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Nov 02 2005

Who Needs Abercrombie When You Have Brains?

Abercrumb

Just when I had given up all hope that teenage girls would ever cast their gaze beyond the raunch-a-rama that currently masquerades as 3rd Wave "individualist" feminism, some Pennsylvania high school students have mounted an offensive against the repellent Abercrombie & Fitch, purveyors of pubescent softcore, and the store’s current line of idiot T-shirts. The shirts, meant for young girls whose deepest wish is to declare their solidarity with Pole-Dance Nation, feature such delightful self-affirming slogans as "I Had A Nightmare I Was A Brunette" and "Available For Parties." And, presumably, "Kiss Me, I’m 13."

The aforementioned activist students have organized a "girlcott" and went national on the Today show yesterday to "fight this message that we’re getting from pop culture." Poor kids.

Not surprisingly, a few  girls interviewed by the Trib for this story–applicants, it turns out, for jobs at Abercrombie– exhibited a depressing but predictable degree of teen apathy and didn’t give a crap about the misogynist message on the shirts, declaring it "funny."

43 comments

3 pings

  1. julia

    A&F t-shirts are a major point of contention between my daughter and I. Now that she works and has her own money, it is hard to control what she buys.

    But I do the laundry. Funny thing. T-shirts that I find offensive get ruined in the laundry, pretty much on a regular basis.

  2. robin

    This t-shirt makes me very sad. That some girls just find it “funny” makes me sadder.
    The term “Stockholm Syndrome” is not nearly enough to describe the depth of this pathetic self-abasement.
    Bravo to the Pennsylvania high school students who are raising their voices.

  3. norbizness

    Can I get an “I Blew The Chemistry Teacher for An ‘A’” in sea foam, XXL?

  4. kate.d.

    ugh.

    i had a good friend who worked at abercrombie in college – she was incredibly smart and creative and insightful, so i have no idea how she survived 20 minutes there without her head exploding.

  5. Christine

    I made the mistake of reading the comments on the Tribune link. A lot of them were “if you don’t like it, don’t buy it”. They just don’t get that the problem isn’t selling them, it’s creating them. That the idea was so great they became a reality.

    Saddest yet is that there was a time that I would have found them funny myself. I’m happy that my eyes are now open and that all of you help keep them that way.

  6. Christopher

    What’s weird is that the marketing goons continue to insist that only a few old fuddy-duddies would find the shirts offensive, when the girlcott is being led by a 16 year old girl and her highschool compatriots.

  7. yankee transplant

    Good for those girls. I, too, have refused to spend a dime on my girls’ clothes at A&F, and now my 17-year old sees that I may have been right. Maybe. Once.

  8. res publica

    Yeah, that’s “funny”. Funny like a rusty nail in my foot. Stuff like this makes me want to cry.

    Abercrombie’s marketing machine is pretty squarely focused on teenagers, so how is it that the only people who ever raise a stink about their exploitative and degrading bullshit, their fascist aesthetics, their homoerotic homophobia, their raunchy misogyny, etc., are feminist women? Where’s the sex-panic crowd? Where are the Outraged And Concerned Christian Parents of America or whatever? Feminists are right to loath A&F, and gay men should be picketing A&F stores instead of pouring cash into them. But so should every parent who loves their kids and wants them to have a chance to be more than a peice of meat for some beer-bloated frat asshole.

  9. PrissyNot

    “The Outraged and Concerned Christian Parents of America” are only outraged and concerned if whatever crosses the paths of their eternally upturned noses DOESN’T support the patriarchy’s view of what is or is not appropriate for the sex class. Of course these T-shirts ARE appropriate for the sex class, so “Christians” don’t care. In fact, these types actively support the idea that the American sex class should be demure, subservient and accessible, while at the same time calling attention to such availability and self-abasement. I have to go puke now.

  10. wordgirl

    These are the same females who now wear teeny, tiny cheerleading shorts with the word “Cheer” across their ass cheeks…little more than an open invitation to feast ones eyes.
    But–ironically- they’ll exhibit righteous indignation when, 20 years from now, a guy in the office won’t take them seriously and can’t stop drooling over every passing female butt.

    Connect the dots, ladies!

  11. Miranda

    Thanks, Twisty! I was at the resale shop this weekend and I saw this shirt that would look really nice with my daughter’s pants. However, it had a big honkin’ A&F logo on it.

    I put it back. No way I want my daughter to think I approve of this kind of nonsense.

  12. deja pseu

    I’m always amused at the unintentional irony of people who believe they’re being “edgy”, when they’re really just reinforcing the patriarchal status-quo.

  13. The Fat Lady Sings

    When I was a teen back in the 70′s, most girls were 16 before being introduced to sex. Now it’s as young as 10 or 11. Someone needs to sue A & F – gender discrimination – promoting pedophilia – anything to get their attention. Hit ‘em in the wallet – nothing else will work.

  14. darkymac

    Now hang on here.
    I am looking for something to wear. To wear in public places where brazillions of others may see it.
    And these retailers want me to pay for them to advertise anything on me?

  15. Melissa

    Good on them. Hopefully the girls involved will keep doing what they’re doing.

  16. debby

    all i can say is yay pittsburgh! moment of pride for my hometown…

  17. shannon

    Go girls! I’ve hated that over priced store since they did those stupid shirts that mocked Asians.(two wongs make it white? like who ever thought that was a good idea at all? ever?)

  18. ms kate

    One test of whether this is “funny” or not is: is it equal opportunity? In other words, do they have similar shirts for guys and do guys actually buy and wear them?

    Otherwise, it can’t possibly be considered funny. Let’s face it, such “self-depricating” humor is aimed at making the wearer more attractive because they become an object to use rather than a complex person to deal with. Self-labled oversimplification for the amusement of others.

    Even if there are guys out there in shirts proclaiming “my brain is seven inches long”, I’m not even sure if that makes it funny or any better. Equality should be a trip to the top, not a race to the bottom.

  19. ms kate

    Oh, yes, I forgot to mention the obvious irony, given Twisty’s uniboobal status and bodacious lobes.

    In today’s world, overpoluted by thoughtless consumption, you might someday need some brains because there is an increasing chance that you will not have “these” anymore in the not too distant future.

  20. Twisty

    In today’s world, overpoluted by thoughtless consumption, you might someday need some brains because there is an increasing chance that you will not have “these” anymore in the not too distant future.

    Fear not; there are armies of plastic surgeons just itching to reconstruct the boobless.

  21. Steph

    Ugh. Why does my generation (and the one behind it…are these teenagers still considred my generation if I’m 22? God, I hope not) seem intent on setting feminism back twenty or thirty years?

    Also, I have the sudden urge to create a tee shirt for all the flat chested smart girls like me, something along the lines of “I traded mine in for brains. Best deal EVER.”

  22. The Happy Feminist

    Ugh. I hate to be caught being fair to the patriarchy but I know that Papa James Dobson has been up in arms about Abercrombie for a long time (see link at the bottom of the page) and there have been a number of Christian boycotts. Of course, he’s upset that anything sexual is happening at all, plus things like the “It’s All Relative in West Virginia Shirt” really get under his skin.

    http://search.family.org/query.cfm?qt=abercrombie+%26+fitch&style=family&Search.x=27&Search.y=7

  23. Sylvanite

    I couldn’t help but notice that the powers-that-be at A&F were tripping all over themselves to dismiss the “girlcott.” Gotta put those girls back in their place! I hope they persist and teach A&F a thing or two about the non-triviality of female concerns.

  24. shara

    re: wordgirl

    uh…women should be able to dress how they want and still be treated with respect. this includes revealing clothing. also i find it SO damn stupid that one would in any way connect the way a woman is treated in her place of work with possible fashion mistakes she made 20 years prior.

  25. Tuomas

    wordgirl:

    You don’t think very highly of men, do you (or women)?
    A man who uses the excuse: “20 years ago, this one woman wore a tight skirt with “cheers” written on butt, so I can’t stop drooling over every passing female butt” is a pathetic excuse-maker of highest degree. Connect the dots yourself.

    Nothing wrong with finding a passing female butt aesthetically pleasing, but being an ass about it (sorry, pun) or using that as an excuse to not take said women seriously is a sign of misogyny. And misogyny is caused by misogynists, not women’s tight clothing.

    Shorter A&F clothing: It’s funny because it’s offensive!

  26. metamanda

    >Also, I have the sudden urge to create a tee shirt for all the flat chested smart girls like me, something along the lines of “I traded mine in for brains. Best deal EVER.”

    Steph, I’d totally buy that.

  27. Ron Sullivan

    I suppose I could shoplift one of those and wear it for sarcasm’s sake, but at my age the print would have to be a lot lower.

    Vis-a-vis what Ms Kate said, it had occurred to me that a bunch of guys wearing those might be some sort of curveball solidarity statement. Or something.

  28. velocity

    the raunch-a-rama that currently masquerades as 3rd Wave “individualist” feminism
    That was a cheap shot.

  29. Meribeth

    It is really sad to see young women lower themselves (old fart term) so they can feel they are “in” and cute and attracting attention. Sure it is understandable to want to advertise their new sexuality, but at what cost? To demean themselves and their gender is not funny, and it cheapens all. What is also very sad is that the adults allow it, pay for it and promote it? To let young women to advertise and use T&A is selling out to those who give them no value.

    This reminds me of an article I read a while ago about the controversy when the French government banned the veil in schools. Funny thing is that most of the young women wore the veil as a “fashion statement” against the patriarchy. They wanted to hide themselves from those who treat them like a commodity. It was a form of independence for them.

    And then there are the girls in Pennsylvania. Good for them! It takes courage to stand up to what is popular, especially when in the teens.

  30. Jill

    “These are the same females who now wear teeny, tiny cheerleading shorts with the word “Cheer” across their ass cheeks…little more than an open invitation to feast ones eyes.
    But–ironically- they’ll exhibit righteous indignation when, 20 years from now, a guy in the office won’t take them seriously and can’t stop drooling over every passing female butt.

    Connect the dots, ladies!”

    Others have already responded, but I’ll jump in. I get a little irritated at blaming women for the positions that we’re put in. I think it makes a lot more sense to look at why these girls feel the need do act as they do, and deconstruct the various social forces which privilege young women more for being perceived as attractive than for being intelligent. Young women are rational actors. Many of them realize that they will get more positive attention if they wear clothing which enhances or draws attention to certain physical characteristics. They’ve been taught that positive attention based on what they look like is inherently more valuable than positive attention based on their personalities or intelligence. They act accordingly.

    These women grow up in the same system that you and I do — I don’t know you, but at 22 I’m still one of them. Do I wear tiny shorts that say “cheer” across the ass? No, but my choice not to wear things like that (or like these abercrombie shirts) is a direct response to being exposed to feminism, and making a conscious choice to opt out of certain behaviors that, though they would very likely have me be perceived as more attractive to the opposite sex, are anti-feminist. Women are in a tough position, and to simply blame us for it without acknowledging the wider social structure that creates it is a bit intellectually lazy.

    Yes, women need to change, and I would love to see every young woman dig up some righteous rage and fight the patriarchy. But it’s going to take more than that — men have to change too, and society has to undergo a massive shift. It’s not fair to expect us to do all the work and to shoulder all the blame.

    That said, I blame the patriarchy for this too.

  31. Anne

    The insidious thing about this sort of humor is that any criticism can be met with “You’re being too sensitive,” “The cool people get it,” and “I’m just kidding.”

  32. s. melmoth

    wordgirl is taking it on the chin unfairly. she’s right to ask young women to “connect the dots,” even if patriarchy is to blame.

    stating that women are in a bind and they are socially rewarded for dressing like tramps is a very thin reed to criticize those who dare to hold women accountable for perpetuating patriarchy. i imagine many a white man feels quite similar, that in their social milieu it may pay to be imperialist, racist, and sexist and thus, they are not really “to blame” for their lack of progressive thought/action.

    we _know_ the men will be assholes, history has shown that to be pretty much a given. but do women have to so willingly join them? do we need men to change? of course. but one of the best ways to get them to change is to solidify the solidarity among the target of their oppression, i.e. the sisterhood. as long as there are women who go along to get along, there will be an A&F executive to say, “Seeeeee…. _they_ like it. It’s _you_ who has the problem. And actually, since you are trying to abridge women’s choices while we are trying to expand them, it is _you_ who are sexist.”

    As someone lamented about the comment sections at the Tribune page, ours is a culture that would rather lick corporate boot than fight the power. Either the feminist movement gets savvy about inspiring self-discipline from within or it will _get_ disciplined from without – the iron law of social struggle.

    The charge against “Individualist Feminism,” was thus not a cheap shot, but a very real appraisal of the new directions our culture has moved in over the past decade. Patriarchy’s been around a long time, “juicy couture” has not. Thus, we can’t just say, “patriarchy did it!” No. A significant number of young women are making new choices and those choices are detrimental to the struggle for *gasp* women/gender liberation. Something’s changed and if we don’t get a hold of it, and dare to call out those who are either with us or against us, like those kick ass sisters in Pennsylvania obviously have, then we’re gonna keep on losing this struggle.

  33. s. melmoth

    a quick note. i have nothing against tramps per se, and i enjoy dressing like one now and then myself. but it certainly pays to always keep in mind that helpful dictum, “a time and place for everything.” in other words, embrace sluttiness as a pleasure seeking tactic, not a life-wide strategy.

  34. beth

    what the crap is WRONG with A & F?!?!?! have they put out ANY t-shirts in the last five years that *didn’t* result in a massive protest?

  35. Velocity

    Twisty:
    Just when I had given up all hope that teenage girls would ever cast their gaze beyond the raunch-a-rama that currently masquerades as 3rd Wave “individualist” feminism (…)

    Velocity:
    That was a cheap shot.

    S. Melmoth:
    The charge against “Individualist Feminism,” was thus not a cheap shot, but a very real appraisal of the new directions our culture has moved in over the past decade.
    With all due respect to Twisty, who is amazing in ways I can’t even fathom, equating third wave feminism(s) with sex-obsessed individualism is a gross oversimplification of a multifaceted movement, not to mention mean-spirited — which makes it a cheap shot.

  36. Twisty

    Actually, Velocity, I was suggesting that the proponents of Pamela Andersonity who call themselves feminists are giving 3rd wavers a bad name. But my suggestion was poorly worded.

  37. ursa

    What about a range of Twisty Faster T shirts with such things as I BLAME THE PATRIARCHY, TW, and SPINSTER across the fronts and all the other clever feminist slogans I know you and the panel can think up, The coolest Christmass presents.

  38. ursa

    What about a range of Twisty Faster T shirts with such things as I BLAME THE PATRIARCHY, TW, and SPINSTER across the fronts and all the other clever feminist slogans I know you and the panel can think up, The coolest Christmass presents.

  39. WookieMonster

    I hereby donate my:

    Math is Hard!
    (And I’m good at it)

    T-shirt idea to the cause of Twisty Faster Tees.

    (I’m so very glad that you got why these things are so horrible. So very glad.)

  40. tisha

    Hey guys, read it online on Yahoo! news: The boycott worked, they’re pulling the T-Shirts off the shelves!

  41. Framingham8

    I’d love to hear your “take” on that whole “soul mate” patriarchal scam–even this psychic (below) says so but she doesn’t NAME the source of the propaganda! —>

    http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/02-28-2005/0003106726&EDATE=

  42. Megan

    I’m a 19 year old girl and I wear the t-shirts that Abercrombie puts out. I don’t think that because of a shirt I am any less of a person. And if a person gets an impression of me from reading the shirt then that’s their problem. I don’t think 13 and 14 yr. olds should be wearing stuff in Abercrombie. I had to wait til I was old enough and could afford the clothes to wear what they have. And now the humor I find in the t-shirts will not be there. If A & F doesn’t make the shirts someone somewhere will.

  43. tisha

    LOVED IT:

    From the COUNTESS: http://trishwilson.typepad.com/blog/2005/11/sexist_tshirts.html

    Ginmar asked people to come up with t-shirts they’d like to see. Here are some suggestions, including a few of my own.

    “Do I Make You Look Stupid?” (From Ginmar)
    Freshman 15, with a list of A+ classes next to them. (From Ginmar)
    “I had a nightmare. I dreamed I was a frat boy.” (From Ginmar)
    “No brains, no opinions, no chance.” (From Ginmar)
    “No Brains. No Manners. No Chance.” (From Ivyfree)
    From Sunfell:
    “I’m sorry- did I make you think?”
    “Hair color does not equal IQ”
    “Smart is sexy.”
    “Use your head, not your ‘nads”
    And from me:
    For natural blondes: “The Collar And Cuffs Match.”
    For pregnant doctoral students: “I’m With Stupid.” with an arrow pointing up.
    “No Job. Living In Your Parent’s Basement. Over 30. No Chance.”
    “My Eyes Are Up There.”, with an arrow pointing up.
    “Brains And Boobs. Best Of Both Worlds.”
    “If You Don’t Eat 3.14159265, I’ll Pass You By.”
    “I Had A Nightmare. I Dreamed I Was A Comb-Over.”

  1. FunctionalAmbivalent

    Mmmmm. That’s Good Writin’

    I’m not sure there’s a blogger anywhere who writes as entertainingly as Twisty Faster at I Blame the Patriarchy. Here’s a sample paragraph:Just when I had given up all hope that teenage girls would ever cast their gaze beyond the

  2. Pandagon

    In retrospect…..

    I wish I hadn’t included the Freshmen 15 T-shirt. It irritated me because I thought the point behind it was that it was just another shirt bragging that the wearer is skinnier-than-thou. Apparently the sex thing jumps out at other…

  3. Pandagon

    In retrospect…..

    I wish I hadn’t included the Freshmen 15 T-shirt. It irritated me because I thought the point behind it was that it was just another shirt bragging that the wearer is skinnier-than-thou. Apparently the sex thing jumps out at other…

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