You won’t find this t-shirt at Forever 21. It was removed from its stores and online shop over social outrage (translation: Twitter Fingers) that the t-shirt promoted rape culture. In fact, the backlash was so severe that the brand instantly pulled the shirt off its website, offering, “Forever 21 strives to exemplify the highest ethical standards and takes feedback and product concerns very seriously… We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the product.”
Exhibit A: The t-shirt in question. Let’s discuss.Without knowing the context behind the outrage, at first glance, I’m not offended by this t-shirt at all. In fact, the opposite may be true: I can interpret this statement to be one of empowerment.
Don’t say maybe if you want to say no. To my sons, stand your ground. If you’re considering the moral, ethical or legal ramifications of following through with a decision, err on the side of caution and be true to yourself and what I’ve taught you. Be strong and have the guts to swim against the current, and while others may be persuaded, have the courage to walk away. Saying “maybe” often opens a door that is better off closed; if you want to say no, just say no.
Don’t say maybe if you want to say no. To my girlfriends, my fellow mamas who are juggling careers, families, social lives and household responsibilities, it’s okay to say no. In fact, say it more often than you say maybe. Society pressures us to do it all, and we’re in a constant state of half-agreements, like *maybe* I’ll come out to dinner for a girls night (I know I won’t, I’ll be too tired), or *maybe* I can host Easter dinner too (I will have to now, because I didn’t have the gumption to flat out decline). Know your limits and know that it’s okay to say no.
Don’t say maybe if you want to say no. To all those who are currently siding with the majority; to those who don’t take a stand out of fear of ridicule, or those who know better but don’t want to deal with the consequences of dissent, “maybe” is a dangerous stance. Educate yourself. Educate those around you. And when you’ve fully understood both the advantages and repercussions of the matter at hand, pick a side and stick to it.
However, with respect to my interpretation of the message, I’m in the vast minority. Almost immediately after this t-shirt was offered for sale, customers screamed for its removal, citing a strong reference to rape culture and the shaming of women.
Here’s the thing. I strongly believe that a woman has the right to say no even after she says yes. If fact, it’s her prerogative to say no even when you think she means maybe. In plain English, a woman can put up the stop sign at any damned time in any damned circumstance, just like men can, too. And I can see where some would interpret Forever 21’s t-shirt as sharing a message that does a disservice to women.
But can a single t-shirt really be singled out as promoting rape culture? How is this slogan perceived any differently that Nike’s “Just Do it” (come on girl, you know you want to), Gatorade’s “Is it in You?” (come on girl, you know it’s good) or Overstock’s “It’s All About the O” (come on girl, you know you’ll like it)?
Maybe – pun intended – it’s because this t-shirt was manufactured and distributed in 2016, when we’re quick to find offense where none exists. After all, one could even argue this saying just another variation of Yoda’s iconic line in Star Wars, “Do, or do not. There is no try.”
I can’t imagine he would get away with saying those inspiring words today.