Battle of the Sexes

Kyndra Connor is part of a growing group of teenage girls across the country sporting one of the hottest new fashion trends.

The trend isn't the belly-baring hipster jeans, dangly chandelier earrings or even the feathered handbags that are all the current rage.

rocksIt's a line of T-shirts and accessories bearing slogans like "Boys are stupid; throw rocks at them," and "The stupid factory -- where boys are made."

The "throw rocks at them" shirts show a stick figure image of a bewildered boy with rocks sailing toward his head.

Connor, a freshman at Western Wyoming Community College, says she and many of her friends have purchased the T-shirts and other merchandise designed and manufactured by Clearwater, Fla.-based clothing company, David and Goliath.

Other items in the David and Goliath clothing line include slogans such as "Boys are full of it; fling poop at them" and "Boys lie; poke 'em in the eye."

boysaresmelly"It's not meant to offend. It's meant to produce laughter; it's sarcastic. There's nothing serious about it," Connor said. "I think because when you're my age, dealing with boys in the worst way, having your heart broken every other week, saying all the time that boys suck and they're stupid, it's meant to be funny."

Not everyone is amused.

"These T-shirts have nothing to do with girl power," says Joe Kelly, president of Dads and Daughters in Duluth, Minn. "They are a cynical manipulation of faux 'girl power' designed primarily to generate corporate profit, the consequences be damned."

Demeaning Double Standard

Nicole Jarrett, a 23-year-old legal assistant in Decatur, Ga., said she was shocked when she discovered the clothing line on the shelves and catalog pages of Delia's, a clothing retailer geared to teen girls and young women.

"I remember being outraged the moment I saw them," said Jarrett, who has written a letter to Delia's corporate office to request the company pull the merchandise from its shelves.

"If this was on a guy's shirt, and the slogan was reversed, people would be all over it on the basis that it was demeaning and promoted violence against women," said Jarrett. "So why should it be tolerated when it promotes the same thing against men?"

That's a question many others are asking, too.

Glenn Sacks, a nationally syndicated men's and father's rights talk show host and columnist is using his radio show to wage a campaign against companies who carry the "Boys are stupid" merchandise.

At least two West Coast retailers, including Dapy's, a Universal Studios-owned clothing store, have responded by pulling the shirts and accessories from their stores in recent weeks.

The David and Goliath company, however, says it has no plans to halt production of the anti-boy clothing or accessories, which include posters, mugs, night-lights, mouse pads and house slippers. The "Boys are stupid" line is in fact the company's biggest seller.

Acceptance of Inappropriate Behaviors

Steven Zucker, assistant professor and school psychology program coordinator at the University of Colorado, Denver, isn't surprised about the success of the boy-bashing merchandise among teenage girls.

"It sounds like some of the normal teasing that may go on between girls and boys at that age," said Zucker, who worked as a school counselor for 18 years. "I think it's the girls saying, 'Geez, I wish one of those good looking boys would ask me out, but that's not happening so let's throw rocks at them.'"

Teasing or not, Zucker says with the prevalence of bullying and violence in schools, the anti-boy message is one that seems "quite unnecessary."

"There are many concerns about the social health of schools," said Zucker. "This wouldn't be something that promotes an inclusive or welcoming feeling in any school or classroom."

Some say fads like the "Boys are stupid" T-shirts point to larger problems in society.

"I see these types of fads as representing the pervasiveness of mean-spirited and rude behaviors children are demonstrating toward each other and adults beginning at younger and younger ages," said Marilyn Quisenberry, a school psychologist at Lindero Canyon Middle School in Agoura Hills, Calif.

"There has also been a trend toward increasing permissive parenting in which children are allowed to do and wear what they please."

Quisenberry does not see the trend as a "feminist" plot against pre-teen boys or even as intolerance of boys. Instead, it points to a general acceptance in society of inappropriate behaviors, she said.

Vivian Garlick, a school counselor at Tierra Linda Middle School in San Carlos, Calif., says she has yet to see any of her students wearing the "Boys are stupid" shirts. Still she knows what she'll do if she does.

"I think I would stop the person wearing that and talk to her about it," Garlick said. "We have a very low tolerance philosophy when it comes to offensive clothing, and we probably would not allow a girl to wear that here."

Too High a Price

Heather Johnston Nicholson, research director for Girls Inc., an organization devoted to the empowerment of young girls, says the T-shirts actually trivialize the real concerns of girls.

"We say at Girls Inc. that all girls are strong, smart and bold. Unfortunately that's a presumption that some communities still don't have," Nicholson said. "There are too many girls who are still being told they need to look stupid or act stupid to attract boys."

Nicholson also said she is disturbed that so many seem to find humor in the anti-boy shirts.

"I think it's funny when people take the 'Hooters' shirts and turn them around in ways that bring attention to stereotypes that demean women," she said. "But name calling isn't funny or acceptable no matter what group it's targeted at. These shirts are simply substituting one power message for another."

Garlick said she thinks such anti-boy messages come at too high a price.

"There's nothing wrong with girl power, but it shouldn't be achieved at the cost of boys," she said. "We shouldn't be putting down boys to lift up girls."

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