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Wife Beater T-Shirts: Misogyny or Comedy?
March 20, 2002 6:19 AM   Subscribe

Wife Beater T-Shirts: Misogyny or Comedy? It refers to this USA TODAY article. And the site is Wife-Beaters.com which states,
""Bonus Beater" *Convicted Wife Beaters ONLY* Buy One "Wife Beater" T-Shirt and get the second One HALF-PRICE!!!"
posted by jacobw (33 comments total)

 
I'm disturbed by this. I don't find it funny. And I think the only way to stop the site is to prove that the t-shirts cause and/or promote domestic abuse. How sad.
posted by jacobw at 6:20 AM on March 20, 2002


And I think the only way to stop the site is to prove that the t-shirts cause and/or promote domestic abuse.

Good luck. Do you really think that you can demonstrate a link between clothing and criminal behavior? I'm thinking that generally the people who abuse their spouses aren't looking to advertise the fact.

I don't think it's funny either, but the kind of people who would buy the shirts are much more likely to be clueless than abusive. The appropriate reaction to this guy is a yawn.
posted by anapestic at 6:31 AM on March 20, 2002


Since when is a wife-beater a t-shirt? To me that's a tank-top or, trading one offense for another, a guinea-tee (in New Jersey slang, anyway).
posted by NortonDC at 6:33 AM on March 20, 2002


I'm just thankful for the description of the links, so I knew not to click on them. NEXT!
posted by ZachsMind at 6:34 AM on March 20, 2002


Novelty Handicap Parking Permit?

When I was last visiting the US of A, I heard, for the first time, the "wife-beater" moniker in reference to a T-shirt. I did not know you could have it printed on a sleeveless T, a.k.a. tank top. Another example of useless labeling...
posted by Dick Paris at 6:52 AM on March 20, 2002


Is the slang really due to "Cops"? I didn't know it was that recent an addition to the language.

Mostly I just don't really see what the joke is. It just seems stupid. But as above, it can't be causally linked so best to simply ignore. Though perhaps worth pointing out that a similar jokey site about e.g. lynching would prob. not be tolerated.
posted by mdn at 6:52 AM on March 20, 2002


From the second link: "
Doolin's also pleased about [some] of the free publicity. He wishes, however, that more places such as MTV, which caters to his intended college-age audience, would pick it up.

This man is so cavalier and upfront about his avarice that it's mind-boggling. He ignores or scorns anyone who doesn't love his "humorous" idea, and keeps on plugging away for more publicity and sales. Of course, he wouldn't have much of a business if no one was ordering the shirts, hmm?

I wonder how many orders he's going to get today.
posted by iconomy at 7:07 AM on March 20, 2002


MetaFilter: Humorless Pseudo-Intellectuals It's OK To Hate
posted by quonsar at 7:07 AM on March 20, 2002


I'm disturbed by this. I don't find it funny. And I think the only way to stop the site is to prove that the t-shirts cause and/or promote domestic abuse.

I'm disturbed by this. I don't find it funny. But I don't want to "stop the site".

Quonsar: Flame-Baiting Anti-Intellectual It's Easy To Hate
posted by jpoulos at 7:16 AM on March 20, 2002


The "wife-beater" is my standard undershirt, going on twenty years now. I'd always called it an "A-shirt" (as opposed to "T-shirt"), and still call them that, though the young store clerks where I buy them often have no clue what I'm talking about.

Finally someone will say "You mean a wife-beater, right?" And then I sigh. I understand it's supposed to be an ironic 90's in-joke ("Ha-ha. I'm all white trash, see? I wear a wife-beater. Ha-ha.") but I've always been repelled by the slang, especially the way people toss it out like domestic violence has been extinct for a century.
posted by rocketman at 7:16 AM on March 20, 2002


Dammit.

Due to server time outs an my idiocy, that was my unedited comment got posted. It should have read:

I'm disturbed by this. I don't find it funny. But I don't want to "stop the site", as I happen to support the First Amendment.

Quonsar: Flame-Baiting Anti-Intellectual Who Never Actually Has A Point
posted by jpoulos at 7:17 AM on March 20, 2002


mdn - actually, from what I understand, the slang came from Marlon Brando's portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in "A Streetcar Named Desire". He wore a tank top and beat his wife. Hence, wife-beater.
posted by starvingartist at 7:17 AM on March 20, 2002


As for the question "Misogyny or Comedy?" I say it's neither. The shirt isn't inherently funny or misogynistic. It's just an undershirt.
posted by rocketman at 7:20 AM on March 20, 2002


jpoulus,

It was better the first way.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:22 AM on March 20, 2002


Aw, c'mon, jpoulos, don't be so hard on quonsar. He's still upset because that 740-pound woman thread got deleted. People lash out when they're hurt, you know.

And rocketman, I think it ceased to be an ironic 90s joke some time ago. People now use the term without any thought of its original meaning, don't they? It's become a cliche. At least, I've heard many people use it without a smirk of any sort. I can see how it wouldn't be fun to ask for in a store, though. Try online ordering.
posted by anapestic at 7:26 AM on March 20, 2002


This wife-beater T-shirt reminds me of an experience I had a while back: I saw a teenage boy in my suburban Texas neighborhood with the bumper sticker on the back of his pickup: "Cowboy Foreplay: Get in the back of the truck, b**ch!"

I was completely shocked for a number of reasons: 1.) obviously, the violence indicated by the phrase, 2.) I can't imagine what kind of family allows their teenage son to have a bumper sticker like that (granted, I have no idea whether this boy even lives with his parents), and 3.) I grew up in the country here in Texas; to me, being a cowboy means a having completely opposite attitude towards women: old Southern respect type of thing.

Am I just old fashioned?
posted by tippiedog at 7:27 AM on March 20, 2002


I have to give him credit, the Hall of Fame is pretty funny.

But why the hell is he selling this or this? He just sounds like an ex-con to me.
posted by insomnyuk at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2002


jpoulos-Quonsar: Flame-Baiting Anti-Intellectual Who Never Actually Has A Point

please allow me to begin the applause...*clap*clap*clap
posted by jonmc at 7:40 AM on March 20, 2002


The term wife-beater pre-dates Cops. I used to hear the term back in the mid-80s in Texas. I think it may have originated in Dallas.
posted by DragonBoy at 7:54 AM on March 20, 2002


To be honest, I thought all the guys that get arrested on Cops had no shirt on at all, but I'm not a regular viewer. I do my best to avoid those types, myself. That includes any merchandise that glorifies them, as well. But hey, that's me.
posted by tommasz at 8:16 AM on March 20, 2002


I used to be a part of a youth group in high school. Like every youth group, we made t-shirts, lots of them and sold them at conventions and the like for $10.

Then somebody decided to make 'wife beaters'. They sold for $8 I think. But the flyers saying 'Buy your Club wife beater for $8' raised the ire of the staff.

So they became 'Buy your spousal abuser shirts for $8'.

Nothing like high school equal opportunity snarkiness.
posted by zpousman at 8:23 AM on March 20, 2002


Idiot self-identification! Now this is a concept that can be put to good, everyday use for identifying people to avoid and take advantage of. Free speech may produce some ugliness, but it also tends to show us what we need to know about people.
posted by holycola at 8:58 AM on March 20, 2002


Oh get over yourselves, it is kinda funny, not inherently but the presentation of the site certainly warrants a chuckle, and you can get off your high horses claiming it's promoting abuse of women, baloney my friends, if I wasn't the type of person to beat up women before I donned said t-shirt I sure as hell aint gonna become one after, and I doubt anyone that's predisposed to such a thing would wait till they took delivery of a fresh clean wife beater before getting down to business. If you don't like it ignore it and watch it sink into obscurity.
posted by zeoslap at 9:13 AM on March 20, 2002


My friends and I like to call 'em "Wife Pleasers," but that's just me.
posted by SuperGoat at 9:16 AM on March 20, 2002


To be honest, I thought all the guys that get arrested on Cops had no shirt on at all, but I'm not a regular viewer.

No, the rule is, if the guy's not wearing a shirt, the cops are going to have to wrestle him to the floor. I think they must edit out any incidents where this doesn't happen.
posted by straight at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2002


'Anti-Intellectual' implies the presence of intellect. don't flatter yourselves.
posted by quonsar at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2002


I'm not saying I'm going to stop it. I also support the first amendment. I was just pointing out that the way to stop it would be to find a link between the shirts and the behavior. This would be rather difficult to prove. Yet, feminists want the site stopped.

I realize we're giving him free publicity, but I also think the links warranted discussion.

And my being disturbed by the site doesn't mean I don't find the presentation of the site somewhat amusing.
posted by jacobw at 9:54 AM on March 20, 2002


But why the hell is he selling this or this?

Bullseye target marketing?
posted by HTuttle at 11:27 AM on March 20, 2002


I was just pointing out that the way to stop it would be to find a link between the shirts and the behavior

The whole jist of the site 'joke' is that the term here does NOT mean spouse abuser but is merely the name of a piece of clothing, or so it has become. The double entendre is a play on a socially unaceptable behavior with slang for a piece of harmless clothing.

Sort of like a shirt saying 'Smoke Fags' and selling it in UK.
posted by HTuttle at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2002


The site has been around for years. The USA Today article referenced is from April of last year. People have been getting cranky about the site since it went up.

I've heard that style of shirt referred to as "wife beaters" for as long as I can remember. As fashion goes, they are a big sleeveless stop sign for any woman of diserning taste. :) All that being said, I still think it's a creepy site. And I don't get the change your ID and 'novelty' handicapped tags either...
posted by dejah420 at 12:48 PM on March 20, 2002


Sorry, jacobw. I didn't mean to imply that you opposed free speech.
posted by jpoulos at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2002


This site must be destoyed...NOW.

Not for the content, mind you... but it plays *music* when you open it! Loud, annoying music.
posted by CrayDrygu at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2002


I understand why some people think it might be funny. Those that do don't seriously care about the reasons why it's not. Their priority lies more toward aspiring to a white trash aesthetic.

When I read the original NYT article I was relieved to find that someone agreed.

I heard the term for the first time in 1996 in Minneapolis from a 21 year old from New York. It seems it was an acceptable albeit regionally limited term until that time. I doubt those that age were using it openly among older adults. The NYT article, reposted here, delineates the use of the word by those below 25 years of age.

Language is a virus.
posted by yonderboy at 8:31 AM on March 21, 2002


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