T-shirt for Girls Says “I’m too pretty to do homework.”

Posted September 1, 2011 by

Photo of elisabeth

Actually, the slogan on the JC Penney T-shirt, marketed to girls age 7 to 16, reads, “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me.”

That’s right, you read those words correctly. The description for the shirt on their site?

“Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Beiber album out? She’ll love this T that’s just as cute and sassy as she is.”


After parents went ballistic, JC Penney pulled the T from their website. But they aren’t the only offenders. Recent clothing items marketed to girls a have had slogans emblazoned on them like, “Future Trophy Wife,” and “I’m too pretty to do math.”

What bothers me most:

1. Aren’t we supposed to be empowering girls instead of telling them to rely on their looks?

2. What’s the correlation between being “pretty” and not doing homework? As if the two can’t be compatible somehow, or that if you’re pretty, you shouldn’t have goals or ambitions in life, other than to see Justin Beiber in concert.

3. Girls’ math and science scores are on par with boys’ scores these days — and more girls currently go to college than boys do. Why should a girl’s brother have to do her homework for her? It’s as if the people who market to girls want us all to take a giant step backward.


What do you think? Are items like these all in good fun, or does it go deeper than that? If you have a daughter, what do you tell her about the mixed messages she gets from the media?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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  1. Snippy (Edit) Report

    The Bible says that when you train a child in the say he/she should go, when they are old, they will not depart from it. Wise words.
    Personally, I think that we minimize too much in our society. Have you ever looked at a billboard or advertisement that displeased you? I’ve had that experience; I see it once, it really bothers me. I see it a second time, it’s not as bad as the first. Eventually, it doesn’t seem so bad even if it is disgusting.
    My question would be; is it really wise to even start wearing such nonsense? Yes, family will laugh etc. The child knows they are cute. We see them as innocents, all the while they could be thinking about so and so will laugh at such a shirt. I say, give them good things to wear from the start. It will lead to good character.

  2. DollFaceAZ (Edit) Report

    Can the same not be said for the Fox TV show “Family Guy” that features a father who is constantly degrading and demoralizing his teenage daughter? What is so funny about telling your own daughter that she’s fat, ugly and stupid? What about clothing designers who think it’s “cute” to dress four-year-olds in skimpy tops and and shorty-shorts that barely cover their bottoms. NO WONDER girls have self-etseem and body-image issues.

  3. Mick (Edit) Report

    If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Is there anyone who really thinks this shirt is a philosophy for life? It’s a shirt. Is there anyone who really thinks this shirt would cause a parent to say “Well, Sweetie, since you’re wearing that shirt, you don’t have to do your homework”?? Come on. We need to teach kids to be resilient, to be savvy, but also to understand the difference between satire and reality. Seriously.

  4. Lil P (Edit) Report

    The shirt only scratches the surface of what the wrong message is out there. Watch an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras and see just how far inappropriate can be. Because it is out there, I will show my girls a part of the show so that we can talk about what the message is and get them to think about it objectively. They are in elementary school and I want them to consciously choose to be more than superficial. I don’t want my girls to think that the Snookies of the world are role models.

  5. living5 (Edit) Report

    Only a certain type of person finds this humorous at all. What worries me is that there are people out there that actually find this shirt funny. Or worse…allow their kids to wear one. What you allow your child to wear, you give them permission to BE. Would you let your child wear a shirt that basically says she’s too lazy/stupid to do her own homework because she’s pretty? Is that really what you would like others to think of her as? Would you let them wear an inappropriate mini skirt? Whether you realize it or not, you’re telling them it’s ok to be what they’re advertising…don’t be surprised when they start to believe you and turn into a ‘pretty’ self centered brat, or a young woman with loose morals.

  6. Dr. Jim (Edit) Report

    Another sad part about all this is the fact that, in cases where a child is too young too read, they don’t even know what they’re wearing on their shirt. In effect, the parents and grandparents are putting out the message by buying this sort of merchandise.

    I know it’s not the same thing exactly, but I remember that, during the “Flower Child” days of the 70s, couples would occassionally diaper their child in an American flag. (As a Vietnam combat vet, I have some VERY strong feelings about that.) There’s an example of the totally innocent carrying an adult’s deliberate, provocative, and inflamatory message.

    Isn’t that really, really close to of child abuse?

  7. Dale Sadler (Edit) Report

    It does little for the empowerment of women, that’s for sure. Leonard Sax, in his book, Girls on the Edge talks about how girls focus on what they are. This is danger since they often don’t know who they are. The who is more important and long lasting because it represents inner-strength and character qualities. The “what” stands for what everyone sees and when a girl isn’t the best soccer player or the prettiest girl, she doesn’t know how to handle it. The shirt is definitely a “what” statement. “I’m a pretty girl and little else matters.” Very shallow.

  8. Care Homes (Edit) Report

    I do completely agree with Elisabeth. The points mentioned above are quite just and I personally think that this will not help girls move ahead in the competition with the fellow boys, instead it will make them more dependent on them and will encourage them to use their beauty just for getting some benefits out of the boys. So this is really a point of concern.

  9. flores8 (Edit) Report

    Its all about attitude and parental teachings. My little girl is gorgeous but she is only three also. I am very strict w her and her brothers. Nobody helps anybody. She is a handful now and when I start getn her shirts like that she probably wont even pay attention to it. My son wears a shirt similar but he doesn’t use that to excuse his childish behavior. Its just all humorous. Have fun w kids don’t take the laughter away from u and them. Make a debate over something more serious.

    • Elisabeth Wilkins Report

      I agree that a big part of this debate centers around what we teach our kids as parents. But I also think that pop culture, fashion and media send powerful messages to kids which is why to me, this isn’t a humorous thing, but a more serious one. (Kids are especially susceptible to these messages in the adolescent years, when they’re easily influenced by images in the media. They want to look “cool” — and they often haven’t formed their own opinions.) I think this T-shirt would be more humorous if it wasn’t actually saying something that has the potential to be quite damaging to girls. To me, it’s just denigrating to women — and sad that our culture is still pushing this tired old message.

  10. erinp (Edit) Report

    I don’t think it’s in good fun and I consider myself to have a pretty open sense of humor. I find nothing amusing or cute about damaging messages that hide behind humor. Maybe if I lived in a world free of stereotypes, one that encouraged my daughter’s brain as much as her beauty, I would not have been so offended. Maybe.

  11. savvy2shopgirl (Edit) Report

    Just last night, I saw a clip of an old “The Dating Game” in which Jeff Bridges appeared. I don’t remember what the question was, but the girl’s answer went something like this, ‘my mom told me to never be smarter than the boys.’ I breezed out the room, saying to my husband, ‘aren’t you glad we don’t have to teach our daughter’s (meaning our 1 and collectively her generation) this anymore?’ Sayings like this and looking up to people like Brittany Spears will put us back there. Pretty is good genetics and we as a society need to value what people do with and for themselves rather than how they look, which is an accident of birth.



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