Epic T-shirt fail: "I'm too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me"

This T-shirt, marketed to girls, was pulled from J.C. Penney's website after customers complained.
This T-shirt, marketed to girls, was pulled from J.C. Penney's website after customers complained.

A few months ago, the Internet was up in arms over a white David & Goliath T-Shirt that read, in pink bubble letters, "I'm too pretty to do math." Then there was the one with "Future Trophy Wife" written on it.

But many parents think this one is worse.

The long-sleeve T-shirt that J.C. Penney pulled off its website today amid plenty of parental outrage read: "I'm too pretty to do my homework so my brother has to do it for me." And, judging by the description of the shirt on the J.C. Penney website-"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"-it seems like the company didn't have a problem with the shirt until customers started to complain.

Thanks, major clothing retailers. We struggle to teach our girls that beauty isn't everything, that they don't have to play dumb in order to be popular, that women can be both smart and pretty. But, even though studies show that girls are as good at math as boys, even with beautiful movie stars earning Ivy League degrees in between blockbuster hits, the stereotypes persist-thanks in large part to messages like the one on that "cute and sassy" T-shirt marketed to girls age 7 to 16.

The controversy started late Tuesday night, when clothing designer Melissa Wardy saw a tweet about the T-shirt and then shared the link on her Facebook page. "I advocate for girls and against this kind of gender stereotyping in the marketplace," she said in an interview with Yahoo! Shine. "My little girl starts kindergarten tomorrow... I don't want her to see a shirt like that on her classmate, something saying that pretty is cute and right and the academics should be left to the boys."

"It incorporates all of the wrong messages for girls," she adds. "Why are we conditioning kids to wear something that degrades their self-worth?"

Tired of girls' clothing that focused on "looks, shopping, or hyper-hyper-girliness," Wardy launched her own line of apparel, called Pigtail Pals, in 2009. She spent Wednesday designing a T-shirt of her own in response to the "I'm too pretty to do homework" message. "Girls deserve better products in the marketplace," Wardy says. Her new shirt, adorned with stars and swirls in a rainbow of colors reads, "Pretty's got nothing to do with it" on the front and "Redefine girly" on the back.

"There's nothing wrong with being girly," Wardy says. "I'm not anti-pink. I'm not anti-princess. I'm anti-limitations."

J.C. Penney removed the T-shirt on Wednesday and issued this statement: "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."

The controversial shirt had been placed amid shirts made by the Self Esteem clothing company on J.C. Penney's website, but on Thursday the retailer confirmed the clothing company's assertion that it did not make the shirt. "To confirm, Self Esteem was not the vendor of the 'Too Pretty' shirt," Clark McNaught, J.C. Penney's general merchandise manager of its Children's division, said in a statement. "It's unfortunate that their company got caught up in this issue."

Ultimately, it's up to parents to decide what to buy for their 7-year-olds. Anyone remember Teen Talk Barbie, who complained "Math class is tough!" when you pressed a button on her back?

It was a bad idea back in 1994. Why are we still feeding our girls the same message nearly 20 years later?

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