• Thu, Jun 3 2010

Activist Shelby Knox Organizes a ‘Girlcott’ Against Urban Outfitters

Feminist activist Shelby Knox, whose efforts to get comprehensive sex education programs in Texas schools was the subject of the 2005 documentary The Education of Shelby Knox, has taken up a new cause. She has launched a Facebook group urging consumers to “girlcott” Urban Outfitters as long as the store continues to sell T-shirts with slogans that Knox considers anti-woman. Here’s her manifesto – or should I say manifesta?

Urban Outfitters has hit a new sexist low and it’s time for women (and our male and gender non-conforming allies) to hit them where it hurts – the cash register.

First there was the men’s t-shirt admonishing ‘rathers, it’s up to you to protect your daughter’s virginity!’ – – a creepy throwback to a time where men owned their female relatives and a woman’s entire worth was between her legs.

Now, there’s a women’s t-shirt promoting the virtue ‘Eat Less‘ – also known as anorexia and eating disorders.

Women and men deserve clothing that doesn’t degrade their humanity. We’re calling on Urban Outfitters to pull these items and issue a commitment to produce clothing that upholds the value of all people without regard to gender, race, or sexual orientation.

I spoke with Knox this morning and asked her why she’s singling out Urban Outfitters. After all, there’s no shortage of places that sell similar shirts. “Those T-shirts [the two linked above] came up on my radar in one week,” she says. “Also, Urban Outfitters is owned by Richard Haynes – he has ties to Rick Santorum and the Proposition 8 stuff. He hits on all cylinders for racism, sexism, and homophobia, and we need to wipe all those things out together.”

Now that Knox is encouraging consumers to vote with their wallets and their Facebook accounts, what does she hope will happen? “We would like a response from Urban, for them to pull the clothing and admit it’s sexist,” she says, adding that she would also like them to sell more positive products in the future. “I think a lot of people don’t see T-shirts and analyze what they say about men and women. I want to raise awareness that what you buy – and what you don’t buy – matters and can make social change.” However, she acknowledges that stores are not completely to blame. After all, stores wouldn’t continue to stock items if no one was buying them. “I am really encouraged that the purity [shirt] got marked down to $4.99,” said Knox. “College students and young people sometimes think we’re post-sexist or post-feminist, so it’s OK to make jokes. But we still make 77 cents on the dollar [to what men earn] and have 17 percent representation in Congress. Sexism is still valid, so if you wear it on a shirt you are still promoting it, and I want people to think about that.”

As for her own efforts, Knox has sent emails to the email address on Urban’s site and has called their customer service number, without much success. “I have yet to sniff out [Haynes'] personal contact information,” she says. Perhaps there will be power in numbers?

Will you join Knox’s Facebook group? Do you think the best way to be heard is to vote with your wallet? Let us know what you think in the comments.

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  • lhartman

    I think when it comes to large companies, the only way to be heard is to vote with your wallet. And convince about a million of your friends to do the same thing.

  • ccmemom

    I read this article and then noticed that one of the ads running on the side line is Urban Outfitters. Haha. Time to get funding from another source Shelby.

    • cth

      i think the ads generate based on the content of the article

  • staunkoa

    Actually, it should be WOMANIFESTA. Just sayin’…

  • jla

    Women didn’t need a shirt telling them to eat less to know how Urban Outfitters feels about women’s bodies – they don’t carry women’s size XL.

  • kellkell

    I like how with all the ranting about tolerance and rights, she completely intollerant of other people’s views and right to free speech. So what if someone wants to wear a shirt that says rude things? That’s their right. there are better ways to get your point accross than boycotting a clothing company. you and your 3 friends. good luck.

  • mike

    neither are sexist… they are horrible shirts. The virginity shirt was most likely trying to play on the protective father, and the father-daughter relationship. Only a stupid idiot can link the eat less shirt to eating disorders… Americans are fat because we eat to much, its that simple. If we ate less, we wouldn’t be so fat. Both shirts are, like I said, very inappropriate. I have seen much worse. She seems to be another feminist who thinks every single thing is sexist.

    • Te

      I think to assume the “Eat Less” t-shirt is not pro-anorexia (And it’s entierly up to you if you consider pro-anorexia sexist), you should spend some time looking at pro-ana/mia sites. I would link a few but they make me ill. Spend a few minutes on google.

      Maybe…MAYBE the person who designed it was just being a d-bag, not promoting anorexia, but to throw it up in a store that already reinforces that image without being aware of the connotation is just stupid. You have to remember you’re looking at a market that does not stock clothes that fit “normal” sized girl (I’m not talking about plus size, over weight girls here. I’m talking about normal proportions)

  • Adam

    The next time i am in town, i shall be purchasing that shirt from urban outfitters

  • Nan

    KellKell, you are completely right. Urban Outfitters have their right to the freedom of speech; so does Shelby Knox. They’re expressing theirs, she’s expressing hers, you’re expressing yours. Expressing your right to free speech doesn’t mean standing back when people say things that you think is wrong.

  • MSpears

    Re-read Knox’s answer to that question. She says ““Also, Urban Outfitters is owned by Richard Haynes – he has ties to Rick Santorum and the Proposition 8 stuff. He hits on all cylinders for racism, sexism, and homophobia, and we need to wipe all those things out together.”

    It sounds less like she’s targetting UO for marketing horrible shirts… let’s face it, there are other companies that market even more inappropriate shirts (as Mike pointed out)… and more like she’s targetting UO because of its owner. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are her buttons, and he pushes every one of them, so she’s attempting to punish him. That’s how she makes it sound, whether that’s her intent or not.

  • Some Guy

    What’s a girlcot

  • Mack

    Does Shelby have a job, or is “Activist” a job description in the U.S.? I realise Americans like to ruin English at every available opportunity, but “Girlcott”?!? Give me a break. Obviously t-shirt slogans are a very important issue, next to minor problems like poverty, third-world hunger, the USD 17 Trillion or so you’re in debt, rising U.S. unemployment, rising U.S. child obesity, systemic racial problems in your society, etc……but, ….hang on, what was my point? ….and what is Shelby’s? Get a life woman!

  • Duke

    “I think a lot of people don’t see T-shirts and analyze what they say …”

    You’re right, Shelby. And I think that’s because a lot of people are smart enough to realize that nothing worth reading was EVER written on a T-shirt.

    Though I suppose I _was_ deluding myself by thinking that _everyone_ was that intelligent….. :(

  • Mai

    You do know the word Boycott came from Charles Boycott, and isn’t inherently sexist like some words like mankind or womyn. Your use of “Girlcott” is a slap in the face of history

  • Bonnie

    I like the idea of these shirts if only to warn me of the wearer’s douchebaggery before I interact with him or her.

  • Not Me

    I had a roommate in college and her last name was Boycott, very unique last name traced back to a pirate, her family is probably the only people with the last name. Should she be changing it to Girlcott? Seriously, that’s not a word, and it shouldn’t be a word. Neither is “herstory”.

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