'Love First' kids' shirts from J. Crew

Beware! J. Crew Is Here to Turn Your Kids Feminist and Gay With Their T-Shirts—At Least, According to Some Conservatives

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Whenever a corporate entity releases a product supporting a progressive cause, I always have mixed feelings. I generally support the effort, because I believe every little bit helps, but I’m also usually a teensy bit skeptical, as it is likely that the company is simply using issues I care about as a marketing tool to sell stuff. Yet for some people, their greatest fear is that the wrong product might somehow make their child *gasp* political. Because God forbid we raise socially and civically-engaged children. That’s the worst.

J. Crew recently released a couple of shirts *gasp* for children in order to support non-profits related to causes they believe in as a company. Causes like equality between human beings, no matter their gender or sexuality. You’d think that would be a lesson any parent would want to impart onto their child as, you know, a basic thing to learn.

Yet for some parents, encouraging children to understand and express a desire for equality is too “political” for their tastes.

One of the shirts was advertised on J. Crew’s Instagram account last week:

It’s a shirt that reads “I am a feminist, too” and it’s being worn by *gasp* a little boy! It’s a really cute unisex shirt released in collaboration with prinkshop, a really awesome apparel company that creates clothing that reflects all sorts of causes. 10% of the proceeds from the limited-edition shirt go to Girl Up, an organization through the United Nations Foundation with the goal of helping girls worldwide achieve their dreams.

Sounds great, right? Well, you’d be surprised how many people have trouble prioritizing making the lives of girls better:

(for reference, Elisha is a former producer for Sean Hannity)

What’s bad, exactly? The little boy being a feminist part? The fact that a child’s parents would, I don’t know, teach their children their values and help them to live those values? The way parents are generally supposed to do?

So, people who run companies are supposed to not reflect their personal values through their companies? Have you told this to Hobby Lobby? To any company willing sacrifice the health care plan they provide their female employees over birth control? To that company that didn’t want to make wedding cakes for gay couples? I mean, SAMESIES. I hate it when people try to impose their politics on the public, which will always, inevitably include children.

The other shirt J. Crew is offering is their “Love first” shirt, which you can see in the photo above. 50% of the proceeds from these shirts will benefit the Human Rights Campaign in celebration of Pride Month.

You thought that a child’s shirt proclaiming that women are equal was controversial? Check out the response to a shirt that has the word “love” on it:

Yeah, could we please not get our kids involved in things like love, please?

I mean, you should obviously care for your own mental health however you see fit. If not stepping into a J. Crew again is what self-care looks like for you, go for it.

The hilarious thing about this person is that their Twitter bio reads “Does not identify as a bigot.” Um, if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

Above, I brought up several instances in which conservative-leaning business owners have expressed their political views (which they would call religious beliefs to protect their political views from scrutiny), so the hypocrisy of people who suddenly have a problem with personal views being expressed through a business when they don’t push back against people who more closely reflect their views doing the same thing is staggering.

Especially since, in those cases, “expressing their views” usually amounts to infringing on the lives of others. A shirt that encourages tolerance and equality does just that, encourage an ideal. It doesn’t keep anyone from anything. It doesn’t deprive anyone of their voice. You don’t like the shirt, you don’t have to buy it, but the idea espoused by the shirt doesn’t actively hurt you in any way, unless you find the mere existence of another point of view painful.

Meanwhile, when conservative businesses “express their views” they do so by depriving services to certain people. They actively discriminate. In many cases, like targeting their female employees with limits on their health care plans, that discrimination can actually be physically harmful. Even in the case of a conservative baker not wanting to bake a gay couple their wedding cake, while not causing them active harm, is nonetheless discriminatory, and depriving them of a local service, forcing them to have to jump through hoops to do what others take completely for granted.

What I take even greater issue with is the idea that too many conservatives want to “keep politics away from the children” when it comes to things like equality and inclusion, but don’t see that very position as political. They don’t see other shirts expressing different views as political.

Like these sexist shirts from DC Comics from 2014, for example:

Sexist t-shirts featuring Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman

Nothing political here! Because women being nothing but objects of sexual conquests or good wives is just how it is! These shirts aren’t pushing anything like a “sexist, heteronormative agenda” on anyone! DON’T BE SILLY.

TMS Contributor Cat Conway wrote this awesome piece a few years ago expressing frustration at gendered toys and media being imposed on her son because the dominant narratives are forced on kids all the time, whether their parents want them to be learning those things or not. And yet the same conservatives who concern troll over “the children” when it comes to progressive concerns would call liberals “crybabies” for daring to express a problem with sexism on their children’s clothing.

The thing is, when you trot out “the children” to argue that someone should stop producing a shirt you disagree with, that is involving children in politics. Whether you choose to speak up about something that offends you and your values, or you choose to stay silent when something opposes the values of others, you are being political. Those are each political choices.

So knock it off with the whole “don’t impose politics on children” nonsense. You impose politics on children every day. The values you teach don’t stop being political just because you happen to agree with them.

(via Pajiba, image: J. Crew)

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Image of Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.