The Forever 21 brand is currently receiving some highly critical feedback from their customers. The feedback comes in response to a new series of t-shirts designed for young boys that feature inappropriate, misogynistic, and condescending phrases. Parents were outraged to see some of the things printed on the new line of shirts, and they made their discontent well-known over social media.
This isn’t the first time that Forever 21 has come under scrutiny for phrases printed on their clothing items. The brand has been accused of attempting to force an agenda based on religious beliefs onto their customers through clothing printed with phrases like ‘Jesus Loves You’ alongside famous bible verse annotations like John 3:16. They were also highly criticized for selling a girl’s shirt printed with the phrase ‘Allergic to Algebra’. Whoever is in charge of designing new clothing items at Forever 21 needs to pay more attention to social trends instead of creating clothing for children that only reinforces horrible stereotypes.
This time around, Forever 21 created an entire line of inappropriate t-shirts for boys. Many parents argue that the phrases, like ‘Don’t say maybe if you want to say no’, not only serve to create a larger rift of gender equality, but also reinforce rape culture. For those of you who haven’t heard of rape culture, it is essentially the idea that the dynamic between men and women promotes the ideas of rape without directly praising rape itself. In other words, in rape culture, it is perfectly acceptable to shame a women for drinking or having fun, which then puts her in a position to be assaulted, molested, or raped by someone. You’ll notice this shifts the blame away from the actual criminal, who is often a white male trying to avoid jail time by painting his victim as a willing participant.
The outrage from the parents in this case is extremely rightful. Forever 21 has no business perpetuating rape culture through their product line. Their recent line of printed t-shirts for boys included some truly shocking examples of misogyny, including one shirt with the phrase ‘Sorry ladies, I only date models’. The ad for the shirt features a young boy around the age of ten sporting the shirt. Such ideology transposed to a forming mind at a young age will only serve to reinforce negative ideologies down the road. These shirts do nothing but teach young boys that women are nothing more than objects to be collected and admired.
Yet another example from the recent product line is a shirt printed with the phrase ‘Chicks are all over me’. The rest of the shirt is printed with actual baby chickens, which portrays a double entendre of the phrase. The child model wearing the shirt in question is, again, around the age of ten, which prompts one to ask why such a hyper-sexualized slogan would be allowed on a child’s shirt. These shirts would serve to paint younger and younger children with the brush of adulthood, as if they could understand or appreciate the depth of meaning behind what they are wearing.
Children learn by example, and creating an example for them to follow is paramount for well-adjusted individuals. Forever 21 has since apologized for this product line and removed it from their inventory, but the very fact that they thought they could get away with it in the first place is an appalling example of how rape culture still dictates a lot of what our younger generations experience. The only way to stop rape culture is to teach the next generation how to properly relate to each other, regardless of gender.