This T-shirt was sold by J.C Penney, a mid-range American retailer, on its website in 2011. The text on the shirt reads, “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me”. Following complaints from concerned parents and negative publicity from mainstream media outlets, the shirt was pulled from the website after only two hours. The controversy over the shirt has been compared to that of the Teen Talk Barbie doll. Released in 1992 and pulled from shelves after a few months, Barbie was programmed to say “Math class is tough.”
What was at the root of the controversy of the JC Penney shirt? Do you think that the outrage caused by this shirt was justified?
If this shirt was marketed toward adult women, rather than children, would it have led to the same controversy? Why or why not?
Do retailers like JC Penney have a responsibility to avoid perpetuating sexist messages through their products? What stakeholders and interests should they consider when developing and marketing a product?