When it comes to telling my daughter she's beautiful, I'm guilty, guilty, guilty. I want her loaded up on so much self-esteem it's oozing out her ears. But the news that a t-shirt with the words "I'm Too Pretty to Do Homework So My Brother Has to Do It for Me" being sold to little girls my daughter's age has me chewing up the nails covered in her favorite pink Hello Kitty nail polish and spitting them at my computer screen.
Because for every "you're beautiful," my daughter also hears at least two "you're smart"s and a few "you're so talented at X"s thrown in. We are nothing if not well-rounded in our heaping helpings of praise in our household. We're raising a person here, not a face.
The problems with this shirt are many: it tells a girl that her value in the world is her looks. That's bad enough. But it also tells her that she is inferior to a male counterpart who somehow has the brain power to do the homework that she can't. It's paired with marketing copy that's almost as disgusting (the link to the shirt on the JCP website doesn't seem to be working):
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.
Yup, my kid likes Justin Bieber (although she prefers Selena Gomez with her girl power anthem "Who Says" to be honest). But you know when my kid looks really cute? When I find her passed out on her bed with the book she was reading as she drifted off to dreamland still clutched in her hands. Because no one ever told her she couldn't read.
That's the biggest problem of all with this shirt. It tells girls that they can't do something. And at 7 years old, there isn't anything a kid should be told they can't do (OK, OK, anything positive -- we're not talking about lighting up cigs or taking a gun up to the top of a bell tower here). At 7, the sky is still the limit. There should be no limitations on what she can do -- or what her brother can do either.
I could have seen this t-shirt sold in 1950. But in 2011, I'm wondering not just why it's being sold, but who is actually buying it under the guise of "aww, it's so cute." Words are powerful, Mom and Dad (just ask the bullied teens who don't think their parents have their back). The messages YOU share with your kids are the ones that sink in. If you buy it, you are putting your stamp of approval on it. You're saying, even unwittingly, I agree with this sentiment. I think it's OK if you do too.
If you want your daughter thinking she's too pretty to do homework, that her brother is smarter than her, then by all means, buy this shirt. But I'll be telling my daughter she's beautiful, and smart, and a really talented dancer.
Would you buy this shirt?
UPDATE: Good news! The shirt has been pulled -- at least by seller JC Penney. They shared their reasoning with the Village Voice:
J.C. Penney is committed to being America's destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the "Too pretty" t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.
Image via JC Penney