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T-shirts cross thin line between clever, vulgar

Nov. 11, 2005

EDITORIAL STAFF

Some movements start small, sometimes with the smallest of people.

On Nov. 4, 23 Pennsylvania high school girls and the clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch reached an agreement to pull two of the shirts the girls found offensive.

The girls had launched what they called a "girlcott" of A&F products to raise awareness about T-shirts they deemed offensive and demeaning to women.

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Ben Humeniuk | Lariat staff
The girls, backed by the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, gained the attention of the national media and last week appeared on the Today show.

Those 23 girls were right to take a stand for what they believe in. Not only did A&F pull the shirts, but the company officials agreed to meet with the girls and consider ideas for new T-shirts.

This is not the first time A&F has done something like this.

In 2002, the company came under fire for a line of T-shirts, later pulled from shelves, that depicted Asian-Americans as cartoon-like figures with slanted eyes and cone hats.

In 2003, an A&F catalog had to be pulled because it showed topless women and bare-bottomed men. The company agreed to pay $10 million in legal fees and $40 million to settle a class action lawsuit in 2004 that accused A&F of employment practices that exclude or limit women and minorities.

A&F shouldn't print offensive shirts and wait to see if its slogans provoke a response.

It might be great advertising, but that's not worth the cost to the people.

The company has said it markets to a younger audience, so it should be more responsible than to print shirts that say things like "Who needs brains when you have these?" across the chest.

Enough of our pop culture pushes negative stereotypes of women. We don't need clothing companies to do the same. Not only are its shirts offensive, but they push forward negative body images and unrealistic views of sexuality.

There's a thin line between being edgy and offensive.

In the future, A&F should concentrate on being clever instead of resorting to sex jokes and base-level humor to sell shirts.