Lesson for Girls: Pretty and Smart are Not Mutually Exclusive

September 2, 2011

in Parenting, While Perched upon my Soapbox

It’s 2011. Women run for offices as high as President of the United States. Women run Fortune 500 companies. Women are Supreme Court Justices.

It is sad, with the various important contributions that women make in society, to recognize there is still a mentality to hold girls back from achieving all they can be academically and professionally. In 2011 girls are still being sent the message that pretty is more important than smart . There needs to be a shift in society to stop conveying to girls that pretty and smart are mutually exclusive. It needs to happen now.

For those who believe we are in a better place than I describe with regard to raising our girls with positive thoughts of no glass ceilings, read the following t-shirt messages being marketed to girls this fall:

“I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”

“Future trophy wife.”

“I’m too pretty to do math.”

J.C. Penney, the retailer selling these shirts, had the following description on their website:

“Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out? She”ll love this tee that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.”

Only after customer complaints were being received did J.C. Penney decide these shirts would not be appropriate to sell this fall. J.C. Penney issued the following statement after pulling the shirts from their website:

“J.C. Penney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. 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 our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.”

Really? J.C. Penney is sorry it offended and could possibly turn off customers. If they had sold well without complaint there would have been no thought of the inappropriate message being conveyed to children (girls and boys alike). That is really what the retailer is sorry about regarding the offensive shirts.

What upsets me is the thought of a manufacturer thinking these shirt designs were a good idea. It frustrates me that a retailer thought it would be a great back-to-school shirt for girls. And, what would really anger me, is if  I learned even one parent purchased a shirt.

We all have a responsibility to instill in girls the thought that it is cool to be smart. We owe it to this generation of girls to make sure they don’t bump against a glass ceiling when they are working professionals. And, equally important, we have an obligation to our children to teach the greatest beauty is that which radiates from within.

Knowing this was the focus of my writing today, I decided the singer Pink would be great for Song of the Week this week. Enjoy “Raise Your Glass.”

Let’s encourage girls to raise their glass for “being wrong in the right way.”

Celebrate the beauty of individuality this weekend.

Happy Friday!



Vinny C September 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

When I read about these I was just as shocked as you are. My wife & I will be raising any future daughter(s) we have to have the sense to laugh at how stupid things like those are.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Of course I expected this from you, my partner in crime at SI! Glad you won’t be perpetuating backwards thinking for girls.

NotJustAnotherJennifer September 2, 2011 at 12:59 pm

Great article. I had the same thought. Also, what are they trying to say? Pretty girls are dumb? Smart girls are ugly? Pretty girls can be more manipulative than smart girls? All of the above? So lame on so many fronts. I’m truly shocked that no one thought that during their buying/merchandising process.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 4, 2011 at 2:59 pm


It is really shocking the shirts made it all the way through to a retailer. I do wonder how many decision makers agreed this was a good idea in the process. Sadly, just like racism, sexisim is alive and well too.

Roxanne September 2, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I have daughters. I would never purchase these. I don’t think my daughters would ever want them. There will often be things like this manufactured, though. As parents and humans (regardless of whether we have procreated) we should speak out against them — to anyone within earshot. It’s hard to be a girl. Things are accepted that shouldn’t be. Imagine a T-Shirt that said, I’m too athletic to do math (perhaps on an African-American boy) could you imagine? Or I’m too smart to play sports (perhaps on an Asian kid). Geesh.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

You raise very good points Roxanne. Thanks for reading and sharing.

Lance September 2, 2011 at 1:47 pm

JC Penney should addd a t-shirt line that says “I’m too pretty and smart to work retail”
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

My first funny comment on this piece and of course it is from you Lance!

Paige Worthy September 2, 2011 at 7:32 pm

I was…so horrified. Great post. Though I’m not sure that Pink song really gets to the crux of this issue…maybe her song “F*ckin’ Perfect” would be better?
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 2, 2011 at 8:17 pm


It’s so funny you mentioned “F*ckin’ Perfect” because I almost went with that song. I am totally serious. How funny. Thank you for reading and commenting.

Tatter Scoops September 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Wow! Yeah, I agree that if no one make any noises about this they’d still be selling them!
PS: I heart Pink’s song :)
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I am glad you enjoyed the post and song too!

Helen - Crumbs & Pegs September 3, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Geez, those slogans are awful. What were the designers thinking? I want my daughter to grow up with self-esteem but not based only on looks. I’m teaching her the mantra “I’m clever and beautiful”. Okay so maybe not 100% PC but I hope she’s proud of both and can use both to her advantage! It’s a sad fault in society that self-esteem and confidence are based so much around appearance and feeling you have to fit into a media perpetuated idea of what is beautiful.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 4, 2011 at 3:03 pm

I discuss physical appearance with my boy and girl the same way. One thing I say to both of them is that inner beauty is most important. I also stress being kind is more important than pretty/handsome.

A few of the ugliest people I have met in my life were physically beautiful.

Heather O. September 4, 2011 at 3:27 am

Oh wow… that is just horrible! What in the world was going through the minds of whoever approved that line of clothing? I would never in a million years buy such trash for my daughters… I don’t even want them to *see* messages like that. It’s just astounding.
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Naked Girl in a Dress September 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm

I don’t want my children to see those messages either.

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