The now infamous J.C. Penney's t-shirt that said, "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me," and made national news causing Penney's to take the path of least resistance which meant a public apology and a promise to discontinue the sale of shirt (even though there are still other shirts with bad messaging) has sparked a lot of healthy debate. The blogoshpere went insane and has left everybody with a feeling of, "what's next?" because inevitably there will be some other issue immediately following. It is a daily occurrence. Just check out my Facebook page.
Needless to say, the Penney's shirt was part of a line of clothing for girls called "Self-Esteem" which seems to make no sense. Unless maybe they thought a girl would have to be loaded with self-esteem to consider not doing her homework in lieu of listening to the latest Justin Bieber cd. I mean, it would certainly take a lot of chutzpah to do such a thing! Or maybe those who came up with the t-shirt were exercising their right to be ironic which simply got lost on all of us common folk. But the bigger question I have is, why is it necessary to have a line called "self-esteem" at all? Do we ever see boys lines of clothing that emphasize the need to boost their feelings based on potential insecurities? Why do girls need to be told they're smart and capable while it seems to be assumed with boys? (I'm being slightly rhetorical here--if you don't know the reason why there might be a line of clothing for girls called "self-esteem" just read my other blog posts or check out this story.)
If you look at the boys tees at JC Penney's you will not see ONE single shirt that has a message on it like the one that got all of the attention. Instead, you will see really fun graphics that imply action-oriented objects and activities. Nothing that emphasizes looks or appearance at all. You see, boys clothing has the luxury of being able to simply be fun. There's no psychology behind it. Nothing that says, "We better make sure that boys know they're smart!" In fact, there is not ONE tee that is self-referential--or says the word, "I" or "me." I find this to be incredibly interesting and telling.
Here is a sampling of the boy tees:
Basketball, guitars, surfing.
Now look at a sampling of the girl tees:
Cupcakes, shoes, rainbows, princesses (of course), and...I don't even know how to describe the last one. What are we conveying to our girls by continuing to push these kinds of messages? Is this really a matter of parents simply not purchasing specific items? No, because these are the kinds of items they have to choose from.
As you can see, there is nothing action-oriented on the girls tees. It's all about what girls supposedly "like." I can tell you that my daughter has never liked any of these things. Instead, she has always sought out the boy designs for reasons I can see very clearly now. And this is the reason I created Princess Free Zone and designed t-shirts for girls that are fun, graphic, and imply action. To offer girls a choice. I'm not saying they shouldn't be able to choose a shirt with a princess on it--but the choice should not be between a princess or a butterfly. The choice should be between a princess and a soccer ball and should include colors beyond pink and baby blue. Do we even have any idea how many girls might choose differently if given the option?