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T-Shirts Gone Wild

Abercrombie’s “Attitude Tees” are humorous self-expression, not sexist degradation

By The Crimson Staff

A hint for pre-med students: if you happen to come across a young woman wearing a tight-fitting t-shirt with “Anatomy Tutor” suggestively emblazoned across the chest, don’t expect her to provide you with study tips for the upcoming midterm. Such garments are instead products of Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Attitude Tees” campaign. The company has designed other t-shirts with similarly daring slogans, like “Do I Make You Look Fat?,” “I’m Not With Stupid Anymore,” or the endearing “I Had A Nightmare I Was A Brunette.” In some quarters, though, these t-shirts are raising outcries instead of a few good-natured chuckles. Some of the t-shirts are certainly risqué, but their opponents—the famous Pennsylvania “girl-cotters,” who held protests outside local Abercrombie outlets—are missing the central point. Abercrombie & Fitch has the right to sell whatever it wants, and young women are more than capable of deciding for themselves what is self-degrading and what is humorously self-expressive.

The pressure that these 23 teenage “girl-cotters” recently created has caused Abercrombie to yank some of its more “creative” Attitude Tees from its shelves, including the notorious “Who Needs Brains When You Have These?” shirt. (Guess where the slogan was located on the garment.) Of course, the “girl-cotters” had every right to refuse to buy clothing items that they found to be of bad taste, but their demand that Abercrombie discontinue producing these t-shirts was contrary to the spirit of free enterprise. Young women—the very people whom the “girl-cott” was meant to protect—were buying the t-shirts in droves. That the shrill opinion of 23 teenage girls could override the demand of young women nationwide either speaks to Abercrombie’s own internal qualms, strange for a company that printed the shirts in the first place, or to its tacit admission that the shirts are meant more as publicity tools than serious products.

Still, the fundamental fact is that these were not hate-inducing or violence-provoking t-shirts. All they were ever meant to do, as Abercrombie representatives stressed, was to provide some impudent humor to a nation consumed in hypersensitive political correctness. If a young woman wants to wear a t-shirt with “Freshman 15” styled across the front—and we’re talking sexual conquests here, not pounds—in order to make a statement or have some fun, that is her choice. To listen to the “girl-cotters,” it would seem that the t-shirts young women wear have the power to define their role in modern society, but one would hope that this isn’t the case. A t-shirt is just a t-shirt, after all, and the proposition that girls need to be paternalistically protected from garments that might demean them is another tired instance of sensational political correctness.

Abercrombie made a product, and its intended market enjoyed it enough to purchase it. That is as far as the story ever should have gone, but the campaign of 23 teenage “girl-cotters” shows that some in this country still believe that women’s equality has not yet progressed passed its training-wheels phase enough to permit young women to express themselves freely. If men can wear an Abercrombie Attitude Tee that asserts “Boss Hog Loves Cooter;” so too should women be able to declare via their t-shirt, “All Men Like Tig Old Bitties.”

These examples, admittedly, are classless and of remarkably poor taste. But they are not instances of sexism or degradation toward women. Some girls, after all, just want to have fun. And there’s no reason why they should be barred from doing so.

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