JCPenney has just pulled an offensive t-shirt from its website after social-media backlash. Aimed for girls ages 7 to 16, the shirt reads “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” Uh, seriously?
Marketing copy for the garment stated, “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.” The company didn’t appear to recognize the problem until customer complaints started to come in. Offended consumers and moms drafted an online petition to have the shirt removed from the site.
To their credit, JCPenney did remove the item, and issued a statement: “JCPenney 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….We would like to apologize to our customers.”
What parent would want to buy this for their daughter? We should be teaching our girls to strive in school, not to forgo homework and studying in favor of a reliance on looks. In fact, new research suggests that nurture plays at least as big a role in the math gender gap as nature, as TIME’s Maia Szalavitz writes. This shirt only serves to enforce gender stereotypes that should have been retired long ago.
Retailers have a history of missteps in this area. 1992’s Teen Talk Barbie uttered sentences like “Math class is tough” before Mattel modified the doll. David & Goliath prompted controversy with their “Future Trophy Wife” shirts. And Abercrombie & Fitch has repeatedly had to pull controversial merchandise, such as girls’ t-shirts that read “Who Needs Brains When You Have These.”