JC Penney and Short Term Memories

I think what JC Penney did this week over the Ellen Degeneres/1 Million Moms fiasco was commendable. Highly commendable. No business should cower to bigotry and homophobia. The family values I teach my children are acceptance, love, and kindness for all human beings. I believe in equality, to my very core.

JC Penney played the firestorm beautifully, and they needed to, because they needed a PR home run. They got one — as many of the parents and concerned adults this fall who were outraged over the back-to-back 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 taking place this weekend. I won’t be attending.

I fully support Gay rights, the LGBT community, and the right to equality. But I also support our daughters, and I’ll be busy giving a keynote address on the role of women and girls in the media, ironically. I try my best not to shop at places that sell my daughter short, and teach my son not to expect much from girls.

I just went through all 8 pages of tops offered online for girls sizes 7-16. With the exception of a few “nerd” references on t-shirts showing Hello Kitty wearing thick black glasses, the vast majority of the shirts referenced shopping, bff’s, high heels, make-up, Peace, cupcakes, and phrases like “Fame, Fashion, and Friends”.

I just want more for my girl, ya know? Fighting stereotypes about one group of people doesn’t quite cross out selling and profiting from selling stereotypes about another group.

The t-shirt that helped Pigtail Pals go on one of our two wild viral events this fall is still selling like crazy — Pretty’s Got Nothing To Do With It. You can get yours here. Because you won’t find anything like it at JC Penney.

Pigtail Pal's best-selling tee that builds girls up.


The back of our Pretty tee, words were collected from our Facebook community as they described their daughters.



  1. It’s unfortunate that a company can do one thing well and fail so miserably somewhere else. It certainly makes it difficult to decide sometimes what the best thing is to do. I believe that gay rights and women’s rights are intrinsically tied together, as part of the reason people attack gays is because they are crossing gender lines, breaking down gender roles, breaking free of stereotypes of sexuality, and women have often been controlled through gender roles and sexuality. If JC Penny’s doesn’t offer clothing that I would buy my daughter, then I can’t shop there now anymore than I have for the last decade (honestly, I can’t remember ever shopping there). But I applaud their support of Ellen. So, I will send them an email letting them know where they have succeeded, and other emails reminding them where they still have some work to do.

    • G –
      I think that is a great idea. And if people want to montarily support Gay rights, I’m sure there are non-profits that would directly take their dollars, and they would appreciate an email saying the action was inspired by JC Penney’s socially just and bold move.

    • Exactly you two. Took the words out of my mouth. It’s a line we shouldn’t have to walk. Everyone deserves respect.

  2. What about the t-shirts on jcp.com that say, “Smart Girls Rock” and “Be Unique, Be Creative, Be Yourself” or “Just Be Yourself”? Yes, the majority of t-shirts were about fashion, bffs, cupcakes and puppies – but there are in fact, tees with positive messages available at jcp. Do we have a long way to go? – Yes! But let’s not overlook the truth.

    • Peg –
      I didn’t overlook the truth. I said many of the t-shirts carried stereotypes messages. Out of 164 shirts, only a literal handful carried positive messages. So saying “many” shirts carried stereotypes is truthful. And yes, we have a very long way to go. Unless you shop at Pigtail Pals, and then you’ll find 100% of our shirts carry positive messages.

  3. Nicely put Gabrielle

  4. Hey there! Any chance I can get that shirt in an adult size? I’m still growing up! 🙂
    Katie Mc

  5. Hi Melissa,

    I’ve just found you and pigtails pals, and I’m a big fan. I’m excited to find like-minded folks! But I have a request for the t-shirt. I love the back, but the front is hard for me to want to put on my daughters. With so many body image problems among girls and women, the truth is that pretty is also important. I want my daughters (and myself!) to think they’re pretty, and also all of those other things. Obviously pretty isn’t most important, and it’s not that pretty causes other positive things. But I’d love for the front to be something that doesn’t put down being pretty. My daughters are 5 and 3, so the messages come through especially strongly at those ages…

    Thanks for listening

    • Hi Julie –
      I really appreciate your comments. Body image is a huge issue for our girls. Having a pretty face, or thinking you have a pretty face, really has nothing to do with overall body image, though. There’s still the neck down to consider. I think that pretty is in the eye of the beholder…an outsider’s gaze. I’d rather your daughters know and feel their beauty. Especially the feeling part. Anyone can be pretty, it isn’t that hard to do. But beauty — beauty radiates like a light. Beautiful people glow with it. That is my wish for your daughters, and being pretty has nothing to do with being beautiful.

      Just so you know, if the front bothers you, you can order the “I’m Growing Up…” tee with the word spiral, which sounds like it would be perfect for your pair of little gals. 🙂

      • Thanks, Melissa. I hear you. I just think that most people don’t differentiate between pretty and beautiful in the thoughtful way that you do. 🙂

        I’ll check out the commerce website to get the t’s

  6. thanks for the perspective…it is difficult because I do want to support their stance on supporting Ellen in spite of the bigotry. I hope they continue to move toward the positive.

  7. Call me crazy, but I just don’t see what’s so wrong with cupcakes, puppies and peace signs on girl’s shirts….

    • Lisa, you’re not crazy for thinking those are cute images. The problem is when that’s all that’s offered. And I don’t want my daughter to be considered edible/consumable, incapable of defending herself or our country/standing up for what she believes in, or ONLY cute instead of ALSO smart/funny/brave/creative/etc.

  8. Thank you. I knew there was something sticking in my craw about the whole Ellen/JCP. It’s that it’s a lousy store underneath it all. I love what Ellen did, I’m glad they stood behind her, but I’m not shopping here any time soon.

  9. I just came across your site for the first time today and I want to say THANK YOU.

    I’m a single 33 year old woman and in a few short weeks I will be stepping in lead a troop of 4th grade girl scouts for next year (and beyond).

    I immediately ordered myself 2 of your shirts! I can’t wait to show it to the girls and to talk about all things AWESOME with them!


  1. […] from Pigtail Pals does a great job of explaining just what I mean in her latest blog post. We can’t stop excusing stores that continue to churn out these types of clothing, whether […]

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