Stop Selling Sexism To Our Daughters
It was on sale for $9.99 and came in girls’ sizes 7-16. The copy that promoted the long-sleeved T-shirt read thusly: “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.”
What did the T-shirt in question say? “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” And it was being sold by the all-American, mainstream retailer JCPenney.
As soon as I saw mention of this abomination on Twitter, I researched it, blogged about it, read others’ outrage on Twitter and looked at the online petition that had been started to get JCPenney to “stop promoting sexist messaging to girls.”
“If JCPenney were a TV network, it would have told us the offensive T-shirt was actually a form of ‘empowerment,’” mused TV critic TVMcGee.
One sarcastic, funny blogger, BusyMom, Tweeted: “I’m too pretty to do Twitter, y’all have to do it for me.”
But the shirt wasn’t funny. Even though the company swiftly pulled the shirt off the web site and distributed a disingenuous press statement saying that they didn’t wish to “offend” their customers, all I could wonder was how such a T-shirt could’ve gotten this far, who green-lighted its sale, who wrote that copy?
Over the weekend, I watched a press screener for the devastatingly depressing new documentary Miss Representation about the horrific, long-lasting impact that this kind of “I’m too pretty to do homework” message has on young girls and women. “Girls get the message very early on that what’s most important is how they look . . . that their value, their worth depends on that,” Jean Kilbourne - author, scholar and the woman behind her own documentary about sexism in the media, Killing Us Softly - told the documentary filmmaker. When girls are sent the message that they are and should be seen as pretty little objects, “They learn to see themselves as objects,” Kilbourne said. And objects don’t run for president, run companies or, apparently, do homework.
Among the damning statistics in Miss Representation - which depicts the impact of sexism on women’s political and business power, as well as on girls’ beliefs about their own value - were these: 53 percent of 13-year-old girls reported in a survey to be unhappy with their bodies and by the time they reach 17, that number rose to 78 percent.