Today in selling misogyny…

Via (read ahead before clicking through) Melinda Tankard Reist, via @The_Ausmerican, Australian men’s fashion company Roger David are selling some rather horrific and misogynistic t-shirts. The information I’ve found has been unclear, but these appear to be available through a line, or in association with a label, called “Blood is the New Black”.

I’m not going to show you what the t-shirts look like on here, you can click through to Melinda Tankard Reist’s site if you want to do that. I’ll briefly describe them, though, so if you’re not inclined to hear about it, skip ahead to the next paragraph. The Annie Hollywood t-shirt features a gagged woman; the text on the gag reads ‘Hollywood’. She looks tired and bleak and defeated. The second t-shirt features, in black and white, two women posing in their underwear. One is grabbing her crotch, the other her bare breasts. There is one large black strip placed over both their eyes, as though obscuring (in this case, forcing them out of) their identities. Both t-shirts are quite jolting.

Every time I see something like this, I wonder how anyone can stomach putting such products on the market. They are putting women’s images and women’s experiences of violence, abuse and objectification up for sale. As though it’s stylish. I think about the large number of people who must have had to design and approve these t-shirts. I think about how a marketing team must have seen fit to send them out to the general public, because they knew lots of people would buy them. The thing is, these are not abstract fashion statements. They’re statements about how it’s acceptable to harm women.

The horror of this is in more than just the commodification of violence against women. It’s not just about the buying and selling of images, symbols of women’s oppression. It’s about the survivors of violence having to endure these t-shirts being thrust in their faces when they walk down the street, at a party, going about their everyday lives. The horror in this is in forcing on these women reminders of their assaults and that their experiences and feelings are just fine to use and make a profit from, so void of emotional hardship as to be suitable fodder for an up-market fashion chain.

There is a contact form on Roger David’s (rather unnavigable, I’m afraid) website which you can use to let them know what you think. A warning: the first t-shirt features as you load the page. Curiously – though it may be the website design – I can’t seem to locate the second t-shirt on the website itself, and the first one only features in the page design rather than in the collection sections. However, it’s been my experience that a company will take offending products off a website and continue to sell them in stores, at least for a time; to the best of my knowledge, Roger David have yet to withdraw the t-shirts from stores. In any case, in addition to the contact form on the website, Roger David has a Facebook page, in case you wish to contact them through there. (It seems that the t-shirts were on the Facebook page and have been taken down.) Feel free to take wording from this post when you write to them.


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7 comments for “Today in selling misogyny…

  1. arielle
    January 21, 2010 at 5:11 pm

    thanks – i commented on his site. boo. :(

  2. January 21, 2010 at 6:03 pm

    A bunch more of you have clicked through to the pictures than they have to the website where you can contact Roger David. Come on folks, we can do this!

    Here’s a sample letter:

    To whom it may concern,

    I want to register my distress regarding two of your t-shirts. It’s pretty disturbing that you sell t-shirts featuring gagged and defeated looking women, or semi-naked and with their eyes blocked out. It’s dehumanising, it perpetuates the misogynistic, degrading and dehumanising imagery we see every day, and it’s incredibly insensitive to survivors of violence.

    Please remove these t-shirts from your stores and issue a public apology.

    Thank you, and hoping you take this extremely seriously,

    [sign]

    I wouldn’t worry too much about filling in some details, they’ve no way of telling if they’re, ah, accurate or not if you don’t put in your actual ones.

  3. haley
    January 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm

    On the positive side, these shirts will offer women the ability to immediately recognize men who are not worth any sort of relationship. Its like the owner’s of said shirts are branding themselves with scarlet letters: M, U, I. ie, misogynist, unintelligent, insecure.

  4. The Amazing Kim
    January 21, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    Hey – that picture of the two women is an album cover of Roxy Music! The original doesn’t have the censorship bar over their eyes. I bet Roger David doesn’t even have the copyright to that picture.

  5. Marle
    January 22, 2010 at 8:14 am

    That’s awesome you recognized that, Amazing Kim. The original is much less disturbing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country_Life_%28album%29

  6. January 22, 2010 at 7:57 pm

    If I saw someone wearing the “Rape/Surprise Sex” shirts, I would most likely hit them and yell “Surprise!” So it wouldn’t be assault, it would be a surprise “love tap.”

  7. January 23, 2010 at 12:39 am

    The first shirt is up on their facebook page with a note about how “Blood is the new black” gives artists the opportunity to promote their work on t-shirts (so I guess it was a competition or promotion of some kind?) and a vague invitation to debate.

    They’ve also included some words from the photographer, who, tbh, sounds like just the hipster-type that came to mind when I saw the image. What I mean is someone with the attitude that seems to drive that subculture; throwing people under the bus for shock-value and social status then denying privilege and dismissing people’s objections. EG: claiming your photo rails against the tyranny of hollywood beauty standards then letting a major fashion brand print it & profit from it by using sweatshop labour. :/

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