Thursday, January 19, 2012

Update: My Girlfriend, Your Girlfriend T-Shirts

There's been a lot of talk about the pornification of society and the hyper-sexualization of women in recent years.  Some t-shirts that caught my eye last Christmas at Camden Market in London raise interesting questions about pornified and hyper-sexualized images of women:

Walking through the market, I saw (repeated in several shops, as are all items at Camden) a couple of new lows in the 'funny' t-shirts department. I didn't have a camera with me, but had no trouble pulling up google images from online retailers.

First, life's "priorities":

Then, "your girlfriend, my girlfriend":

The sexism speaks for itself.  But what I found really curious was that when I went to google these, to my surprise, I found quite different versions available.  The "life's priorities" shirt above is apparently a parody of a popular line of inoffensive t-shirts in which the second panel features various sports (football, karate, weightlifting, etc- still all "manly" sports but that's another story).  The "your girlfriend, my girlfriend" shirt comes with a variety of sexualized stick figure women in the "my girlfriend" panel, but in positions comparatively less demeaning than the one pictured here and on sale in Camden.

For example, less of the sexy hair and no high heels (though perhaps this one is equally demeaning):



I find this very interesting indeed.  While I obviously have no way of determining the sequencing, my guess is that the more offensive t-shirts are newer, representing an evolution in pornification, hyper-sexualization, and just plain old sexism.  Indeed, when I googled "your girlfriend my girlfriend t-shirt" again today to update this post, these two popped up (right at the top of the results):

Neither of these showed up in Google images when I googled last year.  It will be very interesting to find out if they are on sale in Camden now.

The other interesting, and utterly depressing, fact is that the inoffensive "priorities" t-shirt and the (slightly) less extremely offensive/demeaning "girlfriend" t-shirts were not on offer in Camden.  Are the vendors creating or responding to demand for more extreme sexualized degradation of women?  Probably the latter- stocking what sells.  Either way, these are grim signs for the full equality and respect of women.

What do you think?  Has pornography influenced the types of images making it into the mainstream?  How would you feel if you passed a man wearing the bukkake t-shirt above? (This actually happened to me a few months ago, though it was a different bukkake t-shirt.  I felt really angry.)  Do you think my guess is right- that the t-shirts are getting more sexually degrading and that the less offensive t-shirts are old school?


  1. What I want to know is why anyone would want a girlfriend that is either a) so small she can fit in a martini glass, b) lives in a giant martini glass or c) is so drunk all the time she is metaphorically living in a martini glass. I mean, alcoholics aren't really that fun. Ferserious!

    As to pornification, yep, it's around, it's getting worse. What's entertaining is that t-shirts like this are primarily marketed to, and worn by, the ugly-unsuccessful-nerd male demographic. The handsome successful types are busy wearing button-downs and power suits. And, it goes a long way toward making ugly, unsuccessful nerd males think they are too good for ugly, unsuccessful nerd females.

    1. While I generally agree with you and understand the point your are making, I suggest that using the term "ugly-unsuccessful-nerd male," while not pornification, is also demeaning. To an extent, a person has little control over his/her physical appearance (beyond grooming and makeup), and what a particular culture considers beautiful/ugly shifts over time. Also, there are multiple metrics to determine what is considered "success" - wealth, positive impact on society, health, happiness, etc. Finally, what's wrong with being a nerd? In my opinion, intellect is a great thing, and it seems to me that the demographic of "nerd culture" is ever increasing.

      Again, I understand your point, but I caution against stereotyping and demeaning others to make it.

  2. Hi Sarah! You're funny. And so right.

    Also, I'm glad you commented because I remember stumbling upon your blog once and really liking it (I think it was a post about Wal-Mart) and then I lost it, so it's good to find it again.

  3. The true irony is that most of the guys that would west these shirts in seriousness will likely never have a girlfriend or will be incapable of having one for long.

  4. Does it matter that there are also "your boyfriend / my boyfriend" tee shirts?

    What about the lyrics
    "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard,
    And they're like
    It's better than yours,
    Damn right it's better than yours,
    I can teach you,
    But I have to charge"

    Is that O.K. because the sexuality is empowering? Does it matter that the song was written by a couple of guys?

  5. First Anon- True.

    Second Anon- I don't even understand what those lyrics mean, so I can't really given an opinion. As to the boyfriend t-shirts- interestingly, I've never seen them. I googled them just now and indeed they do exist. They are also demeaning, reinforce unhealthy gender stereotypes, and reflect the aggressive masculinization of heterosexuality.

    As to empowerment, I think any kind of "empowering" sexuality is in pretty short supply these days. If you're trying to catch me in a funfeminist trap, you're barking up the wrong blog.


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