It Is Not About the T-shirt

Walk with me, now, and see the forest through the trees.

The JC Penney T-shirt Gate is actually not about a t-shirt. Kind of like the Holy Roman Empire being neither holy nor Roman. Confusing, I know.

This entire viral uproar is over parents and other concerned individuals being sick and tired of  the pervasive message marketed everywhere to our daughters that being pretty and obsessed with boys and shopping (maybe cupcakes and puppies as Anderson Cooper points out) is what being a girl is all about. It has come to define girlhood, and nearly every product made for them. Walk through any clothing department or toy aisle — what messages do you see for girls? What messages do you see for boys? It is gender apartheid, and our daugthers ended up with the short end of the stick.

I call bullshit. While JC Penney took one shirt down, as I said on Tuesday night, they’ve got another dozen that continue to sell girls short. A JC Penney juniors buyer purchased these shirts, in dozens of styles, from a manufacturer; another employee wrote the offensive and sexist online product descriptions. This doesn’t seem to be a one-time mistake. This seems to be a pattern of selling girls short. I don’t see the funny.

Pigtail Pals has been here since 2009 fighting to put better products and messages in the marketplace for girls. We’ve been blogging and directing an amazing Parent Community to fight for our kids. And we’re not about to change our message. 

We created a tee in direct response to the garbage at JC Penney. It is selling like wildfire. And it ought to, because pretty’s got nothing to do with it.

I’d like to see the media focus on THIS tee, instead of the one at JC Penney. We need to change the way we think about our girls.

Pigtail Pals new tee, available on eight colors 3T - Ladies.


I also want to set the the record straight for clothing label Self Esteem, owned by All Access Apparel, who unfortunately was brought into this by media and bloggers who did not check their facts. The LA clothing company Self Esteem is NOT the manufacturer of the tees in question.

Unfortunately, no one at Self Esteem was ever contacted to confirm that they indeed were the manufacturer of the T-shirt. The company was associated with the shirt because they were grouped on the JCPenney website where the ‘Too Pretty’ shirt was displayed.

“This huge oversight on the part of the media and concerned mothers has caused our company’s name to be defamed not only with one of our largest customers, JCPenney, but with our entire customer base,” said President of Self Esteem Richard Clareman. “We have always and will continue to promote positive messages to young girls.”


  1. I literally was just laughing out loud at my desk while my coworkers gave me funny looks while watching that Anderson Cooper clip. And I *really* needed a laugh today, so thanks!

    Looks like JC Penney is on my current boycott list. (Kohl’s is still there too.) I guess my girl will just have to wear nothing but Pigtail Pals t-shirts!!!

  2. Melissa,

    “I’d like to see the media focus on THIS tee, instead of the one at JC Penney. We need to change the way we think about our girls.”

    I left a comment to that effect on the CNN site, following the Anderson Cooper clip. Way to be a warrior this week!


  3. It’s also not just about girls, though. I don’t particularly want to buy my SON a t-shirt (like this one: promoting, in the name of “humor,” the idea that education is a waste of time, or that it’s okay to be lazy and cheat on one’s responsibilities, or that you are entitled to be helpless (whether you’re pretty or not), any more than I want to buy a shirt like that for my daughter. JC Penney’s “too pretty” shirt was so outrageous particularly because it combined SO MANY negative messages into one.

    I can live with my daughter’s preschool-stage fascination for princesses, given that in her world the princesses usually rescued their siblings or pets from “the hot lava” while wearing their pretty ballgowns and high heels. But I won’t put up with either my daughter OR my son being told that they don’t have to do their best, be responsible and care about their homework and each other. No matter what they’re wearing.

    • Hear, hear!

    • yeah, THAT’S the one that’s killing boys right now. I should get one just to shove in an MRA’s face the next time he implies that girls doing well in school is detrimental to boys.

      How can they not tell that their theory’s an admission to their own sexism on like 10 different levels?? oh, right. They wouldn’t get to make up a fancy name for it if they did.

  4. It is sad that Cooper only mentioned the shirt showing a more humorous quote about girls. You are right about the two tshirts presented here. They show how girls should be perceived. How cool it is if a lot of people knew what JC penny is trying to teach.

  5. Kudos to you! I’m the mother of boy-girl twins (now 23) and when they were growing up I always made sure to stay away from the society-imposed stereotypes. Both played with trucks, dolls, kitchen, school, pretend, dress-up, etc. Everything but guns. As they made their way into boy and girl scouts, I so disliked the way the 2 organizations steered them back into the stereotypes, that I became leader of both in order to control a little bit the messages they were getting. Especially with the girls when they were younger (Daisies and Brownies), it is awful how they focus on the so-called girly things… I think things have changed for the better since then, and I’m glad. I still think it’s up to us as parents to set the example and stand up and raise our voices when we don’t like the message!

  6. As a mom of 2 boys, I get turned off when things like, “girls are getting the short end of the stick.” Can’t we be united, parents of boys and girls, to save the childhood of both? Can’t we fight for good examples for our ALL of our children?

    Stop polarizing, pretty please?

    • Monica –
      Yes, we can be united. But sexualization affects boys and girls differently. Boys are in no way sexualized to the extent that girls are. The health issues in girls that stem from sexualization are reaching epidemic proportions. Numerous studies show this. This blog primarily focuses on girls. Boys are just as valuable. But they are not the focus of this blog.

      I am not polarizing, I am educating. For information that focuses on boys, please see my colleauge

  7. Amber Arnett says:

    LOL at people who believe a shirt will define their child.

    If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. It’s really that simple.
    There’s far better and more important things to worry about. Your little princess’ life won’t be determined by a t-shirt you did or didn’t buy.

    • Amber –
      I do not believe a tshirt will define a child. Hence the title of the post you spent time commenting on, “ITS NOT ABOUT THE TSHIRT”. As the post explained, it is about the toxic culture surrounding our girls the focuses on beauty, consumerism, vanity, shallowness, and sexiness at very early ages.

      And my daughter isn’t a little princess.

  8. I really respect and appreciate what you do. I just wish you used proper grammar on your t-shirt design. Pretty has nothing to do with it.


  1. […] Melissa, at Pigtail Pals has eloquently stated, it’s not about the t-shirt, or the costume or the bikini or the miniskirt or whatever. It’s not about crushing our […]

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