Public outcry on social networking website, Twitter, has created such a storm (even bordering a PR disaster) that it has forced high-street retailer, Topman, to remove two offensive t-shirts from both shops and online.
While slogan t-shirts are usually of bad taste, read cliché messages and/or are tacky, you have to wonder, surely these misogynistic messages must have raised a few eyebrows in the buying or public relations department? One of the t-shirts in question reads “Nice New Girlfriend: What Breed Is She?”, while the other lists a series of excuses for an apparent act of domestic violence, including “You provoked me”, “I was drunk” and, “I hate you”.
On 14 September, indignant Twitter users aimed their 140 characters towards the brands Twitter page TopmanUK, which shortly after became a top Trending Topic in the UK. One tweeter, Andy Field, who collected over one hundred retweets for the following comment, wrote, “Hi @TopmanUK I like your t-shirt. You manage to be both grossly offensive and fucking stupid in one slogan. Stay classy.” With over 428 tweets aimed towards them an hour others apparently agreed, stating the t-shirts were “disgraceful”, “sexist and offensive” and “glamorising domestic violence”.
Doireann Larkin, campaigns manager at Tender, a London-based charity that works with young people to prevent the causes of domestic violence, said of the sentiments of the t-shirts: “The ‘I’m so sorry’ T-shirt reflects exactly the kinds of excuses used by perpetrators of domestic violence and their friends – they say, ‘maybe the girl nagged him’, or ‘maybe she’d been cheating’. And as for the ‘breed’ shirt – that’s a classic case of objectifying women; of comparing women to dogs.” In response the charity set up a JustGiving campaign, asking people to donate towards Tender instead of buying the t-shirts. They then started Facebook group sTopman, with the aim of raising awareness and ultimately asking Topman to withdraw the T-shirts from sale.
Another charity, Refuge, stated that Topman should be ashamed. Chief executive, Sandra Horley, said: “It is an outrage that such offensive t-shirts were put on sale. Domestic violence takes the lives of two women a week – it is no laughing matter. For 40 years Refuge has challenged negative social attitudes yet these t-shirts perpetuate ignorance and misunderstanding. Shame on Topman.”
Following the backlash, Topman released a statement announcing their decision to pull the T-shirts from their range.
They said: “We have received some negative feedback regarding two of our printed T-shirts. Whilst we would like to stress that these T-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning we have made the decision to remove these from store and online as soon as possible. We would like to apologise to those who may have been offended by these designs.”