No Comment: The Sexist T-Shirt J.C. Penney DIDN’T Remove

This week, feminists celebrated a victory when J.C. Penney halted the sale of a girls’ T-shirt that reads “Too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.” The shirt, suggesting girls should be too consumed with their looks to care about being smart, was pulled from the company website after customers declared their outrage via a petition. J.C. Penney issued an apology and a spokesperson commented “We’re looking into it right now, to find out how it happened.” Hmm. Maybe it fell out of an airplane onto

Even with the full-throttle backpedaling, the victory isn’t total. Penney’s is still offering another shirt (left), which lists, on a screaming pink background, the only things girls ages 7-16 are good at–you know, shopping, boys, music and dancing.

Uh, really?

This means war. T-shirt war, that is.

To briefly toot our own horn, Ms. and other feminists have been incredibly successful at stopping the sale of sexist and misogynistic T-shirts. Last year, Ms. readers and Care2 joined students at California State University, Long Beach to protest a misogynistic T-shirt suggesting women should be seen and not heard. As a result, in April, Tilly’s withdrew the shirt. In August, campaigns by numerous British feminist groups prompted the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority to ban ads for a “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” shirt available on

We’ve already seen how sexist messages in the media shape how young girls view themselves, and it’s not good. Marketing to young girls should not include messages that sexualize them or teach them to hide their smarts. That’s why Mattel’s 1992 “math class is tough” Barbie was fought with such vigor by feminists.

Unfortunately, the T-shirt wars rage on. We hope you’ll join us in campaigning against Penney’s “best subjects” tee.


  1. So who is doing graphic tees well for girls? I was psyched when my daughter reached for a “nerdy and cool” tee shirt for her back to school outfit. Also in her collection –“ski like a girl” and “eat more kale” — which challenges so many assumptions about how a 9 yo girl eats. Who should we be sending our $$s too?

  2. Carolyn Nielsen says:

    Keep bringing it, Sars! Love this piece, especially as my daughter is that age. Carolyn

  3. I love you JCP, but shame on you!
    You need to do the right thing in honor of all your future “Ms” shoppers and remove the offending tees one and all!

  4. I definitely agree that these shirts need to be removed, but it should be noted that there are boy shirts that are basically the same. Today one of my 1st grade boys students wore a shirt about “Favorite Subjects” with Mathematics and Science crossed out and Recess and Gym written larger. I realize that maybe people think the girl’s shirt issue is a bigger deal, but when it comes to children, I think all children need to be encouraged in the belief that learning is cool and smartness is something to strive for. Shirts promoting a message otherwise, even if it is just meant to be “cute”, should be removed for both girls AND boys.

  5. It just goes to show how important the voice of the consumer is. People came out en masse to protest JC Penney’s product, and they listened. The fight is still not over obviously, and with Girls for A Change I helped write a petition telling retailers to stop creating and selling clothing with degrading and damaging slogans. They shouldn’t wait to see who complains…they shouldn’t make these products in the first place. Sign the petition and let retailers know that you’re “Not Buying It”!!

  6. Yea, the brother/homework shirt is disgusting and I have been spreading the word. But the shirt in the picture—what if a girl is a music major? If she loves boys, aren’t we no one to be stomping on her sexuality?

  7. I think that this is ridiculous. I would buy either of those shirts for my daughter because it is just a shirt. I don’t remember anything I wore when I was seven and it certainly did not shape the rest of my life. I got my values from my parents, not a tshirt. I did very well in school and I am now very successful. I am sure my daughter will do just as well. She is very smart. However, I should have the right to decide what she can and cannot wear, just like every other parent. If you don’t want your daughter, don’t buy it. However, you also shouldn’t impede on my rights as a parent. It is in fact possible to care about how you look and your mind at the same time. There is no need to sacrifice one for the other.

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