Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shirt Happens: Pretty's Got Nothing To Do With It.

Recently there was a lot of controversy surrounding a shirt sold by JC Penny's saying that "I'm too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me." I, for one, am glad about the whole kerfuffle because it brought to the forefront something that is still an issue for most girls and women, that if you are pretty, you can't be smart and if you are smart you can't be pretty. Pretty girls are often judged to be "dumb blonds" and those getting straight A's aren't that attractive. "Boys don't make passes at girls that wear glasses" as the saying goes. This idea is out there and around us all the time but is rarely talked about openly until something like this shirt happens. It is this pervasive idea that led many, many people to think this shirt was a good idea in the first place. And that's just wrong. But some good things have come out of all of this.

There is one response to this issue that I liked the most. A blog called "Pigtail Pals" made a response t-shirt that says "pretty's got nothing to do with it." When most of the responses to the JC Penny's shirt were about how girls can be pretty and smart and don't need brothers to do well in school, pigtail pals had a slightly different take. There shirt says that yes, you can be pretty and smart, and yes you can be pretty and not academically gifted, and yes you can be plain and smart, and frankly you could be neither. All of those are ok and a girl's level of attractiveness has nothing at all to do with their brain power. Its a subtle difference in phrasing, but to me that makes all the difference.

The idea of correlating "pretty" and "smart" reminded me of this article, "Stop Global Warming, Become a Pirate!" Obviously the number of pirates will not affect earth's climate and the graph was made to point out the ridiculousness of assuming a causation just because of a correlation (see this comic for another laugh). Yet, people think it is acceptable to do this with women's looks and their brain power.

I like that this shirt opened the discussion about this topic. I really like the fact that so many people were outraged. Girls are surrounded by messages that tell them to be pretty and if they are pretty, smart doesn't matter. Its everywhere. But this shirt had people standing up and saying that that idea is simply not ok. And all those tween girls watched. They watched their moms, their teachers, their dads and their friends say that it was not ok for them to buy into that. Their roll models, the people they see everyday, stood up and took action and JC Penny's pulled the shirt and apologized. When those girls think that being pretty is what matters most I hope they remember the reaction to this shirt. And that reaction was awesome.

Everyone should check out two amazing girl power websites, Girl-Wonder and Pigtail Pals. There are others I am sure, so please post them in the comments so we can be fans of them too.

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