J.C. Penney: How About this for a Tee Shirt: “I’m Too Cute to Die of Asthma”

BY ON September 1, 2011

JC Penney controversial t-shirtI’ve just been reading about the incredible outpouring of anger that greeted J. C. Penney’s release of a little girl’s tee shirt that said “I’m Too Pretty to Do Homework….So My Brother Has To Do It For Me.” So many women got so angry–and let the company know it–that within hours, Penney’s had pulled the tee shirt off its shelves. Recall Victory!

The power of angry moms. How dare stores perpetuate such negative stereotypes? There’s nothing funny about the shirt. I remember one of the few times I had a loud, “You can’t go out in that!!” fight with my teenaged niece, during George Bush’s presidency, who appeared wearing a shirt that said, “The only bush I trust is my own.” She didn’t seem to understand at all how demeaning this was, how inappropriate, and how unfunny–and I had a moment of clarity about how our culture has become so saturated with images of teenage sexuality that we’d lost our bearings.

So what does all this have to do with air pollution? If moms can get so angry about a tee shirt that they can move a multi-billion dollar company to pay attention–then moms can successfully fight polluters. Air pollution disproportionately harms our babies and our toddlers. Little girls’–and little boys’–brains are stunted by mercury and lead poisoning–and mercury and lead are pouring out of unfiltered coal stacks.

My imagination went into overdrive. “I’m too cute to die of asthma.” “I’m too precious to be poisoned by mercury.” Actually, to be as provocative as the offensive homework tee, the shirts would have to be coming from polluters, and say: “I’m too pretty to care about stunting my brain.”

That’s the message moms are getting from polluters, and the lobbyists and politicians who are working hard to protect their right to pollute our air and water.

We’re too smart to fall for it. So let’s apply that force of nature: mother love–and get a recall on air pollution.


TOPICS: Asthma, Mercury Poisoning, Pollution, Social Justice