Parents Talk: Too 'Pretty' For Homework? Please

J.C. Penney got a mouthful from parents after featuring a shirt on its website that declared "I'm too pretty for homework, so my brother has to do it for me."

Just when I thought girls clothes couldn’t get any worse, J.C. Penney unveiled this ditty in the past week.

A long-sleeved white shirt, sold in sizes 7-16, that declared in bold, multi-colored letters “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”

The irony? It was grouped online with shirts by the brand Self Esteem.

Yes, really. The shirt was on sale for $9.99 (down from the original $16.99) so I’m hoping maybe parents were smart enough not to buy into this demeaning message that associates being intelligent with being a boy and being pretty with being a girl.

Complaints began flooding in this past week, many parents decrying what they believed was an unhealthy message for young girls.

“I have three bright, funny nieces who are 7, 5 and 5 and I never want them to believe the message on this shirt is true,” Jessica Wakeman wrote on TheFrisky.com

There was an online petition against it circulating, too. Currently, it has 1,627 signatures.

J.C. Penney reacted within hours of the first complaints, removing the shirt from its website and releasing the following statement:

“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. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.”

“One of the reasons we’re so outraged is that this is not what we stand for,” J.C. Penney spokeswoman Kate Coultas told The Village Voice blog. “We’ve facilitated over $100 million (in donations) over the past 10 years to support after-school programs in local communities. That’s a key important message for us.”

I find it humorous (and a bit pathetic) how “outraged” J.C. Penney was only after so many had complained and only after the bad publicity.

I mean, whose idea was it to buy the shirt originally? Why didn’t someone in the company say something at that point?

Coultas told the Village Voice they're still trying to figure that out, and don't know if there will be consequences for any person in particular. 

While I certainly think some change should come out of this, I don’t think punishing one person in particular is what’s needed.

There needs to be a complete change of mindset when it comes to clothing retailers and the way they view young girls. These aren’t “mini adult women.”

And they certainly aren’t meant to be treated and looked at as objects who automatically prefer lipstick over the library.

It's time for you to add weigh-in with your comments, Maple Grove.

What do you think of the shirt? Would you let your daughter wear it? What do you think of girls clothing options?

Christine junod September 07, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Wow your logo is alot like the one I've had for 3 years! We hv a lot in common and should connect!
Meghan Gutzwiller September 07, 2011 at 03:32 AM
as a parent of all boys, I also see the flip side of the coin: why are boys always stereotyped as the ones who should be doing all the favors, dirty work, etc. while the girls have fun or relax? What about gender equality?
Allen J. Oh September 07, 2011 at 05:25 AM
I agree; the shirt stereotypes both boys and girls. Speaking as a dad of a girl in a STEM (Science, Technology, and Engineering Magnet) program and as an alum of an engineering school that had about 10% female representation when I was there, the shirt sends absolutely the wrong message. It brings to mind the Barbie doll that stirred controversy several years ago -- you know, the one that said "math is hard!" I do give JCP credit for coming to its senses...it's just too bad it took this outcry for them to do the right thing.
Marv Anderson October 21, 2011 at 03:34 PM
It's too bad that people don't "get" tongue-in-cheek humour. The PC Nazis are really on the ball these days. I think that the shirts are good for a sly smile and a wink. Hardly demeaning or offensive. Let's not get so uptight about every little thing, and be able to share a good chuckle.
Allen J. Oh October 21, 2011 at 04:06 PM
Even if we adults get it, consider who is wearing the shirts and how they might interpret the messages. Granting that adults might understand that the shirt's messages that (1) girls need to rely on boys to do their homework, and (2) looks are more important than brains are really not intended to be taken seriously, would kids have the same understanding, or would they take those messages to heart?


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