Beauty over brains is the message that retailer J.C. Penny is retracting after a slew of angry mothers began protesting a questionable online tee marketed to young girls.
The long-sleeve t-shirt intended for 7- to 16-year-olds was printed with the statement, “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”
Adding further to the rage, the online description read, “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.”
Dubbing it a “sexist” message, consumers everywhere demanded that the tee, made ironically by the brand Self Esteem, be removed from the site immediately.
Lauren Todd from Brooklyn, N.Y. started a petition on change.org telling “JCPenny to stop promoting sexist messaging to girls.”
“In a world where women are fighting for respect and equality, J.C. Penny is promoting a message in the vein of Matel’s talking Barbie who bemoaned, ‘math is hard, let’s go shopping,’” the appeal stated.
“Here, girls are being told that their brains are not valuable, only their looks, and that being smart is for boys only. This disgusting message may have been common in the 1950s, but it is 2011, and times have changed for the better. Tell J.C. Penny ‘I won’t shop here until you stop selling merchandise with sexist messaging.’”
Women who signed the petition commented, “Why would I buy something so stupid as this t-shirt for my smart, brilliant grand daughters?” Aunti Kincade wrote. “It is ignorant – and so is the buyer who thought it was cute! Wake up JCP! It’s 2011, not 1911!”
Julia Wilson also noted, “My daughter has a brain, and she doesn’t need a boy to show her how to use it.”
Over 1,627 frustrated consumers signed the petition, which eventually caught the attention of the media as well.
Responding to the negative press surrounding the graphic tee, the company finally issued an apology and removed the controversial tee online.
“We agree that the ‘Too Pretty’ t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad consumer base, not to offend them.”
“We would like to apologize for any concern we may have caused and assure you that we are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that [our customers] have come to expect,” the company said.
“J.C. Penny is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family.”
While many applauded the removal of the tee, others simply could not understand what all the controversy was about.
Stacey Klaman wrote on the J.C. Penny Facebook page, “I think it is a shame that a t-shirt can receive so much press yet there are people living in squaller in the Appalachian Mountains (for decades), 1000’s of victims of hurricane Katrina are STILL homeless, and every day millions of children miss meals because of poverty.”
“It’s time for people to stop being so sensitive about things that, in the big picture, don’t really matter,” she added. “If people put in HALF the time to help others in need that they do to whine about things like this than this country would be a better place for everyone.”
Another women, Michelle Spencer Cook, wrote, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with this t-shirt, it is cute and not sexist in any way...Can we start a petition to have JCPenny’s put the t-shirt back on their website to sell?”
Julie Dacy, a mother of a 9-year-old girl, also commented, “So, kids aren’t allowed to have a sense of humor? If my daughter wanted it, I would get it for her. You know why? Because she is beautiful and brilliant, she has exceptional scores and straight A’s. And a wicked sense of humor. And she knows a joke when she reads one.”
Others also affirmed that America was still a free country and stated that families should have the final vote on whether or not they would buy the tee in question.
Regardless, J.C. Penny continues to stand by their apology and keep the tee offline. But the retailer may still not be in the clear as Jezebel pointed out yet another shirt targeted to girls touting a similar phrase.
The message? “My best subjects: Boys, Shopping, Music, Dancing,” on sale now for $4.99.
And it looks as if this particular tee is not offending as many people, with all sizes excluding X-Large already sold out.