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Grotesquely sexist t-shirts selling at Spencer’s Gifts raise ire

Jordana Divon
Shine On
December 6, 2012

Spencer's Gifts, that fine North American mall repository of novelty items, has been shilling humorous t-shirts for decades to its main demographic of teenaged boys.

No joke appears off-limits on these $10 tees. Racist and sexist stereotypes, along with the boasting of one's sexual prowess, appear to be the bread and butter of the chain's online sales.

That's why a select crop of shirts singled out for their particularly egregious offensiveness has raised more than a few Internet eyebrows.

These t-shirts are so ludicrous in their misogyny that it's hard to believe they're real.

What would you think if you saw someone walking down the street in a shirt that read: "Twinkle, twinkle, little s**t, name one guy you haven't f****d"?

Or how about this classy little gem: "Do your parents know you're a whore?"

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And it's difficult to imagine a person who's ever been in a real-life relationship with another human rocking a tee that says: "When I want your opinion, I'll take my d**k out of your mouth."

Blowback from the online community has been swift and fierce ever since Buzzfeed aggregated a Top 20 list of the company's worst examples in this season's t-shirts.

Spencer's has been accused of perpetuating the basest of gender stereotypes and promoting the sort of hateful behaviour to which certain members of the population may be more susceptible.

"When we see disgusting sexism like this, it highlights the importance of active parenting and teaching our children to respect themselves and respect those around them. These t-shirts prove that we can't trust pop culture to help raise our children," writes Lindsay Cross of Mommyish.

"We need to be educating them about the dangers of 'humor' such as this. If you see your son come home with a t-shirt like this, here's your teachable moment. Here's when your son needs his mother most."

And it's not just a teachable moment for boys either.

"If your daughter wants to date a boy who wears shirts like this, you have every right to step in and discuss the importance of respect in relationships," she adds.

Also see: Why women like bad boys: They're better at dressing up

A perusal through Spencer's online catalogue reveals that they're somewhat equal opportunity gender baiters. Though considerably fewer in number, they also sell t-shirts for females that take crass cracks at men.

It could also be argued that the shirts are intended for either men or women, making them gender unspecific, although there are enough references to "bitches" and "whores," accompanied by clear illustrations, to indicate which gender is meant to be the target of these jokes.

"I'm not worried about the grown men who choose to promote these disgusting 'jokes," writes Cross. "I'm worried about the teen boys strolling through Spencer's who begin to see degrading women as an enjoyable past time. I'm worried about the young girls those boys date, who begin to feel that they deserve to be treated poorly and insulted."

Sadly, as these things often work, the negative attention is likely to do nothing except drive sales for the company.

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