There have been countless clothing items in recent years made by companies that were largely offensive and in bad taste. Whether it has to do with cultural appropriation, racism, or eating disorders, companies continue to be insensitive toward their audiences. One topic that interested me is the sexism aspect displayed on clothing that disrespects and undervalues girls and women. For many years, women were seen as having less ability to do things as men. Whether it is their strength, leadership, or intellect, women’s abilities have been undervalued and underrated. Women have come a log way in the last century and in today’s world, women are gaining more power and a stronger voice in society. For example, it is now looked highly upon when women enter the work force, become CEOs, or go to prestigious universities. With this progression, women’s clothing companies should be supporting this movement and encouraging women from a young age. However, JCPenney and Forever 21, both very popular stores, have released articles of clothing that put young women down and do the opposite of what they should be doing.
Both of the articles of clothing that were created by these stores undermine a women’s intellect and portray that women do not have to be smart or use their brains because the men can do that. In the example of JCPenney, the shirt that they created says “ I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” This shirt is essentially saying that a girl’s looks are the only thing that matters and she is incapable of being an intellectual. Her brother on the other hand, being a boy, can do the homework for her because boys are smarter. This shirt was targeted to young girls ages 7-16. This is even sadder because this age period in a girl’s life is essential in developing her self-concept and self-worth. It is a time of confusion when you were figuring out who you are. If girls are being told by clothing that looks are the most important thing, then women empowerment will dwindle away. If other people don’t believe in young girls’ abilities, why should they believe in themselves? These clothing stores should instead be creating shirts that display words of encouragement for girls.
Another clothing store that released a shirt that touched upon the same topic is Forever 21. This is a store that is hugely popular with teenage girls. Again their target customers are girls who are developing and figuring out who they are and who they want to be. They are also a very vulnerable demographic and tend to buy into things easily. The shirt that Forever 21 created read “Allergic to Algebra.” Once again, the writing on this piece of clothing sends an anti-education message to girls. Along with this shirt comes many other Forever 21 items that put down education. Some example are: “Skool sucks,”and “A+=amazing, B=brilliant, C=cool, D=delightful, F=fabulous.” It is interesting that in the men’s section of Forever 21, there are no shirts that allude to education at all. Why are the only shirts that mention education or math in the girls’ section? It is because of the stigma that is associated with smart women. There is a perception that begins at a young age that boys are better at math than girls. Therefore, it is a manly trait to be good at math. However, this is such an outdated myth. Women are rising in education today and we need to stop bringing back these stereotypes. Like I mentioned with the JCPenney design, these stores should be encouraging these young girls and making it cool to be smart. Making this kind of offensive clothing is only taking us steps back in feminism. We need more women power and leadership in the world and it all starts with the youth. Putting down the value of education is not a good start to this movement.
The sexist messages that are written on these shirts is a huge step back in fight to build up girls self-esteem in a society that often tears it down. Clothing is something that you wear and represent on your body. Essentially when you wear these clothes, you are standing for what it says. When young girls buy these shirts and wear them, they are degrading themselves and stating that their brain is insignificant and worthless. Although both of these companies published an apology for the offensive clothing, this is a problem that is apparent in many stores. There have been numerous accounts of clothing companies releasing offensive clothing and I think that there needs to be more people overseeing the development of these items. Clothing should not offend or tear anyone down. It is disheartening that many of these clothing mishaps go unnoticed. Clothing companies need to be more aware of what they release and the messages that they portray. It is not only harmful to the companies’ reputations but also to the demographics that it targets and offends. Clothing companies, such as Forever 21 and JCPenney have the opportunity to build up the confidence of young girls and sending anti-education messages is definitely a step in the wrong direction.