‘Allergic to algebra’ shirt sending wrong message to our girls?

The store Forever 21 is apparently selling a shirt that says “Allergic to Algebra” on it and some folks say it’s sending a bad message to our girls.

From Jezebel (click the link to see the shirt):

“Did you miss the opportunity to buy JCPenney’s “Too Pretty For Homework” shirt because it was quickly pulled from the market for being outrageously sexist? Thankfully, Forever 21 is giving you another chance to tell your daughter that you think she’s bad at math — and that’s perfectly fine! As this tee says, girls are “Allergic to Algebra.” In other words, they’re born with a physical inability to do math.”

“According to retailers, girls long to wear their stupidity on their sleeve. You know, because ladies can’t be smart and pretty, and the best way to show boys that you’re focused on being hot is to giggle and refuse to apply yourself in class.”

“When a Redditor spotted this shirt in the store, someone had affixed a Post-it that reads, “Smart girls are cool. Don’t buy this top.” That shouldn’t be a problem. There are so many products celebrating girls’ lack of basic math skills that we’re pretty sure they can’t even count. (Why else would retailers be perpetuating such a damaging stereotype?) Since girls can’t even figure out if they have $12.80 in their wallet, there’s no way they’ll be able to buy this shirt — unless of course, if they have their brother or boyfriend count out the money for them.”

A writer at Babble also addressed the article saying that she felt the algebra shirt was better than the ones that said “‘Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels‘ shirt or the ‘I’m too pretty to do my homework so my brother does it for me.”

I have to agree that the eating disorder one and the “I’m too pretty to work” ones do bother me more than the allergic one.

I think the allergic one isn’t saying the girl can’t do the math, it’s just she doesn’t like too.

I have to say that I agree with the note-poster in the photo on Jezebel that I would like some products that celebrate our smart girls. For example, last Christmas I wanted to buy Rose some of those bottle cap necklace and bracelets from Justice and everything printed on them was just inane. I didn’t buy any of them and told Michael when I came home “Why couldn’t they say “Science Rocks!” or “MC2 =Cool Girl.” Rose loves math and science and I would love to buy her a shirt or necklace that reflects that!

Are jokey shirts about girls not doing homework or wanting to work sending them the wrong message or are they just meant to be funny? Do you buy those kind of items? Would you like a smart-girl line of clothes and jewelry?

54 comments Add your comment

Penguinmom

September 13th, 2011
2:01 am

All of my students, male and female, think they are allergic to algebra.

Kat

September 13th, 2011
2:15 am

Get her some of those books by the young lady from “The Wonder Years.” Danica something? She makes girls understand that it is cool to be smart.

Also, go to http://surlyramics.com/ to see some clever ceramic jewelry that shows the smart side of things.

Kat

September 13th, 2011
2:16 am

http://surlyramics.com/ has some great brain-based wearable art/jewelry. Also, Danica somebody from “The Wonder Years” is a math wiz and explains why it is important to both boys AND girls!

malleesmom

September 13th, 2011
5:31 am

http://www.danicamckellar.com is the link for “the Wonder Years” girl. We have all three books and my smart-girl loves them :) That being said, I saw the photo of the algebra shirt yesterday and showed it to her. She liked it, saw the humor, but knows I won’t be purchasing it. Graphic t-shirts have been around for ever. If I don’t like the saying, I don’t purchase it. simple enough. Do I find the dumbing down offensive? yes. There is merchandise out there encouraging being smart. You just have to look for it.

Jeff

September 13th, 2011
5:56 am

Sorry, but this is getting old. The last 20 years, we have solely focused on the education of girls and have completely ignored the advancement of boys. More girls go to college, the vast majority of teachers are female, a growing number of boys are being raised only by women, more boys are drugged in our schools than girls (diagnosed with mental issues like ADD/ADHD, ETC) and the only wringinig of the hands seems to be over the females.

Why do we not believe the education of boys is just as important as girls? My daughter may grow up one day and want to marry a man and have kids. Will there be any educated men or will they all be fighting for the manual labor jobs that are left because women have all the degrees, access, support and power?

A

September 13th, 2011
6:16 am

Yet more evidence of the dumbing down of America.

ha

September 13th, 2011
6:26 am

This page is the dumbing down of America. This buck toothed baby factory needs to get a real life.

Obama

September 13th, 2011
6:27 am

The stimulus is working !

AR

September 13th, 2011
6:37 am

Given that Algebra (Al-Jebr) is of Islamic and Arabic origin, I am surprised that it isn’t rejected for guilt by association. Or that the name hasn’t been changed. Or that talk radio hasn’t jumped all over it.

Muḥammad ibn Mūsā al-Khwārizmī even looks vaguely like BinLaden. Where is the “throw the baby out with the bath water” knee-jerk rejection?

Gtmom

September 13th, 2011
6:43 am

I agree with you Jeff. All my life, I have been encouraged in Math and Science. Even at Tech, I would have Profs and advisors encouraging me to run for Presidents of Clubs etc. My boyfriend (and later husband) did not have this. Now at work, again I am being pushed to achieve my “full potential”. My boss constantly wants to me to train for management and to take on more than my coworkers (who are men and at least 12 years older than I am). I have two young boys. I hate that they may be looked over to encourage the girls to reach their “full potential”. One of my boys shows great promise (even at the age of 6) in math and sciences.
About the shirt, I could care less. I would have never worn a shirt like that. I always wanted to be considered smart not dumb. If this was a true free market, then we should allow the sales of such silliness and let the market figure it out.

tara106

September 13th, 2011
7:03 am

My 11 year old daughter is a member of the national junior honor society. She sees nothing wrong with the shirt and understood immediately that the shirt meant “She’d rather not do algebra.” Not that “she’s stupid and can’t do algebra.” “Allergic to homework” shirts are available for both genders. Maybe some of these offended parents should go back to school for some reading comprehension practice!

Ole Guy

September 13th, 2011
7:27 am

The year…1961…that cute little redhead, sitting at my 2 o’clock, kept reminding me of the key word, bra. Little did that 14 y/o kid realize that he would grow up to be a dirty ole man!

redhousecat

September 13th, 2011
7:38 am

If your kid is not intelligent enough to understand the satire, then by all means, hide him/her from the shirt. Or better yet, use the shirt as a teaching tool to explain satire. Unless you, the parent, can’t see the satire either………………………………………

geeezzz

Obama

September 13th, 2011
7:41 am

Even I know AR’s post at 6:37 is just plain dumb. Nevertheless, the stimulus IS working!

motherjanegoose

September 13th, 2011
7:45 am

I see kids from babies on wearing shirts with sayings that I find silly. I am someone who rarely wears t-shirts even at the beach. Oh well. That is just me. My own two have worn some silly things but as long as it is not offensive, it is their shirt and not mine.

When cleaning out, I found this old shirt of my son’s this summer…he wore it in HS…

It has 3 mice on the front with dark glasses

and on the back

3 blind refs…3 blind refs…
see how they run…see how they run…
their whistles are stuck..their eyes are closed…what they call nobody knows…
3 blind refs.

Silly to me but he liked it!

Denise…check your e-mail about dinner next week!

pws

September 13th, 2011
7:47 am

Dear GT Mom:

I am also a GT grad, but from the class of 1977. The year I was a freshman at GT, there were very few females there, you were very lucky to have another girl in your engineering classes. I had professors that would give you a letter grade down just because you were a girl, and were taking the seat of another guy and you were never going to use your education, you were going to get married and never work! I also have a few of the professors that youd describe, but they were a lot fewer than the ones I described first. Needless to say, I graduated, and have never stopped working, even though I got married and had two girls of my own. They are both grown now, with one of them being an engineer, and the second one in her first year of medical school. You need to be thankful that today women have a choice, to either be a stay home mom, or be strickly career oriented. I am very proud that my girls have had that choice, to do whatever makes them happy without having all the roadblocks that I had, just for being female. Be thankful that you also have those choices, and that you work for a company that recognizes that you have the potiental to be promoted.

I hope this doesn’t come out like I am being bitter, or anything like that, because I am not, I’m proud to be a yellow jacket, and what we helped accomplish for other women today. I saw where this year GT has it’s highest percentage of women in their freshman class, and yes, that means they took some of the seats that would have gone to males. It just means that the next generation of kids, will be competing even more for the open slots in our university system. We need to encourage ALL of our kids, be they male or female, to be the best they can be, and to get the best education that they can. Our American kids are vastly falling behind of the kids from other countries, and our kids are our future.

HB

September 13th, 2011
8:00 am

Theresa, try searching on Etsy. I bet they have cool math and science jewelry. Jeff, Theresa’s post isn’t about education, it’s about negative messages about education that are being marketed to girls. If you’re finding products marketed to boys with similar messages (which I agree would be unacceptable), please share.

Jeff

September 13th, 2011
8:11 am

HB, if you think boys aren’t being left behind in the classroom, you are either blind by choice or lack of awareness. Sexism perpetrated against boys does not make equality for girls. And I don’t feel the need to provide you with example after example so you can decide whether my example passes your approval threshold.

Women keep asking “where are all the good men with good morals, careers, and jobs?”. I’m giving you part of the answer as to where they are. You can chose to continue to ignore it if you wish, but because you chose to ignore it, it doesn’t make me wrong.

Jeff

September 13th, 2011
8:12 am

And I’m in no way saying don’t sell the shirt. But the outrage of possibly offending girls with a shirt when there are so many offenses perpetrated agianst boys in education today, seems a little over the top.

Kimberly

September 13th, 2011
8:23 am

OMG-will you please get a life. Of all things we need to worry about, why are you worrying about a shirt. I am sure you have better things to do, beside nag about a dang gone shirt. Go bake some cookie or something. Teach your children at home.

Lori

September 13th, 2011
8:33 am

It’s just a shirt for crying out loud. People get way too upset these days over every little thing. So what if you find it offensive, then don’t buy it for your daughter. There are plenty of things to get offended over, and none of them should ever be a stupid tee shirt!!

JJ

September 13th, 2011
8:34 am

OMG how would they react to a shirt that says “I’m allergic to mornings”.

This topic is silly. Anyone who allows printing on a freaking tee shirt to control their lives has bigger problems.

motherjanegoose

September 13th, 2011
8:35 am

@pws…congrats on your two daughters…I know you are proud. You have a right to be!

HB

September 13th, 2011
8:38 am

No, I’m not saying boys aren’t being left behind in the classroom. I was just pointing out that Theresa didn’t say it either. Personally, I haven’t seen the same kind of anti-smart merchandise marketed to boys, but please do share if you have (I am honestly interested in seeing those). I agree that sexism against boys does not make equality for girls. By the same token, though, complaining about this kind of marketing to girls is not anti-boy.

Gtmom

September 13th, 2011
8:49 am

PWS – I am very grateful what you and others have given me. I don’t think that sounds bitter at all. I was the only woman in my Grad school class in 98 (in my field – there was 30 of us) and I am the only woman in my department now of 50 men. We had another woman a couple years ago but for the most part, I have been the only woman for the last 10 years that has stuck around. When I graduated, it wasn’t because we were held back (as it probably was the case with your generation). Women are just not interested in doing what I do. They have gone on to other engineering fields -not one where our hands are constantly dirty – I work R&D of materials and components. But I see where I am constantly given preferential over my co-workers and there are some that can do a better job than me. I now have two boys. I don’t want this to happen to them. My oldest son has my husband’s and my mechanical reasoning capacity. I do worry that he will not be given the same chances as I have. About choices… while my husband is a better engineer and better with people than I am, I am the one who keeps moving up. So I don’t really have the choice of being a stay at home mom. He lives in constant fear of being layed off (due to recession) and has only worked part time in the past couple years.

Saying all that, I am very happy that our family has not felt the effects of the recession in part that other women (like yourself) took the steps to ensure that I got educated. I was able to carry the load for my family. Please do not think I don’t appreciate all what was done for me through the older generations fighting for what was fair. I do appreciate it. I just want my boys to have the same fairness.

Lori

September 13th, 2011
9:02 am

Some girls do the dumb thing to themselves. I went to the nail salon the other day (because I’m 8 months pregnant and can’t reach my toes-LOL). There was a girl, maybe age 18 or 19, with her mother there. The girl was just talking with her mom about their day and what their plans were, then the boyfriend showed up. The girl started talking baby talk, giggling and acting really silly and immature, and she also started disrespecting her mother, all to impress the boyfriend. The mother’s response to all this, was to laugh and watch, thinking it was all cute. I was disgusted! It’s what we TEACH our daughters that matters, not what they put on their bodies! This mother, by her reaction, was basically telling her daughter that it’s ok to disrespect your mother and guys like stupid, silly girls!

DB

September 13th, 2011
9:06 am

I just assumed it was an ironic commentary, not a lifestyle choice. My daughter would have definitely worn it, and no one would ever accuse her of being “dumb” in math. :-)

Personally, I don’t think an aggressive “I love math” t-shirt is going to solve the problem — anyone wearing something like that would automatically be relegated to dweeb status — in high school, that is far worse than being thought to be dumb in math. :-)

JATL

September 13th, 2011
9:15 am

As usual the problem lies with parents who would buy this garbage. THEY are the ones sending the most powerful message to their daughters that they aren’t expected to be great at math or science and that it’s most important to look good. They’re also likely to give sons hard times if they had rather be reading, cooking or practicing for chorus instead of watching or playing sports, or hanging at the mall drooling over girls in “I’m too pretty for homework” shirts. I’m all for stores not carrying this crap, but a t-shirt is not what keeps your daughter from becoming a chemist.
I’m amazed at how many parents are still this way in 2011. Teeny minds…

JJ

September 13th, 2011
9:24 am

I have a tee shirt that says “I beat anorexia”. You should see the looks I get…..

theresa

September 13th, 2011
9:36 am

Rose’s swim team coach is a freahman at asu this year. She is an honors student who is majoring in math/stats. She told me when she went to orientation she was the only girl in the group! She said there are a few girls in her classes and this is I believe the second largest university in the us. I love having rose around this young woman because I do think she is a great role model for rose.

I will defintely look for the wonder girls stuff. I know many parents who would be into that stuff for their kids.

theresa

September 13th, 2011
9:38 am

Jeff I have another post on girls at school that I think I will o tomorrow. I want to make sure I didn’t lready write it. But it talks some about what u are saying.

JATL

September 13th, 2011
9:52 am

I don’t get the uproar over “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” I’ve seen this on items that would appeal to adult women, but it’s a mantra used by both Weight Watchers and Overeaters Anonymous. I’ve had to watch my weight my whole life, and I put quite a bit of effort into being healthy, eating a healthy diet, keeping my weight off and down and working out 5-6 times a week. This saying is actually something I use when I’m having a weak moment over a plate of nachos or a piece of cake. The saying is true -eating garbage and being fat makes you feel awful! Being thin and healthy feels far better on every level! I’m sure some anorexics have used the saying and gone to extremes, but then again a saying didn’t make them anorexic. Eating disorders are deeply emotional and psychological. Given how downright obese many of our teens are, I’m not so sure this is a bad message to them. It’s not saying, “If you’re fat you’re worthless and stupid,” or anything.

Becky

September 13th, 2011
9:52 am

@JJ..I agree with your post from 8:34..People have been wearing shirts with silly, stupid, smart or whatever comments for a long time..I think it’s just that so many people have either lost (or never had) a sense of humor..People are to freaking PC and always worried about offending others..

I’ve seen a shirt like the one that you have and I could certainly wear that also..Heck, I wore a shirt in high school that had no words, just pictures of an eye, a heart, 2 and a screw..Never got me in trouble..

Cammi317

September 13th, 2011
9:52 am

I think it’s hilarious! My daughter loves math, but would still probably wear the shirt. She loves T-shirts. Hot Topics is her favorite store. Her favorite T-Shirt says “Stay Brutal”, but she is by all accounts one of the nicest and most polite teenaged girls you’ll ever know….publicly that is, in true teen fashion she likes to give me attitude at home. It’s just a T-shirt. If a child’s self-esteem and life choices are tied to a saying on a t-shirt then perhaps the parents should look more closely at their own self and parenting skills.

jarvis

September 13th, 2011
10:12 am

DB

September 13th, 2011
10:12 am

I find it ludicrous that many parents who think nothing of allowing their daughters to wear skirts up to the crack in their butt, jeans that outline their thongs and skin-tight toips that you can read their bra size through would even think twice about a shirt that says they are allergic to algebra . . . at least the shirt is long-sleeved and the neckline isn’t cut down to their navel!

jarvis

September 13th, 2011
10:15 am

Check out the Florida fan’s t-shirt. It’s about half way down the page.
http://www.saturdaydownsouth.com/2011/best-of-sec-football-tailgating/

A Scholar

September 13th, 2011
10:18 am

I don’t understand what people are so up-in-arms about. This shirt isn’t sending any negative message, if anything, it could be a positive message toward subjects other than math. I myself would wear this shirt because I am an English major that despises math. It doesn’t mean I’m dumb or think lowly of myself, it just means I strongly dislike math. People are reading too much into the words we put on clothes these days. I find the shirt to be well-designed, certainly much better than what I see most teenage girls walking around in.

jarvis

September 13th, 2011
10:18 am

By the way, censorship is wrong. If you don’t like the shirt, don’t buy it.
They’ll stop selling it if it doesn’t sell. It’s called Free Market. We supposedly live in one.

shaggy

September 13th, 2011
10:22 am

I have a T-shirt that says “Cool as “insert F-word here” that was given to me at a entertainment company convention. On a dare, I wore it on the cross-country flight back to Atlanta and for some reason, none of my fellow conventioneers on the same flight, would sit or stand with me. I received more glaring looks and travellers pointing at me than even I thought possible. I ended up feeling pretty uncomfortable, but I did win the dare and shocked many travelers in the process, which was intended.
I still have that shirt but have never worn it since.

pws

September 13th, 2011
10:25 am

Gt Mom:

I also an the engineer that has wanted to do the “dirty” stuff, and I’ve been doing it for over 30 years! lol And yes you are right, most females don’t want to do what we do, and that’s OK too. However, that said, most don’t think as we do, and I’ll give you an example, when my youngest was in elementary school, I had a teacher tell me that “if she had been a boy, she wouldn’t have questioned her behavior”. I had to explain to her that my daughter didn’t have a normal role model for a mom, that her mom actually supervised over 40 men who worked outside! The teacher just didn’t get it. A lot has changed in the last 30 years, but some of it remains the same. It will be up to you to teach your boys that they can be whatever they want to be, but they will be competing with the other girls and boys their age. My daughter that is now in med school saw some of what you are speaking of, med schools were giving priority to minority students, and being a white female applying to med school does not put you in the minority. She has been raised not to see “minority” and she couldn’t understand why students who had lesser grades and MCAD scores were being recruited to med school while she was sweating being admitted. Teach your boys to be the best student they can be, and they will have done everything they can do to succeed. We’ve got to start teaching our kids that it’s a competive world out there, and they’ve got to prepare for it. That said, “GO JACKETS”!

Wayne

September 13th, 2011
11:09 am

Would it be wrong of me to say I wasn’t looking at the guys t-shirt?

I’m just wondering what the guy on the left is looking at…

JOD

September 13th, 2011
11:14 am

I don’t get the big deal about this t-shirt, and like the comments about teaching kids satire.

@JJ – I just bought a t-shirt that says “I like big mutts and I cannot lie.” My husband rolled his eyes, but had to laugh.

@Gtmom and pws – You go, ladies! Goooo Jackets!

HB

September 13th, 2011
11:32 am

Jarvis, where’s the censorship? People complaining about a store’s product, saying they’ll shop elsewhere as a result, and encouraging others to do the same is the free market at work. No one has called for a legal ban on these messages. Jcpenney chose to pull the shirt due to consumer complaints because they realized selling it could be bad for their business overall — that’s not censorship.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

September 13th, 2011
11:41 am

I had another thought — my female cousin who has her pdh from San Francisco Medical School used to mentor girls in math and science when she was doing her graduate work. They would try to get girls into the college labs so they could see how cool it was and want to go that direction. She now works in Boston and I think is still leading a program for young women in her company. So she knows all about being alone in class and is trying to help guide more young women to college-level studies in science and math. She’s the smart cousin!

Denise

September 13th, 2011
11:56 am

I think the t-shirt is stupid but I’m a math/science/engineering nerd so it doesn’t apply to me. I wouldn’t waste my money on it but I wouldn’t think a girl was dumb (unintelligent) if she had it on. No big whoop. I do think that girls should be encourage, rather than given an out based on gender, to explore all subjects. Saying that girls aren’t good at math just because they are girls ticks me off. I am not an anomaly! As you can see from the ladies on this blog, we exist! :-) My Soror has a t-shirt line on http://www.girlslikemath.com for girls. The shirts just give different inspiration to little girls. I’m still waiting on one that says “Girls build planes” (like me!).

MJG – I responded to your email.

Wayne

September 13th, 2011
12:03 pm

Building planes; now that seems a bit more interesting than setting up instant messaging (that which I’m doing now… or attempting too, as the case may be…)

Denise

September 13th, 2011
12:52 pm

Wayne – I don’t actually TOUCH anything! I can’t BUILD anything. I used to work on the paint for the plane and now I am working on plane modifications planning. I used to climb on the one I work on and that was cool…minus my fear of heights. Even after 13 years I still get excited seeing it fly. :-)

Jeff – I do see what you’re saying about how girls are given more emphasis than boys are NOW. It is a sad commentary on our society that we STILL have to focus on building children up by gender rather than being sure that all children are given the same kind of encouragement in all areas of study but we know that it is still not the case. The kids of today are being parented by people who may still hold the same “girls aren’t good in math” and “boys can’t be teachers” stereotypes. Until ADULTS get over these issues our children won’t fully realize their potential.

Gtmom

September 13th, 2011
1:11 pm

Denise – I break planes! Planes rock!

Denise

September 13th, 2011
2:05 pm

Yeah, planes rock! :-) Keep me working so I love them.