Prêt-à-porter bigotry


Convenient iron-on transfer for babies and toddlers whose parents can’t be bothered to sew homphobic slurs on their kids’ clothing.  As seen at Michael’s arts and crafts in Emeryville, CA, a store chock-a-block with fun stuff that my dress-wearing boy was grooving on big time (yarn, ribbons, sewing kits), and a store we’re pretty much not going to patronize any more. Pity.

The iron-on transfer below this one, as you can just make out at the bottom of the cameraphone pic,  is “Future Diva.” A cute juxtaposition, don’t you think? Sissy? Followed by Diva? Ironic.

Getting one’s knickers in a wad over this use of this term could be seen as oversensitive by some. Fine. Whatever. It’s a free country. Won’t be the first time I’ll have been accused of being oversensitive.  But just as an illuminating excersize, I invite you to substitute any number of low-grade, utterly tolerated in their heyday pejorative remarks about, oh, say, this or that ethnic or racial group, or maybe people with diabilities. I don’t need to run it out for you here. It’s easy enough: pick your stereotyped characteristic, pick your slur-lite. Casually naturalized derision. Show of hands: who among you thinks “sissy” isn’t a gateway term for “faggot”?  And for bonus points: which term do you think is most frequently  yelled at men who are in the midst of being gay-bashed?  Right. I’m going to go with: “Faggot!”

This innocent joke of a t-shirt slogan popped out at me as I was strolling through the store with my 3 year-old son who, five days out of seven, takes off his pants or shorts and puts on a skirt or dress.  Matter of fact, he had a nice flower print number on as he held my other hand, the one not taking a quick cameraphone picture of this funny transfer. Who the heck knows what kind of man he’s going to be.  I sure don’t; not yet.  But I do know there’s no effin’ way I’m supporting a store selling gateway hate speech.

12 thoughts on “Prêt-à-porter bigotry”

  1. Wow. That really stinks. I usually buy all my picture frames either there or at their subsidiary, Aaron Brothers. Did you mention it to anyone at the store? it might be worth an email/letter to the head office – I’ll look into it.

    • You know, I didn’t say anything to anyone at the store, not with the little guy with me. Least not with him at age 3. I had gotten to the first step, which was decide to withhold my dollars. Next step is definitely to communicate feedback about the product being hurtful/offensive/problematic/what-have-you to me as a potential customer. Which I will. Don’t expect much back, since so long as it sells to others, who go, “Sissies! Hee hee!” then I’m sure they’ll be fine to keep stocking it. But you’re right, that they should know why they won’t have my business. It’s made by BabyTalk, whom I also plan to communicate to. Again, with no more expectations. But at least they’ll know. Like the U.S. Census people with the damn hot pink “Attn US Census Bureau: It’s Time to Count Everyone!” sticker from NGLTF. The point is less a guarantee of impact on others — though one wants a positive one — but more the impact on the self. Slash/ self-respect.

  2. My University coursemates tend to think of me as “The PC Patrol.” I’m always hearing people saying and this that, I hafta say, y’know, you really need to watch what your saying. It’s not even blatent homophobia or transphobia (which there seems to be more of nowadays), its just basic ignorance. Here in England a stereotype seems to developed the last couple of years amoungst older conservative types that university students are drunken wasters who are a drain on society, and that really gets to me. It’s almost become a throwaway running gag. For instance the local news site had an article warning students not to leave their windows open in the warm weather due to a rise in thefts, and somebody comented on the article a bunch of nonsense about students not having enough common sense to heed instructions as basic as them. I’m waffling again 😛 And another thing! I dont know if you have Yorkie chocolate bars in America, but here in England the tag line for the marketing campaign has been “It’s not for girls!” for years. I buy it just to spite them. Probably counterproductive, but I like the taste 🙂 Have a gander:

  3. I myself would not have been offended by “sissy”, because I know it only as a word that means “not brave”. But I’m gathering from your reaction that if I do a little research there’s a history of using the word to mean “if you are not really manly, you are a lesser person and if you get beat up by haters, it will be deserved.” So alright then.

    I typically think Michael’s is a fun place to go, but I was blown away when I went there twice in December seeking Hanukkah-themed paper to make cards for my family and was told that they don’t sell Hanukkah stuff. Now that’s just a bad business choice because we who celebrate Hanukkah? We have money to spend at Michael’s.

    • Mmmmyup. Elsewhere fer your Hanukkah needs. Figgering you didn’t look back around Purim or Passover.

      And yeah, I am fast on the trigger finger with “sissy,” but only because I know it was the first term both my father and my father-in-law heard (in reference to themselves) as the first in a long line of directives to keep them in line. I’m guessing plenty of adult gay men have a lot of memories around this word, too. Eventually, when uttered with a smile from a kindred spirit, it might could mean something benign. But my sense is, in the early years, not so much.

  4. So my first burning question: does your little guy actually refer to his elder sibling as “Sissy”, or is that a blogging euphemism to avoid using her name? ‘Cause really, talk about throwing extra confusion at a smart little guy…

    This is just one of a series of tee shirt or onesie slogans that I have a hard time with. Gender stereotypes and inappropriate labeling (“diva” for an infant? Really? We say this as though it’s good and cute…) are ALL OVER, and I’m at a point where I can either not patronize those stores/vendors, and pay a TON more money for my son’s clothes, or rely entirely on dear friends – who likely did patronize those stores – for hand-me-downs, which doesn’t entirely help. I agree with the need to not purchase and to notify the companies as to why, but I think that posting about it here, and talking and tweeting and generally getting this into the general conversation, is far more important.

    For the sake of conversation, though, do y’all really think that so many of those older, once-acceptable slur-lites would really have appeared in a similar context? After all, the whole premise is that one “becomes” gay or trans, that it is not an innate state of being, which is not true of most of the other hated groups (at least the ones I can think of right now…)

  5. Like Whitney, I was not offended by the word because I never associated anything other than “not brave” with it. When I first started reading this post, I thought you were being a little overly sensitive. I mean, it’s a cute saying on a toddler’s shirt! Upon finishing the post, I feel like a stupid ass.

    Of course it is a slur against anyone not considered masculine. Why did that never occur to me? It’s a word that will never pass my lips again or be said in my home. My son will be taught that this is on the bad word list. I dread to think how many times I have said it and offended.

    When I was in high school so many, many years ago (class of 1984) the term “fag” was what all the “cool” kids said. It didn’t even mean gay half the time it was said. I was in band and everyone called us band fags. Sometimes we even identified ourselves as “band fags”. When my best friend came out in our early twenties, I wondered how many times I had called him a “fag” over the years, and how many times I’d hurt his feelings and made a difficult time even more diffucult for him. I feel much the same today after reading this post.

  6. I don’t know, I think this could potentially be used in a subversive fashion. I mean, I’m sure that the makers intended it as a joke about kids not wanting to take naps because “sissies” take naps and real men don’t. But I think there is something to be said for using gender blurring verbage as a means of empowerment. As a female sexed boy presenting genderqueer individual who absolutely relishes nap time, I would proudly wear said article as a means for recognizing/embracing the legitimacy of my alternative (sissy) masculinity and announcing my nap adoration.

    I think that such acts of reclaimation and turning something that was once used as a means for derogation into something empowering is tricky business, because its viability as a subversive tool depends so much on how it is read by an audience…but even still, it can be a worthy attempt.

    What do you all think?

  7. Since I read and commented on this post, I have become aware of my own use of “Sissy” to refer to our girl child. It’s made me laugh when I say “Go check on your sissy,” and then I think, “Whoops – is that a bad word? Ok, no, it’s short for sister.” LD, why are you always hurting my brain with deep thoughts?

    • “LD, why are you always hurting my brain with deep thoughts?”

      That is one of my favorite blog comments ever.

      And yes — that’s what our son calls his big sister, too. In sluggish reply to rev2bebt’s quesiton. More mulling yet in response to the rest of y’all’s stuff yet to come. Except that kanga43, I think if that t-shirt transfer were on a baby doll T on some queer young adult, and they were shaking their moneymaker in a bar to their favorite disco hit in the wee hours of the morning, it would be totally reclamatory. Alas, I fear that the market for this one is a hair different. Sigh.

  8. I think contacting the companies involved is a great plan. The people there really may have a lightbulb moment. I never say sissy, but I don’t think I would have been offended in Michael’s- just wouldn’t really think it thru, and maybe the buyers there didn’t either. Companies are just made of individuals, with hearts and minds like the rest of us.

  9. i was at stonestown mall back back re: prop 8 and a chinese woman with her 2 kids (race given for a visual; my family is 1/2 chinese fyi) were in the middle on the bottom there with signs supporting it, i was shocked and amazed and left my family for a minute to go complain and talk about MY mall dollars, omg the humiliation of having to admit I was in a mall and wasn’t just there to protest wanton consumerism, but back to the point, within 10 minutes they were ushered out and me with my beating heart and pent up anger felt so righteous and heard, so i went back to my lady, my chinese lady and she held my white butch hand and we took the kids over to buy some new pajamas so YAY.

    love ya, but put em up (said in the tone of the cowardly lion), put em up!

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