My friend's 8-year-old son has a T-shirt that reads, in white text on black fabric, "I am a pathological liar." My friend thinks the shirt is cute and funny. Every time I see the boy wearing the label with pride, I cringe. Maybe I'm incapable of taking a joke, but I've never been one to laugh at the disturbing and offensive t-shirts I see in the world of children's fashion. In the late 1990s, "Brat" T-shirts were a huge trend, and they disturbed me even as a preteen. Today, I find myself constantly cringing at the onesies, t-shirts and hoodies I see marketed to children.
Here are a handful of popular T-shirts that I wouldn't let my child touch with a 10-foot pole.
1. "My Best Subjects"
Released alongside "I'm too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me," this t-shirt declares that a girl's "best subjects" are boys, shopping, music and dancing. It's good to know the shirt-wearer has such positive goals for her future career. Although J.C.Penney voluntarily recalled the shirts that called girls "too pretty" to do homework, the "Best Subjects" t-shirt is still on shelves. Yuck!
2. "My Dad Can Kick Your Dad's Ass"
This is a fairly popular-- and extremely objectionable-- slogan found on many onesies and children's T-shirts. I can't even begin to understand why a father would want his child to spread a message of hate, violence and hostility. Even if the dad in question is some sort of hulk, why should the child be the one to advertise it?
3. "I Don't Have a Tiny Penis..."
"I just have HUGE BALLS!" declares a onesie from Deeksigs. I'm not sure why any parent would feel a need to announce the size of an infant's genitalia, or why anyone would project such an awkward and personal issue onto someone too young to speak for himself. Stay classy, Deeksigs.
4. "Hung Like My Dad"
Either the child wearing this onesie has a horrible, painful, and apparently untreated birth defect... or the child's father somehow conceived a child using a one-inch willie. Whether the issue here is an untreated deformity or a man who isn't ashamed of his micropenis, this onesie from Spencer's is outright inappropriate.
5. "I'm Too Pretty to do Math"
When I was in high school, David and Goliath gained notoriety as the makers of the T-shirt reading, "Boys are stupid; throw rocks at them!" David and Goliath is no more appropriate than it was 10 years ago. The company's "I'm too pretty to do math" teen t-shirt stinks strongly of sexism, consumerism, and stupidity-mongering. The kicker: despite years of controversy, it remains on shelves-- and it still sells.
6. "Admit It: You'd Go to Jail for Me."
It absolutely, positively can't get worse than this. There's nothing quite like selling your teen daughter as jail-bait for perverts. I try to imagine any context in which a child could wear this: around teachers, family, friends? The very fact that this shirt exists makes my stomach-sick -- and proves that we've still got a long way to go in fighting sexism and perversion in our culture.