allergic to algebraTell me if you've heard this one before. A store catering to our daughters puts out a shirt that treats them like they're morons who can't possibly be interested in an education. The Internet erupts. Oh right, that happened last month and JC Penney pulled the offensive t-shirt. So why is Forever 21 in trouble THIS WEEK for selling yet another line of shirts that make girls out to be brainless nitwits?

They've pulled their "Allergic to Algebra" shirt already it seems (you can find it via search, but click on the link and it's out of stock), but there are still gems like "Homework Hurts Trees" and the puke-worthy "School Is Fun -- When It's Over." Which makes me wonder if the people who make these tees aren't the ones who they best describe. Because one retailer after another issuing a mea culpa should be a red flag for each successive store.

And that goes double for retailers like Forever 21. Catering to young women almost exclusively -- these shirts are part of their Forever 21 Girls line that ranges up into the teen years -- they're dependent on a consumer group that's both powerful and opinionated. Statistics show teenagers are most likely to use their money on clothing, and even though parents are cutting back in the economy, they're still buying. And in homes where the parents are still buying their kids' clothes, teen girls, in particular, have been found to have the most impact on how a family spends.

Forever 21 shirtThat means a lot of clothes purchased for teenage girls. And it means making both the girls and their parents happy. So why sell something that makes a girl feel like crap about herself?

I had a really hard time with the "too pretty for homework" tee at JC Penney last month because it taught little girls that they're not as good as their male counterparts. But these shirts bear an equally troubling message: that older girls (algebra came in middle school in my neck of the woods anyway) are not supposed to be excited about being school, that it's somehow embarrassing to enjoy math, that it's cool to make fun of school.

Teen girls hear often enough that they're air-headed, daffy characters who don't care about anything deeper than the pools of their favorite singer's eyes. They don't need to be told that valuing their education makes them somehow unworthy in the eyes of their favorite store. If these stores want to keep our girls pawing through their racks, they need to drop the dumb act and start treating these kids with what they deserve: respect.

Do you think your daughter would want to wear one of these shirts?

 

Images via Forever 21