By Quentin Fottrell
After a barrage of criticism from bloggers and social networkers, J.C. Penney last week removed from sale a girl’s sweatshirt with the slogan “I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me.” However, still on sale is this little number: A T-shirt with the slogan “My Best Subjects: Boys, Shopping, Music, Dancing.” It’s aimed at girls 7-16 and reduced to $4.99 from $11.99
Should J.C. Penney apply the lesson from the sweatshirt to the T-shirt? Or does the army of so-called mommy bloggers lack a sense of humor? And will they mount another campaign to have this T-shirt removed from sale, too? The tagline on the J.C. Penney’s webpage selling the “My Best Subjects” T-shirt says: “These are the subjects I totally rock at!”
One satisfied customer – a female aged 18-24 – described the T-shirt as “colorful and highly detailed print design” on J.C. Penney’s website. However, another customer – a female aged 30-39 – only saw red: “This T-shirt is outrageously sexist. I would never purchase this shirt and my kid would never be permitted to wear it. Is this what smart capable young girls should be wearing back to school?”
Some commentators agree with the former customer. Kit Yarrow, professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University in San Francisco, says irony is the new teen language. “It’s designed to have the same effect that going braless did for kids in the 1970s,” she says. “Retailers like J.C. Penney that are trying to appeal to all age groups just don’t have the opportunity to connect with kids through irony without offending their older customers.”
Others, however, are less forgiving. Molly Barker, founder of the non-profit Girls on the Run International based in Charlotte, NC., a group that aims to foster self-confidence and healthy living among young girls, does not find either clothing item funny. “If you want to make money, celebrate girls, then you’ll have a market,” she says. “Companies should honor and celebrate people rather than bring them down.”
J.C. Penney did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday, but issued this statement on the first sweatshirt last week: “Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.”
The issue is reminiscent of Teen Talk Barbie back in 1992; one of her many phrases was: “Math class is tough.” Mattel withdrew the phrase after a backlash from the American Association of University Women, and offered to swap Barbies who had a hard time in math class for other dolls.
Pay Dirt readers, should J.C. Penney re-think their clothing slogans for young girls?