Absolute sluts, angels, and hotties... Kids today!
June 10, 2001 11:31 PM   Subscribe

Absolute sluts, angels, and hotties... Kids today! Parents are returning girls' shirts with slogans like "stripper" written in the most scandalous of places. Are parents being prudish, misunderstanding the irony the kids intend? Or should teenagers put more thought into the words they wear?
posted by drezdn (23 comments total)
The long running underground clothing meme of 'Irony' fashion hits the mainstream, the average age of the wearer drops and the backlash begins. This helps sales go exponential, saturation occurs and the trend recedes. The whole phenomenon is later catalogued in an arty coffee table book, the beancounters are happy and the chattering classes never realise what really went on.

So long as no small designer labels get sued out of existence, no bother. It's a shame that some kids will have their heads screwed with by clueless 'grownups' over this, though.
posted by southisup at 12:35 AM on June 11, 2001

Kids never take these things the way adults do. All that repression and paranoia takes years to develop.
Generally, kids just see a funny ironic statement.
posted by dong_resin at 12:43 AM on June 11, 2001

The more I look at this, the more it looks like the Onion.
Area Clothes Store Sells Shirts
Hot Topic ... had 200 shirts ... on display two weeks ago. Currently, the store's inventory is closer to 12.
Employees say the shirts sell mostly to females, anywhere from 12 to 22 years old.
Clothes shop sells 188 shirts in two weeks, mostly to girls.

Milwaukee must be an incredibly dull place if this is news.
Sharon Lamb, a psychology professor at St. Michael's College in Colchester, Vt., and author of "The Secret Lives of Girls," said she views the T-shirt trend as a positive sign of girls finally getting past societal burdens of what they are supposed to be.
Right. After all, girls have never used the implied promise that they will put out to get social advantage before. This is a completely new thing.

Or possibly it's part of the continuing packaging and commodification of teenage girls' own solipsism. A very cursory reading on Ms Lamb suggests that that might have been her stock response regarding anything that young girls do that raise parental opprobrium.

Irony, similarly, is not a very useful term here, simply because (like such other homes of "irony" as FHM or Loaded), it's not actually that ironic. The messages ""Camp Sekseewon" or "Boys are great . . . every girl should own one" or "I love ME" on a teenage girl are not subverted in any way - that's exactly the sort of thing one might expect. In order to become ironic they need to be placed next to another signifier which qualifies, opposes or otherwise subverts the "statement" they are making.

However a t-shirt with (for example) quotations from modern philosophers (How about "The world is everything that is the case" in spangly letters) would be ironic, but unlikely to attract such consumer attention.

(c.f. if you can the merchandising that was advertised in Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "Welcome to the Pleasuredome" album, including the sophisticated Charles Baudelaire sweat shirt, the Jean Genet boxer shorts and the Edith Sitwell bag for life's little luxuries).
posted by Grangousier at 1:11 AM on June 11, 2001

These designs started to gain popularity in the underground party scene of the early nineties, where there was, early on at least, a qualifier present. These parties took place in an almost entirely alcohol-free, non meat-market atmosphere, and those wearing such phrases were usually polar opposites of the stereotype portrayed. Ugly blokes like me wearing 'Playa', or girls who wouldn't put out for a place on the guest list, wearing 'Whore'.
That's where the irony was.
posted by southisup at 1:33 AM on June 11, 2001

I'm with Gran on this, I just doubt that 10-12 year old girls are really all that aware on what irony even is. They wear 'princess' and really believe it. Not that there's anything wrong with that, have them wear what they want, the 'absolute slut' shirts aren't going to be allowed in schools anyway and that's about it.
posted by tiaka at 5:17 AM on June 11, 2001

You'd be surprised how much a 12 year old knows about irony, and I guess I do see a thirteen year old wearing a "property of Playboy" t-shirt to math class as somewhat ironic.

When I used to teach SAT classes, I used to make t-shirts with vocabulary words [like opprobrium for example] on them figuring that the one thing you can count on a sixteen year old boy to do is look at your chest. Though my favorite t-shirt is the white one I have that just says "lonely" on it that I make a point of wearing every Valentine's Day, mainly to get under people's skin.
posted by jessamyn at 5:35 AM on June 11, 2001

I just read Reviving Ophelia, damnit, so I should comment...

Insert rant about sexual objectification of adolescent girls here. How was that?

And while the girls may like the irony, I can almost guarantee that a 13-year-old boy in full hormonal madness doesn't.

On a tangent, that "Lady Marmalade" video with Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Pink and whoever else is a bit much. Oy.
posted by solistrato at 6:51 AM on June 11, 2001

Kids never take these things the way adults do. All that repression and paranoia takes years to develop.


I was sent home from high school for wearing a Simpson's t-shirt with Bart exclaiming, "Underachiever - and proud of it, man!" Adults just have a hard time believing kids can think for themselves. If your child becomes a slut because she's wearing a t-shirt that says it, there's a problem with the parents, not the shirt.
posted by goto11 at 7:13 AM on June 11, 2001

If your child becomes a slut because she's wearing a t-shirt that says it, there's a problem with the parents, not the shirt.

It's not that the shirt will turn the girl into a slut. It's the concern that the 13-year-old girl may not fully realize what kinds of messages she's inadvertently sending to boys and men.
posted by straight at 7:59 AM on June 11, 2001

The boys and men that see the girl wearing the shirt will get the message by the actions the girl takes, not the words on her shirt.

If someone walks into the Sizzler wearing a shirt that says "Absolute Vegetarian", it is seen as amusing and ironic. A good girl wearing the Slut shirt will be seen the same way.

Personally, I think they're wearing the shirts because they are empowering. They're saying something they shouldn't be saying. It's been going on forever in one form or another. I really think even 13 year old kids are savvy enough to know a joke when they see one.
posted by goto11 at 8:18 AM on June 11, 2001

The boys and men that see the girl wearing the shirt will get the message by the actions the girl takes, not the words on her shirt.

Wearing the shirt is an action. And unlike the very neat vegetarian in the Sizzler example, it's not nearly as easy to determine a "good girl" in an instant in a school environment as it is to pick out a faux-vegetarian in a steakhouse. When the message doesn't speak to a condition that you can show immediately, it makes an immediate impression that will take some time to undo. If you proclaim yourself a slut, you're going to be thought of (at least subconsciously) by some to be a slut until you prove otherwise.
posted by Dreama at 8:48 AM on June 11, 2001

I don't see a 13-year-old wearing a shirt that says "slut" as ironic; I see it simply as a way to push boundaries. and, based on my remembrance of jr high/high school, I'd say that a reasonably popular girl wearing such a shirt may send a bit of the wrong message to her male classmates, and an unpopular girl is just going to send her popularity soaring further downward, since the boys won't see "irony" but "yeah, right, you wish".
posted by rebeccablood at 8:51 AM on June 11, 2001

Kames said she wears the clothes because they are comfortable, not to make any statements about sexuality.

Haha...if I was her mom and read that, I would only let her buy clothes from Wal-Mart. "No more designer threads for you, honey!"
posted by jennak at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2001

This just in: Teenagers Irritate and Alarm Adults!

A very special memory: my grandmother, who died just a couple of months ago, took me clothing shopping when I was just starting high school. Remember Dr. Zog's Sex Wax t-shirts? She bought me one. My grandmother. "You kids," she said, "you won't sit still, will you?" And bought it for me.

I think she understood.
posted by Skot at 10:09 AM on June 11, 2001

Well I've got one of those shirts it say's


I am not sure why I purchased it but I love it. When I wear it I tend to get funny looks. Not many comments though. When I first saw the shirt it made me smile. I had never seen anything like it before. It feels empowering...
I know its just a shirt...but it's my shirt :)

I think its a wonderful way to express stereo-types. As a young girl words like slut, whore, etc.....Can be very painful. These shirts help take away the power of such harsh words.........Just a thought
posted by Wicker at 11:07 AM on June 11, 2001

Are any of you besides me the mother of teenage girls?

Under no circumstances would they be wearing those shirts.

Besides, isn't there a law against false advertising? ;-)
posted by bunnyfire at 1:39 PM on June 11, 2001

If you proclaim yourself a slut, you're going to be thought of (at least subconsciously) by some to be a slut until you prove otherwise.

Only by the type of person best ignored anyway - it could prove a useful way of identifying clueless and narrow minded individuals, thus saving the kid time which is better spent with open minded, switched on people.
posted by southisup at 12:18 AM on June 12, 2001

Completely unrepresentative straw poll: who here wears those T-shirts? I'm afraid I've got to come out as a 'no' since I got terribly irritated going along Oxford Street last week and realising that this summer it's almost impossible to buy a nice little black T-shirt which doesn't have:
The number '69' on it
Handprints printed on the chest
Or 'Slut' written all over it (sometimes literally, sometimes not).

I suspect I'm in a minority, but I don't really see the attraction of walking along advertising that you're a Playboy bunny.
posted by CatherineB at 8:54 AM on June 12, 2001

Why is it clueless, narrow-minded, and switched off to think "maybe that person isn't of high moral fiber" when they're wearing a shirt that reads "slut?" What is a shirt like that supposed to say to people?

I just don't understand fashion.
posted by OneBallJay at 9:21 AM on June 12, 2001

What is a shirt like that supposed to say to people?

It's intended to be ironic. If one were a slut, one would certainly not wear a shirt to proclaim it. Therefore, if you're wearing such a shirt, it is to draw attention to your postmodern sensibility, not to your sexual habits.

It could of course also be taken as a protest against sexual double standards, i.e., "I love sex and I'm not ashamed of that any more than a man would be, and I refuse to think of 'slut' as a negative word." But I doubt that's the primary motivation. We're talking about kids, after all.
posted by kindall at 11:04 AM on June 12, 2001

In fact, if you follow Chip Morningstar's technique and deconstruct the shirt (sorry -- I mean, have the shirt deconstruct itself), you will find that the shirt actually raises doubts in the mind of the reader that the wearer is really a slut, just as Morningstar demonstrates that the text "John F. Kennedy was not a homosexual" raises doubts that he might have been. ;)
posted by kindall at 11:13 AM on June 12, 2001

That's the sort of thing that gives postmodernism a bad name.
posted by CatherineB at 12:24 PM on June 13, 2001

I think Solomon said it best : "Like a gold ring in a pig's snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion".
posted by ideola at 11:39 AM on June 15, 2001

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