Pretty’s Got Nothing To Do With It

Tomorrow I send my child to her first day of school. Her first day of kindergarten. Her first day of formal education in a public school with years and years and years of learning to follow.

So I’ll ask you kindly to get out of her way, JC Penney. You too, Orbeez and Skechers. Mattel and your Monster High, we’ve already had words.

My daughter will not be sent to school with the message from her parents that she is inadequate. She will not be taught that she is incapable of learning, and mastering, what is taught to her at school. She will not be treated as though she were delicate. Tea cups are delicate, girls are not. She will not be encouraged, at the tender age of five, to be “flirty” or “sugarlicious”. Over my dead body will I give her the message that her beauty is her worth, or that at the age of five, she should be sexually objectifying herself. I take great issue with that notion, and it burns me to the core.

So this crap? Will NOT be coming into my home. Will NOT be poisoning my daughter’s self-image. Will NOT be teaching my son to sell girls short.  Stop selling shitty messages to my kids.

 

Exhibit A: JC Penney ‘self-esteem’ tee Too Pretty to do Homework

JC Penny thinks girls are too pretty to do homework.

Despite the direct contradiction to their charity Pennies From Heaven, this shirt teaches girls to expect very little from themselves, that their looks supercede their intellect, and that ‘being pretty’ will get you by. Pretty’s got nothing to do with school. Oh, and that little notion that the academic work should be left to the boys. In 2011, we are teaching the grand daughters of the Women’s Lib movement to forsake their education and have their looks be their main focus.

You can petition JC Penney and their shitty shirt right HERE. Even if they pull this shirt, they’ve got another dozen just like it.

So don’t buy it, right? It is just one shirt. Right?

Wrong. WRONG.

It is the culture of consumer beauty and self-objectified sex surrounding our girls that drips right off a script page from a Kardashian-esque reality tv show. The message that beauty and sexiness measure a woman’s worth, and that one can never be too young to focus on these things.

Exhibit B: Orbeez Soothing Spa with magic rainbow de-stressing beads, for that stressed-out 11yo in your life. Because, OMG, school is just like soooooo freaking hard! You can watch the commercial HERE.

Orbeez wants you to know that school is hard!

 

Orbeez wants you to know that foot spas help your hurting brain from all that learning!

Who needs hard things, like learning, when you can relax at the spa and work on your pretty. How I went through my entire girlhood in the absense of spa products and services usually reserved for adult women of a certain income and lifestyle, I’ll never know.

Learning hurts! Pretty is fun!

 

Exhibit C: Mattel Monster High Monster Mash backpackbecause prostitute-chic NEVER goes out of style for the under-10 set, and when sending our daughters to school, who doesn’t want them to aim to be a Hollywood Boulevard hooker?

Now your favorite friendly prostitutes can go with you to school! Whee!

 
 
Exhibit D: Skechers Flirty Flutters and Sugarlicious sneakers. I actually love me some Twinkle Toes, I blame my inner Lisa Frank. My daughter is jonesing for a pair, big time. But me thinks that shoes available in ‘pre-school and gradeschool’ sizes don’t need the words “flirty” in there….and ‘Sugarlicious’ sounds like sex lotion or a dancer at Girlz Girlz Girlz. Just sayin.
 

I like the sparkle. Don't like sexual innuendo on my little daughter's feet.

 

Pre-schoolers and Gradschoolers do NOT need to be 'flirty'.

 

Anyhoo….let’s change the way we think about our girls. Let’s do better. They deserve it.

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Update: Make sure to check out our NEW TEE created in response to the JC Penney tee. It is selling like wildfire! Let’s all build girls up, not sell them short.

Pigtail Pals created a new tee, availabe in eight colors sizes 3T - Ladies.

Comments

  1. Hell yeah. Also, my girl loved her gifts yesterday – thank you!

    • You’ve always had my admiration and support, but your ability to capture the outrage and emotions of parents of girls is SO spot on and sublime that this demand for a “sea change” to REDEFINE GIRLY needs blitzed to every media outlet, TV station and radio talk show on the planet.

      If this doesn’t plop you front and center in the media spotlight circuit to shoutout the work being done to combat this drek I will personally contact the media myself and point them in your direction.

      We need every one of our ‘actionist’ media pundit gal pals to get out of their seats on the talk shows, stand up and defer: ‘in place of me yakking about this, let’s put the real deal in this seat, a hands-on, solutions-based, small biz, entrepreneurial mom who is devoting her life to DOING something about it.” Daily. CNN, Today Show, GMA, Fox…can you hear me now?

      SOOOoooooooooo proud of you Melissa. Can’t wait to see the TEE this afternoon!!

    • Awesome!

    • Yeah,
      Finally I found a voice out there. I have a 12-year-old girl. Smart, athletic, beautiful. This past spring I cried to myself because she apologized to me for not being more girly. I explained to her that girly was not being sweet and passive, wearing pink or dresses, make-up or clothing choices. I explained to her that she is just like my best friend growing up who was and still is smart, athletic, beautiful. My daughter is top of her class and guess what math does not hurt her brain and she does not go for spa treatments. Wake up world!! You are cutting down one of our most precious resources – Girls that are slowly evolving into GREAT Women.

  2. “Learning hurts! Pretty is fun!” WOW. Just WOW. I can barely wrap my head around the fact that that is an actual SELLING POINT.

  3. Couldn’t agree with you more! We vote with our dollars, but raising our voices is the only way to make this change.

  4. When I first started to read your commentary, I thought you were a very intelligent woman. Then I got to the word “sh*tty” and realized you are no better than the merchandising staff at JC Penny. There are a million words out there that aren’t offensive that you could have used and a million websites with free dictionaries and synonym finders to help you find the right word. You just showed the world your lack of poise, grace, and intelligence with your poor vocabulary.

    • Momof2-
      Yeah, I can see where, in the face of systematic gender segregation in the children’s marketplace and the sexualization of childhood, my use of the not-so-offensive word “shitty” is what we should be in an uproar about.

      Due to my perceived lack of intelligence, I went to one of them there websites to educate myself, and what do you know, SHITTY fits the bill:
      Shitty is Of very poor quality; highly inferior. Contemptible; despicable.
      Unfortunate; unpleasant. Being in a state of discomfort or unhappiness; miserable. Incompetent; inept.

      Take your patronization somewhere else, please. We have work to do here.

      • I LOVE this response. Way to miss the point, momof2, for heaven’s sake.

        p.s. I agree. That sweatshirt is shitty, and it sends a shitty message to girls. Therefore, JC Penny and whomever manufactures said shirt are also shitty.

      • STANDING OVATION Melissa! For this reply and for this whole post.

        “You know the one thing we did right, was the day we started to fight. Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.”

      • I thought that was exceptional use of the word shitty.

        • I too, couldn’t think of a more apt word to use! Fantastic, passion-filled post Melissa. And I couldn’t agree with you more, about this, about everything you write about. You are FANTASTIC!

      • Eh, I could have done without that particular word. I get that your use of profanity clearly displayed your depth of feeling, and that a similar word (like “despicable” from your definition above) wouldn’t have quite so succinctly expressed your disgust. But if I had a daughter who was old enough to have an open dialogue with about this, I would hesitate to share this post with her because of that one word. I personally think it’s as important to shelter my kids from profane language as it is to keep them from overly sexualized messages. (That said, it didn’t cause me discredit your entire atricle, as it apparently did for the original commenter.)

        • Jill,

          While I agree that shitty IS profane, so is despicable. Until people decided to redefine it to apply to language that was either (a) working class, (b) used in the countryside instead of cities (i.e. ‘unCIVILised’) or (c) Anglo-Saxon as opposed to Norman origin, it had its proper meaning, which is as an opposite to sacred.

          In order to condemn someone’s vocabulary, you’ve really got to figure out if they have a poor one or not. Many of the most intelligent people I know, with the widest vocabs, include in those vocabularies many words that are ‘common’ or ‘vulgar’ – one meaning poor, or working class, the other ‘of the ordinary people’

          ‘Bad’ language was mostly defined by the aristocracy and the wealthy, generally those who considered themselves refined and civilized (which means city-dwelling). It is a form of snobbery, not a sign of education. Most people who object to ‘bad’ language can give no logical reason why one word is worse than another – e.g. why is shit worse than crap, and crap worse than poo, and poo worse than excrement? In my experience, they generally have no understanding of where the words came from, do not have a wide vocabulary, often do not like to think for themselves and have no idea of the history of how certain words became ‘obscene’ or dirty.

          This is a generalisation, of course. I am sure there are some who realise that their dislike of certain words grew out of racism and snobbery, and are fine with that. If you are someone who has bothered to find out what you’re talking about before condemning others, then good luck with your kakalogology in future.

          As a final aside, since you used the word profanity, the Greek word for ‘shit’ appears in the Bible. Skubalon appears in Philippians 3:8, and means not only shit but dogshit specifically – and was used by the Greeks of the day in much the way shit is used today. So it would appear that shit is one of the few ‘bad’ words that isn’t profane, as it appears in sacred writings.

        • Yeeesh, I wasn’t trying to incur any linguistic wrath. I didn’t intend to “condemn,” or call anyone “bad” or “vulgar.” I was simply saying that the use of the word potentially limited the spread of an awesome message of empowerment.
          (In response to Andy, though, of course I am not the one who decides what is “bad” language. I refer you to movies, music, and video games which all have ratings systems based, in part, on language. Regardless of history and origin, our society has deemed certain words unacceptable and there are sometimes consequences for their use. I apologize for my casual use of the word profane, though, since that seems to have offended you.)

        • FWIW, I agree with both you (Jill) and Andy :)

          From a purely practical standpoint, I prefer to share links with friends that don’t contain four-letter words which might short-circuit their ability to receive the message. But from an ethical standpoint, I think four-letter words can be used legitimately, and I would hope that my friends take the responsibility to evaluate the substance of a message without allowing their preferences to short-circuit their ability. (Communication IS tricky… but worth the effort.)

          Melissa, yours is a message I’m happy to share. I hope many will receive it.

          Andy, if your reply was a post all on its own somewhere, I would sooooo share it!

      • Well said. As the late George Carlin once pointed out, it’s just a word we don’t use all the time. But sometimes, hell, yeah!

      • This crap sticks in my craw. I think people have no idea that it’s class bias to use that pathetic trope. it’s probably also religious bigotry.

        word to you mother.

      • milly johnsen says:

        Even so, language matters a lot, and that T-shirt and the other products are inappropriate and bad. I am glad you brought attention to them. I still think it is too bad that you would use words that might turn some people off of your blog. Do you talk like that generally in your family? And you find it “patronizing” that some people like it? (By the way, English is not my native language)

    • Well, there is a million words out there to build up a girls confidence and the message chosen by the creators of such “shitty” shirt certainly show their lack of intelligence and poor judgment. Please, look at big picture momof2.
      Melissa, I love that you keep it real when it comes to saying things the way you see them. Keep up the good work!

    • What an awesome response!

    • I’m an English teacher and encourage descriptive adjectives. I agree with the above comments. Shitty fits the bill!

      • Natalie Bojesen says:

        Go linguistics Andy, go! I will agree with almost everything said here. WE decide what words are “bad”. As a society we decided shitty is “bad” but it really isn’t inherently anything. I have good and I’m not afraid to use it but sometimes “shitty” is just perfect. Great post, by the way.

    • I have to agree. Unclassy for sure. Not something I’d ever want to her out of the mouth of my daughter.

  5. I honestly never imagined myself as a mom of boys. I seriously dreamt of pink, frills and bows each time I found out I was pregnant. But its posts like these that make me a little less jealous of moms with girls.
    I do still think moms of boys have a role in this whole thing though. I have been working hard since day one to teach my boys that girls are so much more than there appearance. In our house, it might be a little easier to teach gender equality since my husband is a stay at home dad. But I think it is crucial that while moms of girls work hard to instill a value in their daughter that moms of boys are teaching their sons to see that same value!!

    • Elizabeth says:

      Lisa, I’m right there with you. I was horrified the other night to hear my 6-year-old son state that he would not clear his dishes because that was “girls’ work” — Ay! I took pains to let him know that if he refuses to do dishes, then I refuse to give him dinner. And when he pointed out that his daddy gets dinner even though Daddy doesn’t do dishes (largely because his daddy goes out to the barn to clean stalls and feed our horses and pigs immediately after supper), I suggested to him that Daddy doesn’t do dishes because he’s busy taking care of Mommy’s animals. “Great,” he said, “I’ll go help Dad then.” Not so fast, buster. “Until you prove to me that you’re capable of doing a job like dishes, you cannot be allowed to do an easier job like feeding horses,” I explained. He was puzzled: how was feeding horses easier? “If you help me do dishes, you’ll find out.” Thus began my son’s career as a domestic godling.

    • @ Elizabeth- Thank goodness my mother was not the only one. My mother taught me to cook, clean, do dishes, iron and do laundry. I am to the point now, that as a married father of 2, I do most of that same work in my own home. Why? I like the way I do it better, and my wife does not seem to mind. :)

      Keep it up with the raising of domestic godlings.

    • THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. As a girl who was always devalued for her appearance and is now overvalued for it: (and rejected as well as pursued falsely, and really as one of “those women”, can we all stop with the anti-beauty ‘feminism’??) Thank you.

      Can we arrange something when yours come of age?

      No?

      Ok.

      #stillsingleneverdatingagain

  6. OH Hooray!!! Hooray!!! Hooray!!!! for you – this sort of thing just angers me on so many levels…
    Thanks for calling out the fools who help perpetuate those ridiculous notions !

  7. Excellent post, as always. And I couldn’t agree more with Lisa that parents need to teach their boys to disregard, if not protest directly against this kind of messaging.

    • Moms of boys (including me) need to actively teach their sons to call out marketing and gender restriction. Some day, those restrictions will be affecting their spouses, or their daughters. This is not just a women’s issue. It is a parenting issue!

  8. Sue Carney says:

    Way to go. It needs to stop here, now, because let me tell you, it only gets worse. When they are teens, and some of them truly believe these messages, it’s so difficult to change their thinking and resulting behavior.

  9. Yep. Pretty won’t get you by. How can anyone send girls the message that their true value is in manipulation and appearance versus rocking the SHIT out of that homework, and still sleep at night?

  10. Bravo! Absolutely, 100% correct.

  11. I cannot believe that of everything someone could’ve taken away from this, someone was upset that you used the word shitty! Wow. WAY off point on that one!

    I totally agree with you. I have a son and I have to say, I’m never going to allow him to think that girls are mild, delicate little creatures who need to look pretty all the time! Ridiculous!

  12. LOVE this post! As women I think we not only need to stop buying into the crap they’re trying to sell our daughters but we also need to stop listening to the marketing companies are trying to shove down our throats too. We can model strength and intelligence to our daughters simply by how we live. So thank you for this post.

  13. Love it! I have a boy and 2 girls. Among my top priorities, are teaching and encouraging my children to reach their full potential. My children earn the many rewards that hard work results in. Including feelings of accomplishment, as well as external and tangible rewards such as; a special meal or treat, a toy, and yes even spa treatments. We are by no means wealthy, but I happen to be in the industry, and feel that it is important for my children to learn to pamper themselves and relax sometimes. I want them to know that they should feel good about taking care of themselves, and not have to struggle with the guilt of behaving as though they (and everyone else) are deserving. While, if I can help it, they will not send or receive messages of sexual objectification, they certainly will enjoy any and all the rewards the earn.

  14. Hillary S says:

    Wow! When I was in grade school and having trouble with homework, my mom would make me a cup of herbal tea. Maybe mom’s should combine the two so their daughter can enjoy an herbal foot soak, with their mothers. And just to throw a little gasoline on the Sketchers fire, my mom bought my 2.5 year old a pair of their Elasti-Girl sneakers. The girl pictured on the box does not look like a 2.5 year old, and the elastic on one of the sneakers broke in under two weeks. Two thumbs up for Sketchers (sarcasm).

  15. Wow. WHO is behind this stuff? Are they parents?
    The first shirt reminds me an old Barbie doll from YEARS ago (Teen Talk Barbie) she said several phrases like:
    “I love shopping!”
    ” Shoes are cool”
    and my personal favorite:

    “Math is HARD!”

    It’s sad that in our society, most teen girls would rather be thought of as pretty than smart…..that’s just…well….Shitty.
    :o)

  16. Yes yes yes yes and YES.

  17. I have three daughters, one was stripped of her passion for navy blue sneakers and superheroes when a boy in her pre-k class told her you can’t be a girl and like those things. She knew better, but he fought hard. The shoes were given away, but she kept her Batman cape.

    I will use my last breath to keep her believing she has every right to wear that cape. Seething with rage, but focusing more on people like you who refuse to sit back, demure and sugarlicious like, and defer to the sugar and spice load.

    • Amanda,
      My daughter is about to turn 3 and is pretty much successfully potty trained…”wearing Diego undies” along with all the other choice underwear designs SHE chose from the store. If you recall, boy/girl themed shows also transfer to boy/girl apparel right down to their underwear! Be strong and let her wear that cape and my daughter will sport Diego “boy styling” underwear too! We call her a rough-n-tough adventurer who’s working and playing hard all the time because that IS who she is…rough-n-tough and my little girl! Goodlluck!

  18. Last night I was watching TV with David and a special K commercial came on. The first part showed jeans with awesome names (for adult women) with the message that it shouldn’t be about the size. Then they turned around and ruined it by mentioning eating their products to drop a size. Hopefully if we can teach our daughters at a young age that they are worth more than being pretty then when they are adults they will recognize these messages for what they are.

  19. Great post and I couldn’t agree more with you. For what it’s worth, it looks like JCP has pulled the item from their site. I doubt they have pulled it from the shelves. I swear if I see a girl wearing this, I’m going to ask her parents why they chose to label their child as the village idiot. A pretty idiot, but an idiot nonetheless. The world has enough pretty idiots. Why do we need to encourage the creation of more?

  20. I can’t quite tell what I’m more aghast about, this blog or what it’s fighting.

    Exhibit A : What kind of lunatic likes doing homework? (Oh right, me. My bad.) My son tried a similar trip on me once. He told me he was too popular to worry about being successful in school. I told him he wouldn’t be popular for long if he had to live in his room all day. With only a dim notion of how his later life might be impacted by his schoolwork, and no realistic way of having him understand short of living through it, his dream of not having to do homework is alive and well, as with almost any child.

    The shirt does indeed espouse a horrible attitude. When I find a kid who actually believes it, I’ll worry. Not until.

    Exhibit B : Younger kids like doing what their parents do, and spas are being marketed to the masses. Why shouldn’t kids want in on the action? Your comment concerning “spa products and services usually reserved for adult women” makes it sound like the problem revolves around kids usurping the privileges of adults. Hey, if us MEN can have pedicures, why can’t little girls?

    I see no problem here at all, except perhaps for the implication that nobody could possibly make it through their day without this product. Dressing up and doing makeup IS fun. The drudgery of school isn’t. On a kids scale, why shouldn’t a school day be translated as a hard day? Our brains have just one scale, and we resize our experiences to fit.

    Exhibit C : It’s Monster High, not Tramp High. Unless you happen to know that these monsters also happen to dress pretty, uhh, vampy. Which isn’t obvious from the backpack itself. My daughter, incidentally, thought the idea of monster girls was neat, until she found out that they don’t use any special powers for anything. Then it was “no fun”.

    Possibly, your problem revolves around how the monsters dress, and I have a problem with THAT. The short version of that argument goes like this: Picture your grandmother being arrested and dragged off a beach. Picture anonymous people in the crowd catcalling and flinging words like “whore” at your grandmother as she is taken away. Picture her shame and misery as she realizes that maybe wearing that new knee-and-elbow length one piece wool knit bathing suit maybe wasn’t such a good idea after all. Good thing times have changed since then, right? No right-thinking modern person would ever call out woman for what she wears, would they?

    Exhibit D : Sugarlicious is an awesome word. Cookies are sugarlicious. My coffee, as my children have pointed out, is VERY sugarlicious. When my son mixes his own iced tea, it’s unreally sugarlicious. I’m not at all sure how a shoe can be sugarlicious, but I have no doubt that my daughter, being made of sugar and spice (“I am not daddy, I’m made of PEOPLE”) is more than sugarlicious enough with or without them.

    Now that the marketing nitwits have their claws on “flirty”, by the time my daughter is old enough to care what flirting is the word will have been reduced to a generic shadow of it’s former self in much the same way that has happened to “cool”, “awesome”, “dork”, “wuss” and many others. When your daughter has children, no doubt she will post to her hololog that when she was a little girl back on earth, her family used wholesome words like “flirty” instead of whatever disgraceful language children will use at that time.

    And since I don’t actually see the words on the shoes themselves, I’m not sure what the problem is at all.

    Plenty of girls grew up to be streetwalkers, golddiggers, and suicides before the advent of sketchers. You have so much helpful and insightful stuff here. How do you keep getting sidetracked into this fluff?

    • “No right-thinking modern person would ever call out woman for what she wears, would they?”

      um, monster high dolls aren’t people. they’re toys. for children.

      • I think perhaps my point concerning the Monster dolls/show/etc isn’t entirely clear. There are a lot of words being flung about here to describe these fictitious girls, and by extension we comment upon those real-life girls who enjoy the shows, or dolls, or whatever. The thing is, society has branded other girls and women with some of these words before, but for reasons that now seem ludicrous to us.

        It’s an observation that for all of our “sexual revolutions” and “female empowerment”, many of our attitudes as a group have not changed in more than a hundred years. Out of every group, there always seems to be a timeless need to point at someone and yell “slut!”, whatever the fashion.

        • Chris -
          I never used the word ‘slut’ or ‘whore’. I did imply that the Monster High dolls, who are not people, are dressed in culturally coded garments like fishnets, push-up bustiers, fur-trimmed coats, knee high stilletto boots, mini skirts, crop tops, etc…complete with plumped up lips and sexy bedroom eyes. The entire toy line is dressed in fashion synonymous with the sex trade industry and porn. For ages 6+ . I understood your point. It does not apply here.

        • No, indeed, you did not use those words. I notice, with great approval, that you generally don’t. In previous articles and comments, you’ve mentioned why you don’t say those things, and I wish everyone would understand both you and I when we try to explain why it might be damaging.

          Unfortunately, the very next commenter on the list offers this: “Monster High dolls are dressed like sluts.”. Search through your comments. I think you’ll find that there IS one in almost every crowd.

    • You dont think by putting this product out there, girls will start to believe it? Why give credibility to the notion that girls need to worry about being pretty as opposed to learning. That is what shirts like this do, it validates backwards ideas and again places looks over education.
      Monster High dolls are dressed like sluts. I dont know why that is so hard to understand. Have you seen them? Your analogy to swimsuit norms changing in past generations is off base. These are dolls/games/merchandise aimed at young girls, why the need for micro minis on them? If it was truly vampy and fun like you said, they would be marketed to adults who would understand vampy.

      • Children… and everyone else, really… learn about their environment and themselves by *trying something* and *observing the reaction*. T-shirts themselves are a very weak force in educating a child, but the way in which parents, peers, educators, and random people on the street react is very strong. I’d hoped to demonstrate one possible, and hopefully constructive, reaction by my real-life example.

    • Anne Marie says:

      I’m speechless. Your poor daughter.

    • Chris,
      I think you are looking at each example in a vacuum. The entire problem many of us mothers of daughters have is the constant media barrage telling our daughters that their value lies merely in being a visual/sexual object for others. It isn’t fluff when a piece of clothing doesn’t even imply but directly states… you don’t need to become more or do more because you are pretty and that is enough. It also demeans girls who aren’t considered pretty: I am not even pretty; I have no worth at all.

      I don’t want my son or daughter exposed to things that belittle them for their respective genders, or box them in because of their genders. If my daughter wants to wear a tutu and makeup with a tool belt… good for her. If my son wants to take dance lessons, I am all for it. Good for them.

      I want them to decide for themselves who and what they are. I want them to have inherent value based on their choices, talents, and achievements, and not what the media, in all its resplendent forms, tell them what “makes” them valuable, whether it is athleticism, intelligence, attractiveness, etc.

      I also want sexuality to be a healthy, valuable aspect of their lives, which means at an appropriate age. All this “fluff” directly attacks girls’ self image, and boys’ perception of girls. If marketing didn’t work, then we would not have the billion dollar industries in beauty, advertising, health clubs, etc….

      It is the entire puzzle picture, not the individual parts. One little shirt may not be a big deal, but one puzzle piece in an entire industry sending these messages has impact; an impact I don’t really like.

      • If it seems like I’m only dealing with the particular examples presented here, that’s because I am. I’m a commenter, not an author, so it’s a little inappropriate for me to be dragging new examples into to picture. Additionally, I tend to believe that we could chatter about the big picture until the cows come home, but it’s the nitty-gritty of particular details that gets the job done.

        And the word fluff was intended to describe the article rather than the fare offered to the girls. I’ve read quite a few back-articles at this point, and there are some darn good ones. This, I felt, wasn’t.

    • Chris, I’ll give you this much: You write well and if I had never been on the receiving end of how far and dangerous sexualization of children is, I’d almost be tempted to agree with you. However, I do see danger–no matter how slight–in marketing the idea that young children (girls in this case) should be entertaining the idea that flirty/pampered/sugarlicious is what they should aspire to be. I’m pretty sure your comment was written to offend and annoy so I won’t bother to respond to your digs but know this: whether you see it or not, whether you admit it or not, sexualization of our children DOES in fact have a negative effect, no matter how fluffy it’s packaged.

      • Hey thanks. I appreciate the compliment.

        I’m here, and I’ve put in some time quietly reading older articles, because I also have concerns about the negative effects of popular perception, stereotypes, and mass-marketing on my children. If it seems like I’m trolling, it may be because I question well-meaning crusaders as much as evil tyrants; self-appointed guardians of morality as much as it’s self-appointed destroyers; and those people who say they are right as much as those other people who also insist that they are right.

        I enjoy what I’m reading and have bothered to stop and comment because I find Melissa’s overarching point to be very agreeable to me: that feminism, and more broadly gender identity, is about choice.

  21. Gabrielle says:

    Exhibit A – it’s not about homework not being fun. We all know it isn’t. The problem is that the shirt’s message equates attractiveness with stupidity in girls and implies that boys are smarter. Sorry, but no one is going to tell my daughter she should be stupid or that any other child is smarter than her based solely on gender.

    Exhibit B – it’s not about spa products being reserved as a privilege for adult women. It’s about portraying girls as too stupid to do their homework (again). It’s promoting physical attractiveness over intelligence and education (again). As Melissa says, “The message that beauty and sexiness measure a woman’s worth, and that one can never be too young to focus on these things.” Sorry, but my daughter’s worth will not be measured by something so shallow.

    Exhibit C – I’m with your daughter in that I also think the idea of monster girls is “neat”. However, these dolls promote dressing in a sexual manner. Equating a dislike of that to shaming a woman for challenging dress codes by exposing her ankles is ridiculous. Reclaiming pride in one’s body is not the same as encouraging girls to dress as sexy as possible. The over-made up eyes and pouty lips have nothing to do with good self-esteem and girl power. If it’s supposed to be about the fact that these are girl monsters, then the manufacturers should focus on that, not push short skirts and bare midriffs.

    Exhibit D – there is no reason why shoes for girls need to be labeled as flirty or a term which definitely reminds me of a stripper, not my daughter. Perhaps you need to check a dictionary to remind yourself that coffee and ice tea are “sugary”, not sugarlicious. Why are these shoes marketed in such a demeaning and inappropriate manner? Why not use less loaded terms, such as “sparkly” or “glowing”? My kindergartener is NOT flirty nor do I want anyone to think of her in that way.
    These aren’t sidetracks – these are the speed bumps we encounter on the road to changing the way the world thinks about, communicates with, and markets to, our daughters.

  22. Dear Chris M,

    Re: Exhibit A – Homework.

    I am an odd parent in today’s world. I think homework is counter-productive. Worthless, actually. I’m sending my children to private school in part so that I have a say in whether or not they have to do homework. According to all the research I have digested, the only homework that is appropriate for young children is reading and being read aloud to. And I realize that most children join me in a hatred of homework. But homework, per se, is absolutely not the point of this T-shirt that many of us are angry about. The point that we’re upset about is that the female usurps her ability and control over academic work to the male because her physical appearance is more important to her than what her brain can accomplish. Even worse, the examples of homework on the shirt imply that math is too difficult for her to solve or even to bother with (“4 + 2 = ?”… and this is for 2nd grade and up).

    Re: Exhibit B – Spa Days/The Drudgery of Hard Work.

    Young girls are not adult women. They don’t have the same rights nor the same responsibilities. They are not equal. They should not use the same products and services. I don’t know what else I can say about this.

    As far as school = hard work, I agree. Adult work at an adult job is hard work. And school is hard work. Both adults and children should be able to relax at the end of a long day. I relax by drinking wine, among other things. My children relax by watching Pink Panther cartoons, among other things. Our work is not the same, our ages are not the same. Our needs are not the same. And we don’t relax in the same ways.

    Re: Exhibit C – Monster High.

    The problem IS how the “monsters” dress. They are dressed and have looks-on-their-faces that are not “monstery” (ie. Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, Big Foot, etc.). They look like seductive, sexy females with come-hither glances. Their eyes are huge, their lips are pouty and lip-sticked. I don’t even understand how the word “monster” can be applied, unless this is part of the whole “females are inherently sinful” thing that the evangelical Christians have going on.

    I’m not a prude. I get what you are saying about how times change, and what is considered appropriate for one generation is not considered appropriate for another. But we CAN draw lines between childhood and adulthood.

    Re: Exhibit D – Sugarlicious.

    I am a professional poet. I love words. The word “sugarlicious” is splendiferous and supercalifragilisticexpealidocious. I know that words matter. Words like whore, harlot, slut, cunt, bitch… those words have emotion and meaning packed into them. So when sugarlicious is applied to cookies and iced tea, that is awesome and descriptive and makes me want those treats. If any person ever calls my daughter sugarlicious or implies that she is sugarlicious because of what she is wearing, I’ll do everything in my power to have him arrested as a pedophile. Because food is sugarlicious, and I suppose that even shoes can be, too, if you have a taste for them. But humans are not. The marketing for these shoes is implicit: if your young girl wears these, she is delicious and flirty. I think of my four year old girl being described as flirty and it makes me want to vomit. Frankly, I’m surprised that you have a daughter, given your comments.

    It is not OK that plenty of girls grew up to be streetwalkers, gold-diggers, and suicides before the advent of sketchers. Don’t you want to help that remain a statistic of the past?

    • *applause*

    • Well said. I wish we had a way of lining up both your comment and mine point by point.

      Regarding the timeliness of statistics, I cannot help that remain a statistic of the past because it is also very much a statistic of the present. While the growth of mass-media and enlarged population centres have changed the dynamics involved in ways that are difficult to understand, the problem of a child’s poor self-image and despair is a timeless one that most every parent has struggled with.

    • Natalie Bojesen says:

      The best response….I’m applauding too!!!

  23. You’ve started an important discussion, not just about these t-shirts, but how the designers and retailers basically force our girls to dress provacatively. Case in point: I have a 16-year-old and we have been to every retailer with teen clothes and each store may have one, maybe two pairs of shorts that are longer than 1 inch. It was virtually impossible to even find anything other than “booty” shorts this summer. I tried steering my daughter to the few longer shorts, but with so few choices, that was nearly impossible to pull off. Don’t even get me started on the tops that are all cut to show cleavage. Even if she wanted to dress more conservatively, it’s hard to find. The clothing manufacturers and retails set the trends and make it extremely hard for parents to steer their kids any other way.

    • I am having the same problem with clothes for my daughter. Luckily, she likes tshirts and boy shorts fit great!!! I mean real boy shorts – Levis!

      • Hmmmm…nobody else commented on this problem Deanna. Maybe they missed it, or are we the only ones???

        • I agree! I is so bad at some stores that I couldn’t find anything appropriate at Christmas time for 4 and 10 year olds! Everything looks like mini-version of adult clothing, and provocative, slightly trashy clothing at that! I’m glad that I am able to sew, as I can make age-appropriate outfits myself!

  24. I wish people could see that it isn’t about one shirt. (This shirt sucks and I hate it.) But what this is really about is calling out these examples where and when we see them so that retailers, designers, etc. will realize we don’t want this junk. Yes, we have to battle over this shirt but no, it’s not all about this shirt. (I hope that makes sense!)
    If we ignored every shirt like this because it wasn’t important enough, there would be 10 others popping up online, instead of one being taken down.
    Also, how can you not use language like “shitty” when something makes you angry?

  25. Can you believe that a coworker of mine says that in her daughter’s kindergarten class there is a little girl who comes in with her face in FULL MAKEUP!! She’s 5!!!! There’s definitely something NOT right about how the advertising for young girls is done.

  26. You made a great catch with posting about the JC Penney shirt today. Thank you for that. I just wanted to draw attention to the fact that the shirt was designed by an LA based company called “Self Esteem, USA.” It’s sickeningly ironic, that name.

    The company appears to only have five employees and I think it, too, should be held accountable for creating such trash. In case you are interested, you can find out how to contact “Self Esteem USA” to complain here:

    http://mamaleche.wordpress.com/2011/08/31/interesting-follow-up-to-the-jc-penney-im-too-pretty-shirt-scandal/

  27. Melissa, as always, you’ve called it like you see it. I love your honesty and the true and fair anger that you show in response to the way that girls are being treated as and encouraged to be objects of other people’s desire instead of agents in their own lives. This is not about one t-shirt, but about the pervasive messages that girls and boys are getting that girls are primarily important because of how they look and who they attract. Love this post and love the new, positive t-shirt! I am sharing this post and the new t-shirt on my blog post as my positive pick this week.

  28. DensityDuck says:

    Congratulations, you’ve guaranteed that kids will *love* this shirt.

    Because the one constant about kids is that the thing they like most is “whatever drives the grownups crazy”.

  29. Great post, glad to see they pulled the shirt. The sad part is, I was browsing through the JCPenny website to see what other shirts they had, and I saw a link to this (supposedly new) shirt:

    http://www.jcpenney.com/jcp/X6.aspx?GrpTyp=SIZ&ItemID=1c9c1c9&submit%20search.y=0&Ntt=girls+tshirt&SearchString=girls+tshirt&Ne=4+840+877+878+5+961+6+968+29+3+598+11+15+12+506+10+23+585+596+963+579+1031+8+1022+1014+586+1007+879+1027+18+904+903+969+833+949&hdnOnGo=true&NOffset=0&pagesize=1&submit%20search.x=0&Nao=0&N=4294959029&SO=0&PSO=0&CmCatId=searchresults

    So now you can be a nerdy chick, but only if you dress provocatively, wear glasses, and look like the kind of ‘nerdy’ girl guys would totally ogle? All I can say to that is, just wow. (Also, as a self professed nerdy chick who tests software for a living, only wears glasses sometimes, and definitely does not dress that way, this just royally pisses me off.)

    • Hi Kimberly -
      You are angry and rightly so! On Tuesday night I went through all 22pages of graphic tees offered by JC Penney. I stated then that there were a dozen or so offensive ones. That’s why this whole viral uproar isn’t about ONE t-shirt, it is about ALL of them, carrying the message to girls their beauty is their worth. Or that they will only be worthy once they objectify themselves.

      The homework tee was one of a dozen, which is why I created two better tees, to fight back and put better options out there for girls and parents.

  30. Melissa-
    I am an instructor of Family Studies and Human Development at a University in the south west. One of my students pointed me to your website after our discussion of gender bias and stereotypes in dating relationships. I am also a father of a 2.5 year-old daughter and a 16 week-old son. First let me say…..You just made my day. Second, if it is alright with you, I would like to post a link to your site for my students. The issues you have raised in this dialogue, and the subsequent comments and reply’s truly illustrate the issue of social learning and the development of gender schema in our youth.

    You have a new fan, keep it up!

  31. Great blog post. I love thinking! It makes me feel really good to lean forward in anticipation of hearing more, more, more from a teacher or a great documentary. My energy level goes through the roof as I connect math to science to history to art… I can almost feel my synapses firing off and making a web throughout my brain.

    Thanks for standing up for your daughter’s right to live from the inside out, not the other way around. Too many problems are created by focusing on the outside, which is not always possible to change, instead of focusing on the INSIDE, the brain, which can ALWAYS change.

  32. Yep. Our children, girls AND boys, are being sold a load of crap. So relieved to know we have a whole lotta parents who aren’t buying the crap, literally and figuratively, and that we have you, Melissa, to bring attention to it.

  33. I am new to your website. Have a full on pre-teen. Thank you for your outrage. It reminded me to be mindful of the messages that I send to my daughter, never mind the damn media! (well not really never mind but you get the point…I hope!)

  34. Not that this will change your mind in the slightest, but I don’t mind the word “flirt” applied to girls. Have you ever even looked at the definition? The only reason the #1 definition is #1 is because that is the way many people use it. There are many other uses of the word flirt.

    –verb (used without object)
    1. to court triflingly or act amorously without serious intentions; play at love; coquet.
    2. to trifle or toy, as with an idea: She flirted with the notion of buying a sports car.
    3. to move with a jerk or jerks; dart about: butterflies flirting from flower to flower.
    –verb (used with object)
    4. to give a sudden or brisk motion to; wave smartly, as a fan.
    5. to throw or propel with a toss or jerk; fling suddenly.
    –noun
    6.
    Also, flirt·er. a person who is given to flirting.
    7.
    a quick throw or toss; sudden jerk or darting motion.

  35. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!! Just found your blog and love it!!! As the mom of a 2 year old little girl with two older brothers – you rock :)

  36. How about a t-shirt that reads “I’m too smart to be defined by an idiotic slogan on a t-shirt”?

  37. “Stop selling shitty messages to my kids” x2 on that thought.

    This whole thing reminds me of the classic talking Barbie “Math class is tough” debacle. It’s sad to think that 20 years later, we’re still having to put up with the same nonsense and fight the same battles.

  38. I am watching my husband’s neices enter their teenaged years and as they are both strong, smart, and sensitive girls- one of them classically skinny, one of them slightly softer, and both beautiful to the core- I am cringing for them. Pretty is still held so highly above Smart for women and girls, and not just pretty but airbruhsed-pretty. Provocative dressing seems to be mainstreaming and over the past two I have seen a greater emergence of nudity and blatant sexuality on television. Where does it stop? When does it stop? Modern technology has made it all accessible from a handheld computer. My husband tells me I sound like a 90-year-old prude, and I tell him that I do NOT have to like it and I do NOT have to be okay with it.
    Do those Pigtails T-shirts come in adult sizes?

  39. Molly;s Mom says:

    My daughter is only 2, and there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell I would ever purchase her a shirt with a slogan like this on it. Quite frankly, I avoided all of cutesy, tongue-in-cheek baby and toddler crap out there as well. I didn’t know her sex before she was born – so I picked what was (to me) a gender-neutral puppy theme for her room. We have two dogs, and I’m really big into the animal rescue scene. After she was born, it was amazing just how many people asked when I was going to re-do it into something pink, frilly,princess-y, and more “girly”. Ummm….WHAT?

    I was shocked that so many people, particularly females, thought my gender-oblivious infant needed to be surrounded by pink, glitter, and frills. I want to raise her to be a smart, capable, self-confident, and compassionate woman, not Cinderella.

    On a side note…those Orbeez are just ridiculous, and I feel sorry for anyone who wastes there money on them. Go to the floral section of any Walmart, and pick up a $2.00 packet of water beads. Fill an under-the-bed plastic storage bin with them, and let your child have at. They are a great sensory play item, and are the most fun when you walk around in them, or squish on the sidewalk. They are not a spa item – they are meant for fun (sometimes messy) sensory play for ALL genders and ages.

  40. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I found your blog from a Facebook post about waking up awesome. We have a 3 year old son and a 1 year old daughter. She loves trains, points out trucks, cuddles her stuffed animals, and rarely wears pink. Her first year of life was spent in a lot of her brother’s hand-me-downs. We didn’t take the “total male” approach with his clothes, but I’m amazed how people assume our younger child is a boy because she is not dressed in pink head to toe. Recently I bought her new shoes, and was disappointed at the lack of neutral, simple shoes. I realized how hard it will be to find clothing that does not try to turn her into a pink princess. This blog is a great motivator, and fires me up (when not writing about frugality I am an estate planning and probate attorney). I look forward to future posts!

  41. It is truly sad to see that in the 21st century the media still continues to downgrade a girl’s presence in today’s society. Commercials, such as Orbeez Soothing Spa, ought and should not advertise the difficulties of school work by taking a break by getting a pedicure. It’s misleading to our daughters that their schoolwork can be pushed aside and having the ability to be pampered as a necessity. We applaud your shirts that promote positive reinforcement to our girls.

  42. Hi

    I was scouting around for Monster high Dolls related info to post on my new site. These dolls are very popular and thought it would be a good idea to index them so people can check them out and learn a little about the background of the dolls and company etc..

    Relating to the above post From MOTHERS and MORE… We as parents feel that theres too much focus on kids and how they apear. Yes we all want out children to look smart and presentable but we where horrified a few weeks back when our 8 year old BOY came in and said he was fat…My god, I dont think i knew what fat meant at that age..What happened to them concentrating on playing army or hide and seek..He`s not fat by the way and to say this sort of comment, it must have been triggered by a comment at school maybe or even like you say through MEDIA…Its worrying that these things are becoming an issue to them even when they are not over weight.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] better? Today’s outrage du’ jour using social media to go viral, as Pigtail Pals leads the way to give JCPenney a much-deserved social media thumping for marketing the absurdly dysfunctional anti-academic [...]

  2. [...] was swift and brutal, with Jezebel (also the source for the above pic), MomJovi, Pigtail Pals, The Village Voice and countless other bloggers and irate social media users weighing [...]

  3. [...] the internet this week, I enjoyed this blog post (warning: contains curse words) by a mom really upset with JC Penney over that shirt they were [...]

  4. [...] Pretty’s Got Nothing To Do With It. [...]

  5. [...] to use that word!) over some of the incredibly sexist marketing targeting little girls. I shared a post by pigtailpals.com because it made me sad and it makes my blood boil every time someone says that sexism isn’t [...]

  6. [...] Melissa’s response (the cheer). Here is just a [...]

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  8. [...] “I’m Too Pretty For Math, So My Brother Has To Do It For Me” and the fabulous rapid-reply from Pigtail Pals, Redefining Girly producing a proud and positive tee in response, [...]

  9. [...] a kind, empowering note to a little girl who got made fun of for wearing “boy” shoes to taking a major retailer to task. That’s why I love it. But Waking Up Full of Awesome might be my favorite post ever. Just [...]

  10. [...] it also starts moving into new green territory. Parents who don’t want to expose their girls to “I’m too pretty for homework” t-shirts, could always turn to Land’s End. Until [...]

  11. [...] the shirt and posted it on the Pigtail Pals Facebook page. She then forwarded it on Twitter and wrote her own excellent blog in response. Immediately after that, the campaign against the t-shirt went viral, with everyone from mommy [...]

  12. [...] mudslide of the ”I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother does it for me” T-Shirt Gate and the objectifying Phoebe Cates/pool tv commercial are now all wild for the JC Penney shop-in [...]

  13. [...] it also starts moving into new green territory. Parents who don’t want to expose their girls to “I’m too pretty for homework” t-shirts, could always turn to Land’s End. Until [...]

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