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Curly Nikki

Is This What JC Penney Thinks of Our Daughters?

By January 27th, 202142 Comments
Is This What JC Penney Thinks of Our Daughters?by Rene Syler of

Come on now!

In just a couple of day, my daughter will head off to high school. She will more than likely follow that with a successful collegiate career, land a good job and be a fine, upstanding citizen. Over the past decade and a half, I have been steadily reinforcing the idea (in her and her brother) that she can be anything she wants to be, do anything she wants to do. You know why? Because she’s smart. She is also beautiful but that’s an aside; I’m teaching her to value what’s in her head, not on it.

I wish I could say the same for retail giant JC Penney, which used to be one of our favorite stores to score school clothes. For those of us on a budget, they were fashionable and reasonably priced. To that we can now add offensive. It seems among Penney’s back to school offerings this year, are these screen T-shirts, just perfect for your little airhead.

I’m speechless. Really. Time and again I see things like this and I wonder how they come to be. In this case, I can think of two reasons; there are no women in the decision-making hierarchy at JC Penney or if there are, they’re not thinking very clearly. Frankly, neither is a good option. But lest we forget, JC Penney is not the only big organization to show how out of touch it is with consumers. Remember this debacle by Italian Vogue and prior to that, skincare company, Nivea, stepped squarely into the insensitivity Olympics with this entry, featuring a clean cut, African American man, ready to jettison the head of a scraggy, unkempt man, as part of their “Re-civilize Yourself” campaign. Perhaps not racist, but it does register on the foot-in-mouth scale.

Listen, I’ve said this so many times in this space and to anyone who will listen that frankly I’m tired of it. But it’s beyond time for advertisers to get in touch with the people who buy their products. The way they do that is by not living such an insular existence. They need to come on out of the high-rise, corner office and down to street level where most of the people who buy their products live and work. Rub elbows, listen to us, learn what we value and by all means don’t insult our intelligence with stuff like this.

After feeling the full wrath of Twitter, JC Penney pulled the shirt and released the following statement:

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 you and all of our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.

There’s a tough lesson in this for JC Penney. See, I’ve always been fairly neutral on Nivea; they and their products never registered with me one way or another. JC Penney is another story. I was a fan. Until now. School is in session and I’ll be teaching my whip-smart daughter an important lesson in economics; shop where you are valued. That will be anywhere BUT JC Penney.

So what do you think of this T-shirt and the move by JC Penney to carry it? What do you think of their statement? How about the Nivea ad, does that offend you? Why do you think big companies keep making mistakes like these? Let me hear ya!


  • Anonymous says:

    I am adding this post pretty late..but..I can see how this t-shirt got past JCPenny staffers. I think that JCPenny's response was appropriate and they pulled the shirt..I would not pull my business from them for something so petty. I am sure they have a lot of merchandise to keep track of and a t-shirt..that does not contain any curse words, racial statements or political commentary can easily slip through. Give them a break.

  • DM says:

    I'm a huge fan of this site and usually also a fan of the commentary on articles…but this, THIS is so disappointing. The constant "it's not that big of a deal" just reinforces how far we have to come concerning gender equality (particularly w/in the AA community). Subliminal messaging is so serious considering we are a society where kids are bombarded with messages telling them who they are and aren't….and this isn't even subliminal lol this is pretty direct. The statement has many implications: 1) since I'm a girl, my beauty is the most important thing in my life 2) since beauty is important, everything else, (i.e. education) has much less value, 3) because education is a lesser factor in my value than being pretty, my brother (whose academic ability IS important b/c he's a boy) can do it for me.
    Those are the messages that come from that one seemingly "innocent" t-shirt. We're talking about how girls view themselves, their value, and where they stand in our society.
    Yes, there are MANY issues that we face as a nation and a community that need to be addressed…but think about how interrelated some of those issues are with this one. If we reinforce the idea that girls' value is based on their level of perceived beauty/attraction and not on their talents, work ethic, academic ability, physical ability, gifts, then if they fall outside of society's 'perceived beauty' where does their value lie and what can they do to increase it?
    Cue in all of the hypersexualized girls, dysfunctional relationships, girls pretty much tolerating anything b/c they don't think they're worth sh*t, and boys who base girls' value on how they look.
    Teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, under achievement, etc. all have roots in gender inequality.

  • Anonymous says:

    Its not that serious, AT ALL! Just a simple quote and honestly alot of kids thought this way in school but just never said it. I mean I always did my own work but it would have been nice to have someone else do it every once in a while. This shirt is so not offensive, people take tings too seriously. If I had kids (thank goodnes I dont)I wouldnt buy it because it was ugly not because of the message. Its too many other things to be outraged over, and I personally I like to pick and choose my battles.

  • Anonymous says:

    I can see both sides of the argument her (offensive vs. non-offensive), but here's something to think about. I've heard it said many times that children are blank slates upon which we (parents and the community) write upon. We as a society must be careful of the messages we leave on that slate as they will last a lifetime. It's already bad enough that our young ladies are overly objectified and valued more as sexual objects than human beings. Personally this shirt and other clothing like it (such as the pants with JUICY written across the bottom and SUPER short shorts) isn't a message I would want to leave on my child's slate if I had one. I can see why others would see this as a joke but think about this as well: Would a child who doesn't know any better see this shirt as a joke as well? Or would they see it as a fact?

    As far as people being too sensitive and over reeacting. I think any good parent would do so to protect their child and it certainly would be better than under reacting.

  • Marissa says:

    @staceymarie, you said it perfectly! i'll just add that thoughts become words and words become actions, the last thing we need is for little girls or boys feeling like one is superior than the other, the way a person feels about themselves/see's the world starts at home but it is reinforced by what they see and hear in the world. which is why media and monitoring what our children watch (collectively, i don't have kids) is so important. to those of you who feel "it's just a shirt, what's the big deal" (for this and the nivea spot which was just unfortunate btw) advertising and the messages in them (yes, even on a simple, plain t-shirt) are important, why else would companies spend so much money trying to get your attention?

    *stepping down from my soapbox now.

  • Anonymous says:

    Wow. Just wow to all the "not a big deals."

    Two words: Santa Claus.

    Children are the MOST impressionable creatures on the planet. They are sponges, all they do for most of their childhood lives is ABSORB. That's why children's television works, they suck in EVERYTHING.

    It's fine that some adults find this shirt humorous (actually, it's not fine. Nor is the poor spelling and grammar the shirts defenders use in their posts ((perhaps the shirt is true for them) (((snark, I apologize))) but hopefully, by the point of reaching adulthood, we are less impressionable. This is not true for children, especially girls, who often times receive to few positive role models or messages and are instead bombarded by messages that say they should be boy crazy and vapid.

    This is not a race issue, this a gender issue, and it is interesting that so many commenters jumped to race when it was not implied.

    And the power of a consumer is in their pocketbook. The only way companies learn that such messages are not acceptable is if we let them know financially. Just as I wouldn't visit the blog of someone who thought this shirt "wasn't such a big deal" (looking at the first commenter) I wouldn't support a company that didn't think it was a big deal either.

  • Anonymous says:

    Can an administrator of the site please remove the comments of those taking away from the positive vibe of the blog?

  • oneswtl8y says:

    No, this shirt doesn't bother me because it would be true for the ignorant people who would buy it. As for the Nivea ad. I love Nivea. Still do. It was not racist in any way. If that had been a white man, we wouldn't be hearing white America griping and moaning about the ad. You didn't hear white folks telling Geico to take down the Caveman ads. Sometimes (a lot of times) we black Americans are TOO DAMN SENSITIVE.

  • Anonymous says:

    There seems to be a lot of people on here singing the tune of "this is not a big deal, care about something else." I usually don't get involved in online debates, but I had to on this one.I think the shirt is sexist, not funny, and sends a terrible message to girls. I also care about education reform and poverty. You can care about many things at the same time.

  • Anonymous says:

    For this to be a forum that focuses on combating the negative images and messages that we as African American women have received regarding our own beauty (in the form of our natural hair) I find it quite disturbing that so many of us are having a hard time understanding how some might be offended. Even if you're not offended by the t-shirt, understand that the concern of many comes from the same place as the purpose of this blog. It's trying to make sure that as women we see ourselves in a positive light we teach our girls how beautiful and precious they are and combat anything that would tell us different.

  • Anonymous says:

    Put me in the camp of those who are not super offended by this hokey dumb joke of a t-shirt. There are many more things related to images/perception and self esteem to worry about when it comes to kids. And besides, I exercise my control as a parent by not purchasing this particular t-shirt for MY child. Not judging what another parent finds appropriate for his/her child. Not mad at JC Penney.

  • Anonymous says:

    stupid shirt but its not offensive and i damn sure aint going to nag about it and tell jcpenny to stop selling it..some people just find things (that dont really matter or not hurting anyone) to whine about..get a damn life

  • Vjjones123 says:

    I'm not offended…I think some are blowing it out of proportion just a bit. Maybe you don't think the shirt's saying is "cute" or "witty" or gives a good lesson to young girls, but honestly, I think using the word offended is going too far. I really don't care, to each his own I guess.

  • Anonymous says:

    No offense but I don't see how this can be offensive. I mean I DO but there are people starving , killing their own children etc. And out of all the things to be worried about..A SHIRT? I have seen shirts similar to this at a few stores (some big name)& I actually just laughed & walked off…

  • MommieDearest says:

    I agree with StacieMarie- it's not so much the shirt but the message it carries. I love graphic T shirts and buy them for my young son all the time. I saw a shirt recently, I think in Target or Kohl's, that was really nice and had cool colors. But I read the message on the shirt and it said something to the effect of being too cool to do homework. Another cool looking shirt also carried an anti-academic message. I know the shirts were trying to be cute/clever/funny or whatever. But, especially as the mother of a black male child, I cannot contribute to the "dumbing down" climate that exists in our community. Yes I am my child's role model. And so is my husband. Yes, we teach him right from wrong, instill morals and values. But I would really have to have my head in the sand if I don't think that others and the "outside world" still affect my son in some way. Influences are everywhere. And they are not all good. An adult can understand that the Tshirt is just a joke. But a child may not. They will think it's cool and it will be stamped into their subconcious. There is no way I would let my daughter (if I had one) wear a shirt that said "I'm too pretty to do homework." That is already creating a high-maintenance "I can't be bothered with common stuff" mindset.

  • hairscapades says:

    Wow … just … wow. Sorry, don't think that the shirt is cute or funny at all. I try to generally stay out of debates that become virulent, but had to say something on this one. I wouldn't think very highly of the girl who wore this or the parents that bought or allowed her to buy it. And, that is putting it nicely. This is something that I would expect Paris Hilton or that chick from Jersey Shore to wear. Just *smh* at this one. Though, the Summer's Eve commercials were far, far, FAR worse.


  • Anonymous says:

    Yirssi, I'm surprised too. And this from women who, no doubt, had to overcome some of their conditioning to learn to love their natural hair. Many of the women commenting that it's "just a joke," I'm sure, would be up in arms if the shirt said "I'm too curly-headed or nappy-headed to do my homework," b/c that would imply that black women are not smart or should not value developing their intelligence. And that would just be wrong. Narrow.

  • Anonymous says:

    Most people are so brainwashed by the messages that they receive that they are not even cognizant of the many ways in which brainwashing occurs. Which would explain why a woman could find this message non-threatening and laughable.

  • Yirssi says:

    I am so surprised by all of the people that think this is not a big deal. Do you not think you were impressionable when you were a kid? Because trust me, you were, and so are the children today. We need to provide GOOD role models, and good standards, and shirts like these are the opposite of good standards.

    JC Penney has another one saying the girls best subjects are boys, music, and shopping. Really? I mean, REALLY? You can check out the shirt here, and petition for JCPenney to take discontinue it as well:

  • Anonymous says:

    I don't find it offensive,but I personally wouldn't want my daughter(if I had one) to wear it. She might become vain. But seriously,chill put. Instead of boycotting JCPenney and Nivea,why not concentrate our efforts on eradicating illiteracy,domestic violence,and helping the homeless? Sheesh,it's just a shirt. If you don't like it,don't buy it.

  • Lilith_Eve says:

    I'm in complete agreement with StaceyMarie. I work with young teenage girls with a multitude of problems. Please believe that these girls believe everything they see and hear no matter what the source!

    I know without a doubt if any of the girls I work with saw that shirt they'd emulate it. It's not just a shirt. It's a message and a negative one at that.

  • Anonymous says:

    I am not offended by it at all. It was simply meant as a joke. I agree with others who stated that you simply don't have to buy the shirt. Also, for those offended, you can take it as a teaching moment. My 7 year old niece is an extremely intellectually gifted child and she would get a kick out of this shirt because she knows that she is smarter than the majority of boys that she knows, including her older brothers. There are bigger battles for us to fight.

  • Anonymous says:

    omg its just a shirt. If u dnt like it dnt buy it. Its not offensive to me.

  • StaceyMarie says:

    @ Tgoodmill September 2, 2011 1:19 PM

    You seem to think that only "us Black folks" need to "put our skirt down" on this issue. As noted in the post, the shirt was mentioned in The Washington Post, along with several other non-minority outlets.

    I'm not a mother, but I was once a little girl who grew up to become a teacher. Our kids are already at the bottom of the educational totem pole. Our girls don't need any encouragement to doubt their capability and our boys don't need to be encouraged to feel superior. Stupidity, ignorance, and laziness aren't "cute" on anyone.

    I coach 4-8 year old cheerleaders and mentor teen girls. Many think they're too "cute" to work hard and expect boys to pick up the slack("My boyfriend will write the checks", "My brother can fix the computer", "My mama don't know, but my daddy does"). Yes, even the little ones!

    For those who feel that this issue is being taken too seriously, remember that we often judge others by what they wear, say, and do.

    Would you allow your son to wear a shirt that said "Future Baby Daddy" or"I'm Too Athletically Gifted for School"? Would that be funny or cute?

  • Carr says:

    OMG! lol It's a t-shirt people…not something thats being drilled into these kids heads! I agree with all who said if you dont like it, dont buy it! When its all said and done, its about what YOU (the parent) instill into your child when it comes to education, morals, etc.. I think it is funny and I couldve worn it in highschool and still come out with the 3.6 GPA I graduated with! WOOOSAHH yall! lol

  • Anonymous says:

    How about boycotting JCPenney for the bad quality of their stuff period? The quality of the material in their clothes has gone way down hill from when I was younger and I'm only 39.

  • LM says:

    I think this was blown out of proportion. The shirt isn't meant to deliver any kind of message. it's meant for ppl to read it and think it's funny and absurd, as with most graphic t-shirts that have silly phrases. That is understood by the public. they're jokes. i love graphic t-shirts. i buy them for myself by the dozens. if it offends you, don't buy it. simple as that…also, if your child thinks that she is too pretty to do homework, it's not the shirt's fault, it's YOUR fault. it's YOUR responsibility to instill values and work ethic into your child. don't blame a single, solitary shirt. That's just my opinion.

  • JustTrena says:

    Yeah…I agree this one is a push. If we’re going to get defensive about this shirt, we should also boycott BET and any other station that shows videos of women being degraded (or degrading themselves!); we should boycott the shirts that say “Girls Rule!”…I mean, our boys need positive reinforcement also. Or “I’m walking with stupid” or the many, many other screens placed on t-shirts. Don’t get me wrong, there may be a chance this message will actually be read and taken as a negative message but folks, instead of boycotting JC Penney (who DID pull the shirt and apologize), lets boycott the folks who are cutting decent teachers’ pay, so they can continue reinforcing what we’re teaching at home, that everything you read, isn’t fact….and use things like this as a teachable moment. #saidinlove

  • Anonymous says:

    For all the people who feel the t-shirt it not offensive: cool, find yourself a size a wear it. Just because YOU like it, doesn't mean that it's appropriate for a child to wear. Kids learn from EVERYTHING! You want a little girl to walk around with a shirt like that, she'll probably begin to believe and follow the message. Also, what kind of message is this shirt sending to other people about them? Other impressionable and literate children will see the shirt and believe it too.

  • Anonymous says:

    stop reaching, people… it's just a t-shirt poking fun!

  • Tracey Joy says:

    I don't see what the big deal is. It's a joke, I find it funny. I don't see why anyone would take this remotely seriously. The boycotting and getting uber offended at everything is overkill. Their are many legitmate reasons to fight and fight hard this IMO isn't one of them. You don't like the shirt or it's message don't buy it.

  • MrsDjRass says:

    You are speaking the truth! We must teach our boys and girls to value what is in their heads. When it's all said and done, your hair and your skin will fail you during your career, but your mind won't.

  • Anonymous says:

    Not as bad as the "Boys Are Stupid. Throw Rocks At Them" t-shirts.

  • Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty says:

    LOL Tgoodmill. well said.

  • Tgoodmill says:

    Us Black fowlk are too damn sensitive. We take everything to the extreme. If you dont want you kids to reflect the shirt then dont buy it. The niviva commercial wast thant offensive I mean I wouldnt want a scruffy bearded man working in my company either. As long as I am a good parent and instill morals and values into my children a t-shirt is not going to sway them otherwise damn. Next thing you know Mcdonalds will use precious on a bill board and "us" fowlk will be saying oh why they got the fat girl eating McDonalds? We too damn sensative " pull ya skirt down " relax.

  • Anonymous says:

    I think another tremendous part of the problem is so many people (most consumers) don't think about where they spend their money. Most poeple don't care what a company does or portrays as long as they (the consumer) can get whatever they want easily and cheaply.

  • Kellye says:

    I don't know that I would say I'm outraged by the shirt, but I will say that it's pointless. There is nothing exceptional about the style, colors, graphics, etc. The message is, quite frankly, stupid and non-sensical. No one says ridiculous mess like that. "My brother has to do it for me?" Please!

    I think if I had a child (son or daughter) I would boycott on principle.

  • jmh says:

    I think they were trying to be cute and totally screwed up. I hope they have learned their lesson. I shop at JCP because of the prices and will probably continue to do so.

  • Anonymous says:

    I agree with Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty & Anonymous – it's not that serious. We should have bigger things to worry about besides a cute t-shirt that speaks the truth, lol 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    Honestly, i think its a cute and funny shirt. I don't know why its being blown up as it is. Take a joke people.

  • Yirssi says:

    Thank you so much for posting this, I just read about it in the Washington Post, and I'm outraged as well. I find this completely ridiculous and I agree with you in that the advertisers need to figure out what's going on in the real world. Also, they need to create more diverse boards, or have more diverse test subjects. Because this just keeps getting worse and worse.

    Also, I also now feel like I shouldn't shop at JCPenney. I don't want my money to go to a company that diminishes us as women, and sees our sole value to be our physical traits.

  • Michelle @Radiant Brown Beauty says:

    It could be offensive to some but it doesn't bother me. Everyone knows girls are smarter than boys anyway LOL j/k

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