Society

T-Shirt From Trendy Brand Wet Seal At Center Of Internet Sexism Debate

| by Jared Keever
Too Pretty T-Shirt.Too Pretty T-Shirt.

A T-shirt on display at a Wet Seal clothing store in Texas has at least one shopper crying foul, and others questioning whether the shirt sends the wrong message to young women.

The Huffington Post reports reader Misty Russo recently sent in a photo of the shirt, saying she didn’t appreciate what the shirt implied. 

The beige, short-sleeved women’s shirt reads: “Too pretty to do homework.”

“My initial reaction was that of pure disgust... and disbelief,” Russo told The Huffington Post. “I immediately thought of a certain young, impressionable 12-year-old girl that I am a role model to, and how I would never allow her or a (future) daughter of mine to wear something like that.”

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Alanna Vagianos, who wrote The Huffington Post article, called the shirt sexist. So to did Emily Kirkpatrick in a piece for Bustle. 

“While the shirt might seem harmless to many, it’s exactly this type of ingrained, seemingly innocuous sexism that women need to be fighting against,” Kirkpatrick wrote.

“When we allow young girls to wear T-shirts such as this one, even if they’re ostensibly lighthearted and joking, we reaffirm the messages of society’s shallow valuation of women,” she added. “We teach young girls that they should only aspire towards vanity because that’s all they’ll ever be rewarded for.”

Kirkpatrick and Vagianos both point out that Wet Seal should likely have known better after J.C. Penney had to pull from its racks a shirt bearing a similar message back in 2011.

That shirt, according to a Jezebel article from the time, read: "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”

The company later released a statement explaining its decision to pull the shirt. 

“J.C. Penney is committed to being America's destination for great style and great value for the whole family. 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 customer base, not to offend them.”

Lisa Wade, an associate professor of sociology at Occidental College, told The Huffington Post last year that those types of subtle messages can have a lasting impression on children. 

“They learn their gender identities are very relevant and they learn that there’s a lot of very complicated rules about how to be a girl or a boy, and they’re at that stage of life where they’re trying to learn the rules,” Wade said. 

“Young girls do learn that what they look like is very, very important and that does have impact in what they value and what kind of decisions they make and who they think they are,” she added. 

So far Wet Seal has not responded to requests for comment from The Huffington Post or Bustle. 

Sources: The Huffington PostBustleJezebel

Photo Credit: Misty Russo via The Huffington Post