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GEORGIE BINKS:

Women don't throw rocks at men

May 21, 2004

On a recent trip out to a local mall on a Saturday evening, I was picking through the T-shirts for teenagers when I spotted one with the words "Boys are Stupid, Throw Rocks at Them."

I'm used to seeing variations on the Girl Power theme when I'm in these stores but I was shocked to see something so negative about boys. As the mother of both a boy and a girl, I felt sick when I saw the slogan. I felt even worse when I logged onto the website of the retailer who sells these products. They are designed and manufactured by a clothing company called David & Goliath, based in Clearwater, Fla.

I was not happy to see a list of so-called funny slogans: Boys Lie, Poke Em in the Eye; Boys are Goobers, Drop Anvils on Their Heads; Lobotomy, How to Train Boys; If Boys are So Tough, Why are They So Afraid of Knives (this with a picture of a boy running away with knives in the air); or Tape Can Be Fun, a T-shirt with a boy's mouth covered in tape. One of the T-shirts is actually featured in the February issue of YM magazine this year.

Can't you just imagine the hue and cry if the word girl was inserted into all of these?

Some stores in the United States have pulled the shirts off their shelves because of consumer pressure. In Canada, Mrs. Tiggywinkles is no longer carrying them. Simon Anisman, a spokesman for the toy store says, "They don't bug me. They are very tongue-in-cheek. Of course they would never make shirts like this about females, because they have been so victimized. But men complained about the shirts, so we pulled them off the shelves. We don't want to offend anyone."

Bluenotes stores in Toronto are stocking them, however, and Rachel Noonan, the brand manager for Bluenotes, says to her knowledge they have not had any complaints. I spoke with the owner of another store in Toronto, who does not want to be named, and she says mothers of boys, along with teenage and pre-teen girls are snapping them up. Is this what Girl Power and post-modernist feminism has turned into?

Todd Goldman is the mastermind behind the shirts. Naturally, with the controversy surrounding his shirts, he is not an easy person to reach. However he is quoted as telling an Associated Press reporter the controversy is the best advertisement he could ask for and that he has one of the hottest junior lines out there.

Marilyn Mitchell, the executive director of Girls Incorporated of Durham in Ajax, Ont., (http://www.girlsinc.org) finds them shocking, saying, "I don't understand how people would think it's an appropriate thing for a girl to wear. If a boy was wearing something that said 'girls are stupid,' the roof would fly off. I don't think it does anything to empower girls. Girls need to find their own strength and that doesn't mean you are putting down the other gender. It means you are finding affirmation for yourself."

Joe Kelly, the president of Dads and Daughters in Duluth, Minnesota whose website http://www.dadsanddaughters.org is aimed at dads who want to empower their daughters, says, "they are an incredibly obnoxious cynical attempt to make money off the concept of Girl Power. Girl Power has never been about putting boys down. The empowerment of girls is good for boys. When we help our daughters get out of the straitjacket of gender expectations for them, we open up new opportunities for boys, too. This kind of thinking is obscene and it's an incredible disservice to our children."

With the amount of anti-bullying messages kids get these days, it must confuse them to see slogans like this on girls' T-shirts. The scary thing is that the Boys are Stupid fad seems to be spreading. There is now a book, stocked by Indigo, written by David & Goliath mastermind Todd Goldman, called (what else?) Boys Are Stupid!

The publisher, Andrews McMeel Publishing, which didn't return calls, describes the book on the Indigo website as follows: "Females of all ages will appreciate Boys Are Stupid!, the latest offering from the madcap creator of the David & Goliath line of way-out products." Don't you just love the way a hate message is portrayed as way-out?

And there is a website that has a game on it called Throw Rocks At Boys based on the T-shirts. Cathy Wing, the director of community programs for the Media Awareness Network in Canada (http://www.media-awareness.ca) says the organization has just completed a project about online hate and she says, "There is a whole culture of cruel humour, sarcasm and put-downs, and it is very prevalent on the internet. It's part of popular culture with kids so I am not surprised that there are T-shirts out there like this for kids, and the net was probably critical in spreading the word about them."

It would be sad for little girls to think that Girl Power had anything to do with violence against men. But by stocking the shelves with these shirts a double standard is being created for girls. Sure it's bad to hit girls, but throwing knives at boys, well, that's funny. Can't the boys take a joke?

In an article on www.tolerance.org, one teenage girl justified wearing the T-shirt saying that after having her heart broken every other week by a boy, saying boys suck and are stupid is funny. I could be wrong here, but young men seem to spend an equal amount of time wandering around trying to figure out girls and having their hearts broken.

It's important that young women and men realize that feminism and hate have nothing to do with each other. Feminists want to change the system so that women can enjoy the same privileges as men, as well as assuming the same responsibilities. Girl Power doesn't mean no boy power. It simply means little girls who are empowered to do things they didn't used to be.

Another thing that is disturbing about this "violence against boys" marketing idea is that many young men have been brutalized over the years. Jeffrey Dahmer murdered numerous young men and recently three young men were murdered in the Toronto area. With examples like these it's difficult to get a big laugh out of violence against boys. When I see the little boys in the schoolyard who have been raised not to hit girls, but to respect them and treat them as equals, I wonder how it must affect them to see a message of hatred written on the chests of the T-shirts of their female schoolmates.

I've spoken to several young boys about the T-shirts and they lower their eyes, shake their heads and tell me, "that's sexist." One little boy told me he thought they were mean. All the boys point out, "You would never see a T-shirt that said something like that about girls."

Not only is it a bad money-making idea on the part of David & Goliath but the fact that girls and women feel the clothing is appropriate to wear is very upsetting. It rings just a little bit hollow if women ask society to take violence against women seriously and then don a T-shirt extolling the virtues of violence against men.

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LETTERS:

 I've been reading the responses to this column and have to say, geez, you guys really need to lighten up. Such righteous indignation. Well, let me reassure you, you don't need to worry about boys.

 They won't be deterred from becoming men who hold positions as the top scientists, architects, engineers, artists and doctors in the world simply because of what some girls wear on their t shirts. Despite the desperate attempts of our feminist dominated society to turn boys into girls, in the end, boys really don't care about this nonsense.

 Let the girls wear what they want. And let all the soft compassionate navel-gazers and government funded social equity activist groups wail and gnash their teeth. Meanwhile the boys will be fighting, wrestling, programming computers, playing guitar and sports and doing better than girls in many areas of life. And all the t-shirts in the world won't change that.

Ron Laffin | Toronto

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It is not a vision shared by all 'feminists' ( we should not paint all feminists with one colour), and exemplifies itself by the very polarizing social programs that for years were aimed at "stopping violence against women" at the total exclusion of 'all men'.

Stopping abuse period, or stopping violence period, would include every person painted with any colour under the rainbow.

 Caesar J. B. Squitti

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I must admit I don't usually agree with Georgie Binks very much but she is bang on with this article. There is a vast difference between trying to get girls to feel confident about themselves to aspire to their goals in life as equals to boys and this kind of hate-inspiring nonsense.

Is this someone's version of "gender equality"? These T-shirts are easy to disagree with but what about some of the other messages seen in public these days such as the one I see on many bus shelters. It claims that "Poverty endangers women's health". Gee, I didn't think poverty was really good for men either.

I was reading one of the main U.S. national newspapers last year and it had a very lengthy article about the epidemic of violence against women and how the government must do all it can to stop violence against women, etc. Then at the very end of the article, almost as an afterthought, it casually mentioned that over 75% of all violent acts in the US, particlularly in the 16-24 age bracket, are carried out against men. But I guess that's irrelevant, we should only be concerned with female victims.

 These T-shirt slogans are disgraceful to be sure but there are many other Read More ..btle messages that emphasize the problems women face as if men were exempt.

Rod Luden

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The marketers of these T-shirts are guilty of inciting hatred, a clear hate crime, and should be prosecuted as such.

Paul Smith | Vancouver

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I can see that being the mother of a boy who was raised to respect females would make the sentiments on the shirts seem appalling. But most boys do not respect girls, they only parrot what they are taught while authority figures are there to watch.

If boys (and men) were only the maligned recipients of vengeance for their ancestors crimes, that would be intolerable. But since crimes (beatings, murder, discrimination, cultural programming, rape, sexual harassment, and so on) against girls and women are being committed continuously even as I write this, perhaps it isn't so unimaginable for some females to harbor a little ill-will toward their tormentors.

I wouldn't consider these shirts as feminist. Maybe Read More ..ong the lines of a message from a former victim class to a soon-to-be former oppressor class. If you put the word girls in place of boys, there would be an uproar. But if you put the word nazi on the shirts, in place of boys, and they were worn by Jewish people, wouldn't that be a little Read More ..derstandable?

Joanna Bailey

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When I was in university, feminists were quite commonly portrayed as ugly hairy men-hating lesbians and there was a reason for it: there were so-called "feminists" whose idea of gender equality was to be as much of a jerk as any guy they knew, and they were the ones that gave feminism a bad name.

Todd Goldman is an example of what gives successful business a bad reputation: he will do anything for profit, does not matter what the consequences may be. It almost makes me wish that he has a son who gets persecuted by girls wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Boys are Stupid. Throw Rocks at Them."

And the fashion retailers, where are their conscience? Do they really need customer complaints before they realize something is inappropriate? Is a slight change in profit margin so important that they are willing to sell their souls to the devil?

There is a fine line between humour and bad taste. In this topsy-turvy world of ours, why do we have to spread Read More ..gative messages?

Jane Buckingham

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First, I must tell you that I enjoy reading your online column. Thanks for the thought provoking comments of the past columns.

Second, regarding your recent column.... AMEN SISTER! As a father of three boys I am deeply troubled by the violence (physical and mental) and by the double standard that comes across in these T-shirts.

I always hoped that my wife and I would have a girl (Yes, I let the 'side' down) and I hoped that I would be given a chance to empower her to do whatever she felt called to do, with no restrictions (except that she become an engineer, maybe).

How do these T-shirts help my 'little girl'? Don't they automatically create a barrier between her and the other half of the population? These shirts seem to reflect a King Of the Hill philosophy of gender equality.... " We girls are only empowered when we throw you guys down the hill."

And we citizens of the 21st century think we are Read More ..lightened than our ancestors. Shame on the mothers and fathers who let their children wear such things.

Kevin Jack

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Thank you for writing this extremely important column. As a father who empowered both his daughter and son to stand for gender equality, we need to teach parents at all levels that discrimination in any form is unacceptable. As adults we must always question the "fad" for implications of intolerance or discrimination in any form.

I grew up as a social "outcast" and endured the bullying from both genders. I promised myself that as a parent my children would be raised with only the expectation that they be sensitive to and responsive to the needs of others.

It was a long road but 28 years later I can look back and say my wife and I succeeded. Many times my children did not understand our position. Today, both my children now understand and appreciate that upbringing, and as adults hold those same values.

Please continue to push on this issue of gender inequality, racial inequality, and religious inequality among others. They are all packaged in the same wrapping of discrimination and they know no bounds of gender, but are often so rooted. We cannot afford to lose even one child to this for any reason. As adults, we must draw the line on tolerance for discrimination of any kind in any form.

Harold Hotham | London, Ontario

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As a man who thinks women should be treated with respect and as equals I say a big thank-you for your article on Women Don't Throw Rocks at Men.

 For a long time I have watched this type of writing and attitudes by the radical side of feminism turn hateful toward men as though we deserve all the things they felt happened to some of them. You can't defend a woman's right to be respected and protected from such nonsense and at the same time condone it.

Paul Bailey