actually, I think it’s weak), but a lot of “Black Power” T-shirts were printed in the 70’s in response to a white-dominated power structure, and some progress seems to have been made.

      As they say, “just sayin.”

      1. It fixed JC Penney’s image problem of being perpetuators of sexism.  Who printed those T-shirts?  Black people who also went on to fight for their civil rights or a white owned business who was trying to cover their ass?

        How about a t-shirt with a picture of a black kid that said “I’m too lazy (or stupid) to do my homework, so my white friend has to do it for me?”  Would it make everyone cool with it if there were another t-shirt with a white kid on it that said “I’m too lazy (or stupid) to do my homework so my black friend has to do it for me” ?  Is that a better analogy for you? 

          1. I disagree.

            Analogy =/= Strawman.  Also, strawman =/= trolling. 

            Using an example of racial stereotypes, something that a lot of people can clearly see would be unacceptable to print on a t-shirt to illustrate why sexist stereotypes might also be considered unacceptable is not so radical.

          2. I disagree.Analogy =/= Strawman.  Also, strawman =/= trolling. 

            “How about a t-shirt with a picture of a black kid that said “I’m too lazy (or stupid) to do my homework, so my white friend has to do it for me?”

            No one –especially me — is suggesting such a thing, so it absolutely is a strawman.

            And choosing such an emotionally charged “analogy” can’t be expected to do anything than inflame emotions.

            You may think that you’re carefully choosing “analogies” to make your points clear, but your basic assumption is one of disrespect, that if someone disagrees with you it’s because they are too stupid or unaware to get your point. Did it occur to you that some people may understand your point, but just disagree with it? The problem isn’t lack of colorful “analogies…”

  22. By pulling it from the market they have created an instant collectible, now hipsters from Boston to LA will be dying to get one to wear it “ironically.” 

  23. How is letting other people do your work for you not “empowering”???
    I though the whole thing about “power” is that you can tell other people what to do…

    1. I though the whole thing about “power” is that you can tell other people what to do…


  24. It’s different because females are still largely underrepresented in science and math fields because of baloney like this.  Putting a little girl in that role before she has a chance to succeed is kind of fucked up. 
    Little boys aren’t told math is unmasculine, girls shouldn’t be told it’s unfeminine.

  25. Stop trying to shelter the world from the world. Get involved in your kid’s lives and help them discern what the difference is between having fun and the real issues. Explain your opinions if you like but don’t do them the disservice of hiding them from the real world. If my child (when they were 7 or any age for that matter) actually believes or interprets something they read on a T-shirt, see on TV, or in a video game in an inappropriate manner then I am not doing my job as a parent! My son and I have played FPS’s since he was 9 years old and he knows it is just a game and not to pick up daddy’s gun and shoot a bunch of people.

    Whoever posted above about the Juicy pants and short shorts is correct, it’s women facilitating sexism not corporations. If you don’t want your daughter wearing revealing clothing then raise her not to, don’t expect corporate America or the government to pass regulation.

      1. Discussion here, Yes. But it doesn’t look like JC Penny had a choice in the matter. It just makes me wonder when I read news like this and then read the blogs following just how many people think this is ridiculous, why is it that we keep constantly caving in to what appears to be the minority? 

        With all that being said, I do respect the people who applaud JC Penny’s effort, I just want to understand it and can’t help but thinking that we (a society) will keep creating rules, regulations, and rules until nobody is truly free anymore. I just think that everything starts at home. Control what you can control and leave the rest be.

    1. Precisely this. We should give ourselves, as a species, a little bit more credit and responsibility. We are not, generally, mindless morons who immediately are influenced by and obey everything we happen to read. Kids or no.

      Women earning less than men is important. Less women than men in high-ranking positions is important. Interpreting a mildly humorous T-shirt message as encouraging girls to think that they’re prettier but less intelligent than boys is crazy. Not everything has deep meaning, and very few things actually affect us in any deep or meaningful ways.

        1. No, no. It’s not that there are more important things to focus on than this, it’s that this is inherently wrong to focus on. Even if the world was absolutely perfect and included this T-shirt, arguing that the T-shirt diminishes women or suggests to girls that they are not as smart as boys would be wrong-headed.

    2. “It’s women facilitating sexism…”

      Yes, because we built this system, society and government and have held great power over all of it since time began.  

      Oh wait.

  26. My first reaction to this was “How did this shirt get past the concept stage? Who wouldn’t see the potential problem with this message?” Then I read some of the comments here and was reminded that the devaluation of women is just so generally accepted that hardly anyone notices when it happens.  Even something as small and seemingly insignificant as a t-shirt deserves questioning in this regard. The day the questions stop is the day any hope of gender equality dies.

  27. They should sell it with an adult version, for later years; “I’m too pretty to live in a trailer”.

  28. I’m a chick who’s dyed her blonde hair red to get better jobs and better pay. I tend to notice this sorta thing. A few years ago, seventies-style glitter iron ons were in fashion for tweens. I strolled into a Target one day and noticed some subliminal advertising on a tangerine orange tank top. A huge, sparkly strawberry was plastered across the front of it. Now it may have been purely innocent, but it was the only piece of fruit in a selection of phrases like “Daddy’s Angel” and “Too Hot!” Hands up those who know what a “strawberry” is, and why your daughter shouldn’t necessarily advertise that she is one.

  29. I don’t know if you all can see it on screen, but the shirt includes a basic multiplication problem (4×6=?) that would be expected to be understood by most average students aged 7 to 16 (age 7 is grades 3 & 4 which definitely cover multiplication tables). I didn’t see it at first.

    So, for those who are making the claim that this could be directed at “intelligent” girls who are learning to “delegate” rather than do homework – I think that bit of the image kinda kills yours argument. It’s clear that the statement is: “pretty” girls or, for that matter any girl more concerned with her image than her brain, won’t be capable of completing even basic work, and so must use feminine wiles to get others to do it for them.

    (Location of the problem is to the right above the word “Pretty”)

  30. What I want to know is how her prettiness compels her BROTHER to do her homework for her.

    Eww. Just… eww.

  31. This comment thread is profoundly depressing. The problem isn’t the existence of this shirt; the problem is that shirts like this don’t exist in a vacuum. The shirt is simply reflective of a culture that values women more for their looks than their intelligence, and instills those values in a million small ways (like this shirt) very early on.  Lots of small things add up to a culture, and that’s why it matters. Will pulling the shirt change the culture? Of course not, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t speak out about the little things when they happen.

    And no one is “regulating” what can be put on a shirt. If you want to worry about freedom, think about the freedom of young women to grow up without the burden of being mainly valued for their looks and the expectation that using those looks is how they should get things done.

  32. The world is far too disorganized and indifferent to mount any meaningful effort to tell you what to do with your life.  

  33. I find it remarkable that the spelling and grammar on the above t-shirt is correct.

    I would surely expect that the moronic corporate designers would have ‘dumbed down’ the spelling in hopes that it would have greater appeal to the younger folk.

  34. This reminds me of the Barbie doll they pulled years ago that talked and said something like, “Math is hard.”

    I wouldn’t let my kiddo wear the shirt. Not because I have no sense or humor or it would suddenly stunt her desire to learn, it just isn’t an attitude I want to promote – even in jest. At least not at her current age.

    I am pretty sure she wouldn’t want to anyway. She’s 5 and as I type this she is reading her first “chapter” book. Yes… yes I am bragging. Sue me. :o)

  35. Seeing that other news today noted that physically attractive people get paid more (significantly more) than “average” folk, perhaps the shirt should have read “I’m too pretty to get paid as much as YOU (I get more!).”

  36. Getting past all the calls of sexism and the poor message, can we talk about how truly ugly/homely this shirt is? I mean, clearly the designer must hate women.

  37. At least it didn’t say, “Underachiever and proud of it”.

    Oh, wait, Bart Simpson is a boy, so that’s okay. The _teachers_ were overreacting, in that case!

    1. I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison. I think the difference is that Bart was always understood to be a rebel, not unintelligent or incapable. Many teachers had no problem with the shirt you’re referring to, mainly because they understood he was an anti-hero. That’s very different than a girl (or any person) identifying with the idea that their looks alone either created a lack of intelligence or excused their unwillingness to work. On the shirt discussed here, no popular cartoon hero figure is making the statement – it’s just a statement being sold to girls that age as though it’s an acceptable concept.

      1. Bart was always understood to be a rebel, not unintelligent or incapable.

        You may want to ask Lisa about this. She did some studies… ;)

  38. Now if clothing retailers would just pull the ho clothing that’s targeted to the same age group.  

    I love it when 7 yr old girls are out in public wearing miniskirts, tight low-cut tops, high heels, and lots of make up (not!)

    1. If you want to see some really awful examples of that just google “kids halloween costumes.” Most costumes aimed at tweens are designed that way, and so are several of the designs for even younger girls. A “mad hatter” or “fairy” costume usually will look more like a bar maid.

  39. But I can still go there to get my daughter some pants with “Angel” painted on the ass, right? Right?

  40. Let girls exercise their own good judgment and not buy the dumb shirt.  Stepping in with outrage and “pulling” the shirt only serves to (1) suggest that girls need to be protected and rescued from menacing t-shirts that will otherwise overpower their weak little pink brains with their glittery spells, and (2) perpetuates a kooky belief that places like JCPenney are somehow responsible for “empowering” people in some way.  Has it really come to that?  If you find yourself either “empowered” or “dis-empowered” by a t-shirt at JCPenney, you’ve got bigger problems than the shirt.

  41. Hm. I don’t really get the arguments that writing JC Penney that (1) you think the shirt is stupid and (2) you won’t shop there in the future (or have not and now never will) is “sheltering” girls. That seems to be based on the presumption that these parents aren’t ALSO talking to their girls (and boys) about why the shirt perpetuates a silly stereotype, or sexism, or why a casual throwaway incident like this can be a symptom of a cultural attitude greater and more deeply ingrained.

    I think posting on JC Penney’s Facebook page is about as appropriate as it gets (please let me know if there is a more low-key way to communicate than via Facebook. Ok. Twitter?). This whole thing about “ignoring it” misses the point of inducing change. If I don’t buy the shirt but don’t tell anyone why, why can’t the store just assume that I already *not* shop there? Or I don’t need a new shirt? Or that I don’t wear white? It’s like sending a message to a server by tipping poorly — how do they know you aren’t just a cheapskate? Seriously.

    In the end, how is JC Penney pulling this shirt as a reaction so bad? They demonstrated that when their customers really don’t like something, they’ll change it. It’s not even something that will hurt their bottom line in the slightest, at least in comparison to, say, changing something related to labour or distribution.

    In reaction to a couple of comments above: I too trust the intelligence and agency of young girls. But I also recognize that people (hell, at ANY age) are always learning. Presuming that girls age 7-16 might not know everything in the world, or might not recognize social undercurrents, is not a huge leap.

  42. I’m shocked at how many people in this thread don’t realise that shirts like this are part of a much bigger problem. Yeah, it’s just a shirt. So are jokes about belonging in the kitchen, we should all lighten up.

    Except not. People keep suggesting that girls should be taught to be empowered despite t-shirts like this…guess what, they are, and speaking out against this kind of humour is part of the empowerment. Moreover, how many of you are clearly aware of the true reason most significant characters in history are men? It’s not because, over centuries, weak and unempowered girls accepted the idea that they should be pretty and find rich husbands. It’s because, over centuries, girls were NOT ALLOWED to obtain the same education as men. Subsequently, they were NOT ALLOWED to work in the same jobs as men. 

    And this is not being said clearly enough in schools. Just by reading their history books, girls and boys alike can absorb a dangerous stereotype- that men are doers and thinkers, while women remain in the background, and those who make their mark are truly exceptions to a rule. Few come to realise that there were just as many capable women as there were men, but that women were literally forbidden from gaining knowledge and exercising it.

    This stereotype has had centuries of enforcement, it doesn’t need any more help now. 

  43. A comparable tee shirt for a boy would be Most Of My Decision-Making Happens Below My Waist.

  44. The sad thing is that in the USA the brother is probably doing worse in school right now. He is less likely to graduate or go on to college. Maybe if he was doing his own home work and not his sister’s…

    Funny has nothing to do with morality. Many things that are funny are not necessarily moral, but that lack of morality does not make them not funny, just not moral. You don’t tell those jokes because they are immoral and lead to ethically bad outcomes, but not because they are “not funny”. 

  45. Sorry, but I don’t think this is a problem.  I’ve been a reader and critical thinker all my life, and I viewed homework as mainly bullshit that interfered with my own genuine, self-directed learning.  We’ve got too damn many Lisa Simpson types.  Anything that encourages an ironic attitude towards assignments from authority figures behind desks is good.

    1. “We’ve got too damn many Lisa Simpson types”.

      Funny you should mention Lisa. When I was 11 my mom bought me a Lisa Simpson shirt that read ‘overachiever and proud of it’.  She told me that the Bart ‘underachiever’ shirt that I had asked for wasn’t acceptable as underachieving was nothing to be proud of.  I remember that conversation in extreme detail.  It’s all well and good that a bunch of adults are having a discussion about the message of this shirt online, but the sad fact is that the majority of parents wouldn’t be having this convo with their girls.  This shirt does not promote any sort of learning, it promotes a stereotype that needs to go away. 

      I am an overachiever. I’m a woman and I’m proud of it.  Shirts like this threaten to replace the Lisa Simpson type with the vapid, empty headed chick type and in my experience there’s too damn many of those.

      PS.- This comment illustrates exactly what I had posted before about the devaluation of women being completely ingrained in our culture to the point of not being able to recognize it.  Women are supposed to do nothing but look pretty; therefore, this shirt must be a comment on authority figures and the validity of schoolwork.

  46. Your comment illustrates the extent to which meritocracy and the hegemony of the managerial-professional classes has become completely ingrained in our culture to the point not being able to recognize the implicit value system of hierarchical authority behind standard metrics of “achievement.”

    Lisa Simpson was a person whose standard of “achievement” was performing whatever tasks were set for her by an authority figure behind a desk, in order to get a gold star on her paper.  Later, if she had aged normally in the cartoon, the gold star would have been replaced by a line on her resume.  Remember the episode where she was jonesing to go back to school, and started hyperventilating and begging Marge to grade or evaluate her?  I don’t think that’s very healthy.

    Another illustration of the same pathology is the common demand for “cabinets and boardrooms that look like America” — in other words, a society where state and corporate hierarchies and their power over society are taken for granted, but there is an even racial and gender distribution among their membership.

    Martin Luther King:  I have a dream…
    Soledad O’Brien:  As an indication of how far King’s dream has been realized, some are Secretary of State; some are CEO…
    Me:  I have a dream:  to see the last Secretary of State strangled with the entrails of the last CEO.

    1. OMG – are you really trying to psychoanalyze the Simpsons? No one on that show is mentally healthy. Partly because IT ISN’T REAL.

    2. What did any of that have to do with gender?  That’s the subject of this thread.  Nice use of complex words and sentences though.

  47. It makes me think of the t-shirt with the words “Home Skooled” below a picture of a camper trailer that J.C. Penny sold for a little while in 2001. It was quickly noticed and protested by home-schooling parents. I heard about it in the news just before they all got pulled. I was home-schooled, and I had to have one of those shirts. I wore it until it started to fall apart. I guarantee that some super smart female student loves this shirt and wears it for the irony as often as possible.

    1. ” I guarantee that some super smart female student loves this shirt and wears it for the irony as often as possible.” Very likely. But the ironic message is not the one that will be seen and understood by most people. I don’t know much about homeschooling but I have noticed the trend is to mock and assume homeschooled kids are badly educated. There is also still a trend to assume that girls are less smart and capable than boys, and that one has been going on for so long, it’s practically branded into our minds as soon as we’re born. 

      A few people will see the shirt as ironic, millions will see it as a clever joke on how pretty girls can’t handle math. Oh, and on how the brothers of those pretty girls are probably smart enough to do two sets of homework!

      A lot more harm than good.

  48. In Phnom Penh, I once saw a teenage girl, working at her family’s pork and rice stand,  wear a T-shirt that had a number 15 on the back (like a sports shirt). The front said: “Worth the jail time”. I thought that was funny. And disturbing.

  49. We’re led by our socity and the media to believe that instances of racism and sexism are few and far between.They’re not.  They’re hidden in the most obvious of places. We’ve just been conditioned not to question our everyday surroundings and interactions.

  50. Un freak’n believable that those women get their feathers ruffled over something that is just
    meant to be a cutesy T Shirt. REALLY?  you are that  offended by this? I saw it and thought it was just funny. But I did see you women on TV that were ‘so offended’….. Now we have to be care of a silly saying on a shirt as to not offend you? and they know what i mean. Get a life and fight for something that will make a real difference for our kids. Make noise against whats being taught or lack of whats being taught. Try making noise to fix our school system instead of looking for idiotic things to be offended by whats written on a T Shirt. Geez!

  51. Beauty (physical attractiveness) has to be good for something. If you cannot convert your good looks into something of value, you’re doing it wrong.

  52. This was supposed to be a reply to Doctressjulia (I guess it still is) but disqust screwed up and I just now remembered about this. Although it seems she has moved on or was scared off or whatever… In any case it’s still mostly valid and as such I’m posting it anyway.

    Is this a sore subject for you or what? Not to devalue your good work here because I certainly have my sore subjects too and I agree with you but… Seriously, link pasting is not really a valid form of argument nor is thread bombing replies to every commenter here that you disagree with. The problem with what you are doing is that most people aren’t going to click the link you provide as your rebuttal and those that do probably already agree with what you would have said. In any case, a little more content/info and a little less shotgun-overkill.

    OT: While these T-shirts are pretty far from heinous, they are still propagandizing people of both genders and do still represent a significant problem in society even if it’s ‘just a t-shirt’. Surely, we have come a long way but we’re still not out of the woods yet, not even close.

  53. While I agree that on one hand, it’s just a shirt, I really appreciate those in this thread who have acknowledged that this is one symptom of a larger society problem. Only by calling out this shirt for its sexist message are we going to make any progress in changing prevailing attitudes about women and intelligence.

    Sure, parents are one of the strongest influences on the development of children and telling our daughters that they can be pretty AND good at math is one step, but they are still going to get bombarded by messages that say the opposite unless we, as a society, deem those messages unacceptable.

    And for those who would say that the idea that attractive women are less intelligent is passe; no one thinks that anymore, I politely disagree. As a woman scientist I can offer up a fair bit of anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

  54. This t-shirt *is* sexist, but towards boys not girls. You may have noticed that girls are different from boys. It follows that girl power is different from boy power. How do girls get power? Traditionally female power has been based on physical appearance. Pretty girls are powerful/popular. Boys…not as much. Historically they have gotten power in other ways. This leads to some interesting phenomena. Girls are at the peak of their (traditional) power when young, which is the time when males are at the nadir of their power. Males increase their power as they work to accumulate resources and demonstrate value to society. Thus the oft notice preference for young females and older males (and vice versa).
    It follows that males are the oppressed worker in this scenario while the pretty (and hence powerful) girl is the oppressor. This shirt is a celebration of female power and dominance over males.

  55. holyalmost:  The subject of this thread was the t-shirt which was pulled, and the perceived gender message it sent.  I questioned the extent to which it was purely a gender message, as opposed to having other messages — like a snarky view of homework and “achievement” — mixed in as well.  That seems to me to be a legitimate development of the general topic — unless you’ve been made High Sheriff for deciding “the subject of this thread.”  In which case, mea maxima culpa. 

    But considering your comments on “the day the questions  stop,” I’d think you might take a slightly less authoritarian attitude toward someone who questions the framing of the topic.

    Or are you the only one who gets to put OTHER PEOPLE on the defensive and deconstruct the implicit unexamined premises of their arguments?  If so, sorry for working your side of the street.

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