Thursday, January 25, 2018

Disney Tee Prompts Parental Outrage Over Outdated, Sexist Message

The iconic t-shirt is a staple for most Americans, with 62% of us saying we have more than 10 in our wardrobes. But in the U.K., outraged parents won't be buying one tee produced by the purveyor of all things princess-y. Although Disney may do no wrong in the eyes of many families, the company has sparked outrage amongst many British families for a girls' garment parents say spreads an archaic and potentially harmful message.

The tee in question is Cinderella-inspired, decorated with a pump heel and the words, "Shoes speak louder than words." When London-based mom Emma Palmer spotted the t-shirt at her local Disney Store, she did what many angry parents do in this day and age: she took to Facebook.

Palmer posted a photo of the offending t-shirt and wrote, "This is just everything that is wrong with messaging to girls in a nutshell. t's 2018... Surely it is widely recognized that the content of your mind and words you speak are WAAAAAY more important than your [expletive] shoes!"

Other parents were quick to agree and the post quickly went viral. Since it was created, the post has been shared more than 17,000 times and has received over 44,000 reactions. While some feel Palmer and her peers are making mountains out of molehills, the mother of two hasn't backed down from her stance.

"The messages you give to a girl should be about what they're thinking, their intelligence, and what they have to say -- not what they look like," Palmer explained Buzzfeed. "I understand it is fun to dress up, to wear makeup, and to have nice things -- but the point is at no point do I chose that as a
substitute for a brain, or for what I have to say."

Interestingly, Disney carries several other tees that take a more modern approach. The company makes at least two Beauty and the Beast themed tops that highlight the "beauty within" and the importance of strength, courage, ideas, dreams, and creativity -- although the latter shirt also highlights shoes.

Business Insider reports that 40% of men between the ages of 18 and 34  would prefer to do all of their shopping online, and it's likely that at least as many women (if not more) feel the same way. As of early January, the Cinderella tee was still available for purchase on the Disney Store UK's website. Although Disney did not return media requests for comment  on this story, Palmer said the company had reached out to her on Facebook and reassured her they'd investigate the complaint.

Overall, Palmer wants both parents and brands to understand that femininity isn't the issue at hand here. Rather, it's being pigeonholed into restrictive gender roles  and the message that beauty and/or femininity is all that matters.
"You can be feminine and still a feminist," Palmer explained to Insider. "You can celebrate and love femininity and still want equal treatment and respect."

That's an issue that's impacted many brands, particularly on social media, in recent months. Clarks and the Gap are just two companies that have come under fire for marketing campaigns and products that have reinforced harmful gender stereotypes. Whether Disney, a corporation known best for its damsel-in-distress trope, will shift gears in 2018 remains to be seen.


"Pleasant words are as a honeycomb: sweet to the soul and health to the bones." Proverbs 16:24