My cousin just turned twelve, which terrifies me because the age of the “tween” is when everything is awkward and everyone is pressuring you to be someone you are not. When I asked her what she wanted for her birthday, her list revolved around clothes and makeup. I offered up some alternatives because I was not about to buy my cousin some cheap, baby blue eye shadow. So I suggested some books I thought were great during my awkward middle school years. She only responded, “Uh no, books are dumb.” Books are dumb?! No this can’t be. Middle school was when I was at my nerdiness. Surely she doesn’t hate all books. But it turns out, after I searched the mall for gifts, I realized consumer culture and media trends are making girls believe they can’t be smart and beautiful at the same time.
Case and point: tween fashion. As I was skimming the interwebs as I commonly due at 3 am with coffee in hand, I was struck by this article about JCPenney’s rather ridiculous shirt that read. “I’m Too Pretty to Do Homework, So My Brother Has to Do it For Me.”
The shirt features “girly graphics” and makes the airhead stereotype of women even worse. What makes it even worse is the copy along with the shirt on JCPenney’s website read, “Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She’ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.” This teaches girls that smart and beautiful cannot coexist in one body. Other shirts marked toward girls have also laid similar groundwork on the beauty vs. brains battle. What is important to note is almost all of the shirts are marketed to girls, not even teenagers, as if they are trying to condition them at a young age that beauty is of the highest importance. Girls then isolate intelligence as opposing beauty, costing them opportunities to get ahead in the future. When these messages are absorbed, it becomes a self- fulfilling prophecy to keep women down in the intellectual field.
Here are a few more examples of shirts I found mirroring the same ideals for young girls.
What do you think of shirts like these? What messages do they send to young teen girls?