Every Fall for the past few years I have gone to Neat Repeatz, one of Lincoln’s largest consignment sales, looking for some cute and affordable clothes for my daughter. This is where I first learned that cute for toddler girls is anything pink or lavender covered in princess decals. I had to shop the boys section if I wanted to find anything with primary colors, trains, cars or dinosaurs.

Last week I learned that cute for little girls isn’t so cute. As I looked through the hundreds of t-shirts, I found the princess theme for this age group is now “Treat Me Like the Princess I Am” and “Her Royal Highness.”

dumb t-shirts

Even less cute are JC Penney’s and Forever 21’s back-to-school t-shirts: “I’m too Pretty for Homework, so My Brother Has to Do it for Me” and “My Best Subjects: Boys, Shopping, Music, Dancing” and “Allergic to Algebra.” They have been pulled from inventory after enormous public criticism, but how they even made it to sale is troubling to me.

dumb t-shirts

It doesn’t stop there. I recently read Lisa Bloom’s Think and discovered some scary statistics.

  • A quarter of young women would rather win “America’s Next Top Model” than the Nobel Peace Prize, according to Oxygen Media.
  • Half would rather get hit by a bus than get fat, according to USA Today.
  • Fifty-one percent say that becoming famous is their number one or number two goal in life, according to the Pew Research Center.
  • Most American women can name at least one Kardashian sister, but the majority can’t name a single branch of the federal government.

Seriously, ladies?

It’s becoming clear to me this is no longer about finding appropriate clothing for my daughter. I have to ask, does a market filled with “Too Pretty for Homework” type t-shirts cause this problem or do the t-shirts exist because of the problem?

I also have to ask how the parents of boys feel about all of this. Are you noticing similar trends? I’ll admit that I’m probably more exposed to the girl side of things because I have a daughter. Share your thoughts!

related links:
– julie-k tutorial: ruffling up some boys t-shirts
-in the news: JCPenney’s Too Pretty for Homework t-shirt
-in the news: Forever 21’s Allergic to Algebra t-shirt
-statistics: published on CBS’s website, along with a link to an excerpt of Think

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14 Responses to which came first: dumb t-shirts or dumb attitudes?

  1. Marr Williams says:

    Hi Julie!!!

    I cannot tell you how offended I get when I see shirts like these. The fact that a large chain like JC Penney would carry crap like this is stunning.I could go on and on but I won’t. I just wanted to say Hi and to thank you for the article.


  2. kelly o! says:

    Another good read is “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” — it sheds quite a bit of light on the marketing ploys used by the major brands…it’s terribly frightening!

    I’ve never liked the “attitude” shirts….it disturbs me that they’re available for *babies* even! All part of the reason I started sewing — I don’t want to dress L like a 20-year old pop star!

  3. Anna says:

    We aren’t much into the dating scene, but my son says he can’t find a mature centered young lady to date even if we were. We are now raising number four with 13 years between him and her, and 18 years between her and her older sister. I am amazed at 5 year olds nowadays.

  4. Monica says:

    I also am disgusted at the “attitude” shirts out there for girls. It seems to be more of an issue for the girls clothes than boys from what I’ve seen. However, (and some may disagree with me and that’s fine) I also don’t like the recent trend in clothing with scary monsters and long sleeved shirts made to look like sleeve tattoos with images that are scary to the young children who are targeted to wear them. Both of these make me question when our children get to be children. Why are we forcing them to grow up into the “teenage attitudes” as kids and by having them wear the attitudes, give our approval to those attitudes?

    Thank you for putting this topic out there!

  5. kate says:

    It is the same here in the uk, there was a poll taken asking teenagers what their ultimate goal was and what they would like to achieve once they left school – and 75% said that they would want to win the lottery or the Euro-millions….. And as for slogans and inappropriate dressing – here girls as young as 4 can be seen in thigh-high heeled boots, T shirts proclaiming – ‘looking for a sugar daddy’ and ‘good girls are hot’…. and you can find teenage girls mooching around with rhinestone words saying – ‘boy toy’ and ‘you’re a naughty boy now go to my room’.

    Not good.

  6. Amy says:

    How about the bumper sticker that announces “My Kid Can Beat Up Your Honor Student”? As s society we SAY we want/need smart kids, but there is a lot of sub-text that says even louder that we don’t. Yes, the stuff aimed at girls is much more visible, but there is a lot that is sneakier. I have three girls and one boy, and I am not happy with this at all.

  7. Daeminimon says:

    I wouldn’t say boys fare much better. At least it’s ok for a girl to wear blue or green. A boy in pink will apparently be gay. Or confused. Or both. A confused gay. Slogans like “Boys don’t cry”, or anything depicting how “tough” they are, is basically what’s on offer. I don’t want to encourage those qualities in my son. I want him to be sensitive, polite, well-mannered and comfortable enough to show his emotions. I don’t want him force-fed superheroes and Ben10….

  8. amy in ne says:

    Add me to the list of those disgusted by this type of drivel. If we spent half as much time and money encouraging our children and spurring them on to their full potential can you imagine where we would be?! As for my house, we make a point to go against the grain and raise the bar…for both my guys and my ladies!

  9. Cindy says:

    It’s scary on the boy side, too. When I asked for suggestions for a toy for my 8-year old nephew, I was pointed to a surprisingly violent aisle of toys. It makes me think we’re encouraging our boys to love violence at an early age. I don’t like what’s going on with the girl clothing and toys, either. Sewing is a powerful tool to create unpink, unsexy clothes.

  10. Tracy, txmom2many says:

    I have 7 boys and one girl. I hate hate hate the attitude shirts for girls, especially ones that seem to indicate boys are less than human (girls rule, boys drool), or are only on the earth to serve girls. It is damaging to both genders, as they support the idea that girls are shallow and boys are useless.

    I do have to say though that I don’t mind “violent” toys. My boys have many Nerf guns. I see it more as respecting who they are than forcing violence on them. Most of mine are interested in protecting or tracking naturally. I wasn’t going to buy guns, I bought dolls, stuffed animals, and Legos for my first 4 boys. They made guns out of the Legos and protected the dolls from stuffed animals. I decided then that we would go with their natural inclinations, but train them for good, instead of trying to squash it and have it come out in less desirable ways. My boys are still kind and loving. They love babies and will hold and play with any that come into their lives. They are compassionate, often crying, praying and contributing for those in need. One of them wears his pink bunny outfit (complete with fluffy tail)while shooting his Nerf guns and none of them have a problem sitting down and playing tea party with their sister. Now if your boy isn’t interested in guns or action figures, I wouldn’t force him to play with them either. My hope is that all parents would honor the whole child and only help them control the attributes that will make them a danger (emotionally and/or physically) to themselves and others. I do understand that in some households, guns and any kind of aggression are only viewed as a danger, and therefore you, of course, should not compromise those values. I just wanted to share my different point of view.

  11. Mom says:

    It is interesting that the shirts were donated to the consignment shop and they were plentiful. I haven’t seen any of these JCP shirts being worn. Maybe lots of folks agree.

  12. Elisabet says:

    Isn’t it strange that these kind of things are increasing, the clothes from when I was a little girl 30 years ago are not at all like that. I use my own old clothes, buy second hand from smaller labels that make more gender neutral clothes, my mom sometimes knits for my girl. I love to dress her in a sweet, comfortable tunic from time to time or a dress for a party. I don’t want her to have pink clothes with princesses and text on, I want her to have clothes I’d use myself if they were my size. For playing outside she needs good quality simple clothes. Not little pink outfits and thin shoes. And for boys I see they have a lot of prints with cars or “monsters”. I often get to hear from people “oh, what a sweet little boy” Then she probably is dressed in jeans (ok, boy-jeans then probably, I don’t know, I buy them second hand, without embroideries and hearts and flowers please) and maybe a read sweater. She is two years old and don’t have very much hair yet so I don’t put it up every day. I live in Sweden, and I think it is probably still a little better here than in USA or UK, but still, why are we going backwards on this whole gender thing? I think we are fooled by the clothing and toy manufacturers, if they can sell double of everything of course they will try to. So no sweaters or toys that can be used buy both your son and your daughter…

  13. […] I wrote “Which came first: dumb t-shirts or dumb attitudes?” I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reading, watching and writing — trying to figure out how […]

  14. […] Then the obvious hit me like giant anvil on the head. Right now my daughter’s most important role models are myself and her dad. I re-read the quotes that have been nagging me in my t-shirt post. […]