More and more, girls are being encouraged to explore their interests in science fiction, superheroes, and adventure stories — but tell that to licensors and clothing retailers.
Yup, although things have gotten much better lately thanks to geek girl-friendly companies like We Love Fine and Her Universe, every once in a while you still find a shirt at your local Target with an outdated saying on it like "Luke Skywalker is my boyfriend" or "future Mrs. Superman" on them — and it's always aggravating. Here are some of the worst offenders we've seen:
"Batgirl's To-Do List"
On Tuesday (August 30), customers of Target Australia's website expressed their disapproval of this shirt, which depicts an imagined to-do list for Batgirl — including a myriad of household chores that the girl must do before she gets to save the world, such as washing the Batmobile and dry-cleaning her own cape.
Target has already removed the shirt and apologized at the request of frustrated parents, but it's upsetting that the shirt was even approved for retail in the first place, and not just because it indirectly buys into the gender stereotypes about women and housework. It's also because this list basically puts Alfred Pennyworth out of a job. The Bat Family has people for this sort of thing, you see.
"Training To Be Batman's Wife"
Back in October 2014, parents were outraged by this shirt that suggested, however indirectly, that the highest achievement a young girl in the junior's T-shirt department of Walmart could aspire to was becoming the wife of a superhero. Nevermind that Bruce Wayne has a terrible romantic track record and would probably not be a very good husband — how do you even train to be a wife?
My favorite part of the backlash against this shirt was when I had a few naysayers argue with me that if someone designed a shirt saying 'Training to be Batwoman's husband,' all of us hypocritical feminists would be fine with it. Uh, no, we wouldn't, because Batwoman is a lesbian.
"Superman Does It Again!"
For a few years, Superman and Wonder Woman were in a relationship and had their own comic book together. This shirt depicts some iconic art from that comic series— only it erases the lasso that Wonder Woman has wrapped around Superman (see how awkward her fist looks?) and instead adds some terrible text over the two of them about how Superman "does it again." Hey man, "it" has a name.
The backlash against this shirt, as well as the above Batman's wife shirt, got so bad that DC Comics had to issue an apology. Serves them right for working with companies that make bad decisions like this.
"I Only Date Heroes"
This image of a Target display went viral after a university professor posted it online in October 2014. Not only is the dichotomy between the two products disheartening — the shirt for boys depicts him as a hero while the shirt for girls depicts her as dating heroes — but it's also especially gross because these outfits are designed for BABIES. Hey, let's focus on object permanence first before you decide what type of people your infant daughter should be dating.
"I Need A Hero"
Listen, fam, I am all for any references you can make to Bonnie Tyler's infamous anthem "Holding Out For A Hero." But this juniors' section T-shirt is a bit much — and why does the male version of this design say "BE a Hero," as The Stir pointed out back in 2013?
"Most Likely To Be Rescued"
A yearbook superlative page for "Star Wars" characters is a cute idea, but this Target shirt from 2015 misses the mark completely when it gives Princess Leia the title of "Most Likely To Be Rescued." Really, bros? When you had "Most Likely To Save Our Skins" (which is a line from the actual movie, by the way) right there? Frankly, I'm more disappointed by the lack of creativity than the sexist damsel-in-distress trope this shirt evokes.
"Now, Now, Boys..."
This shirt, which geek blogger Amy Ratcliffe discovered out in the wild two years ago, sure is a whopper. It doesn't just demean girls by suggesting they are meant to be fought over, but it demeans boys by saying that they should be fighting over women. Don't the Avengers have an entire world to save or a superhero to defeat? Maybe they shouldn't be clamoring over themselves to win the heart of a 12-year-old girl, is my point.
"I Only Kiss Heroes"
This shirt was part of a line that was so reviled it inspired a petition against Disney and Marvel in 2013 — one, yet again, in which girls were encouraged to date heroes and boys were inspired to be heroes.
"I Brought The Dark Side"
This shirt from the boy's section of Target depicts Darth Vader schooling his son on the merits of the Dark Side. The problem? The image is a still from the first "Star Wars" movie — and as you can see, Princess Leia is supposed to be in that shot. The designer of this shirt literally Photoshopped Leia out of one of her most iconic scenes to throw Luke Skywalker in there instead.
"I Love Boys In Uniform"
This garment, which CBS highlighted in their coverage of the backlash against sexist superhero shirts back in 2014, isn't even accurate. Technically only one of these three is a boy — and he only has eyes for Batman.
"I Like My Fangirls Like I Like My Coffee..."
Believe it or not, this was a shirt you could actually buy at a booth at Wondercon in Spring 2014. Comic book writer Greg Rucka even wrote a lengthy rant about the shirt's designer saying that the "GURLS STAY OUT" vibe of it harms people like his daughter, wife, friends, fans, and female colleagues in the industry, The company's response...may have missed the point.