Thursday, September 1, 2011
Smart Girls and Stupid T-Shirts
I was reading a story from the Washington Post about a line of long-sleeve t-shirts for young girls. Designed by a company called Self Esteem (oh sweet irony), the shirts have phrases such as “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me” and “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Beiber album out?” Thanks to a fast-moving grassroots protest, J.C. Penney pulled the line from their stores and stated, “We agree that the 'Too pretty' t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale.” I quickly formed two strong and very conflicting opinions. So, even though I try to avoid them, I checked out the comments section of the article. Though mostly illiterate and often profane (and not in a funny way) the opinions seemed equally split. I checked out a few Psychology Today articles on teen behavior, but still have not been able to fully support one side of this issue. Thus, I thought I would present both opinions to my Disciples for your amusement (I always enjoy listening to the voices argue) and discussion.
I have a few strongly held opinions that I believe are true regardless of the side I fall on this issue:
1. Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are fundamental rights that should only be limited in very rare circumstances.
2. In the past (and I’m afraid even in the present), there has been an erroneous gender stereotype that men are better academically than women. This is just STUPID.
3. Young children often try to gain approval from the peers they admire by attempting to emulate the peers’ behavior. Unfortunately, the “captain of the football team/head cheerleader” or “the pretty people” stereotypes are those most frequently envied.
4. The statements on the discontinued shirts are completely indefensible. I would be embarrassed if one of my imaginary children ever wore one and would mock anyone I saw wearing one on the street. They are essentially a big flashing neon sign saying, “Hey, look at me, I’m really stupid!”
Given these opinions, here are my two opposing arguments:
Orbson Says Ban the Stupid
Our children are impressionable. By selling shirts such as these, J.C. Penney is condoning the idea that it is okay for girls to be stupid so long as they’re pretty. Since these shirts are geared to younger girls, the message is even more dangerous. Given the cultural stereotypes that have long lingered in this country regarding women and education, this type of message is both discriminatory and wrong. The grassroots effort to remove the shirts as well as the store’s response, were all reasonable and thus I believe it is perfectly okay to “ban the stupid”. The shirts can still be purchased if someone really wants them, just not in a family-oriented department store. I would not want anyone telling my imaginary daughter that it is more important to be pretty than to be smart.
Orbson Says Get Over Yourselves
We live in a free country and should be able to express ourselves however we choose. The shirts were meant as a joke, even though they’re not remotely funny. Still, I don’t believe that seeing a peer wear one would automatically make my imaginary daughter believe that stupid was cool. For her entire imaginary life I have been teaching her the value of education and the power of knowledge. If she saw someone wearing one of those shirts, I would hope she would join me in a fun session of Mock the Moron. The grassroots effort seems to believe that my imaginary daughter is on the edge of a precipice between the Stupid and the Smart and just seeing one of these shirts would throw her over the edge. If I did a good enough job instilling values in her I would hope that would not be the case. I would have also told her of the many very cool and very pretty women that are well educated. Natalie Portman and Ashley Judd went to Harvard. Claire Danes, Jennifer Connelly and Kate Beckinsale went to Oxford. Lauren Graham and Maggie Gyllenhaal went to Columbia. There will undoubtedly be times in her life when she sees someone she thinks is “cool” doing something I think is “wrong”. I cannot guard her from everything. I can only give her the tools to make good choices and be there for her if she stumbles. Finally, banning one shirt will just lead to banning others. Football shirts represent violence, the rock band on that shirt has a song with a naughty word, that organization is too liberal. Where does it end? We should not tell people what their children can and can’t wear. We should let parents be parents and then join together to mock those who would actually buy one of these ridiculous shirts.
I’ll let each of you decide for yourselves which opinion has more merit. As for me, I’m going to go talk about this topic with my imaginary daughter and see what she has to say.
Other Surprising Celebrities who went to Ivy League Schools (there were hundreds).
Matt Damon, Tommy Lee Jones, Conan O’Brien and Steve Zahn and Rivers Cuomo (the lead singer of Weezer) went to Harvard.
Jodie Foster, Edward Norton, Meryl Streep, Jordana Brewster and Paul Giamatti went to Yale.
Weezer Likes Smart Girls Too!
The title photograph was taken from a Washington Post Blog which itself was taken from the J.C. Penney website. As today's entry is a criticism of the shirt and in many ways, a news story, I believe it falls under the Fair Use Doctrine of the copyright infringement laws.