This weekend saw a spate of online indignation at internet retailer Amazon and US company Solid Gold Bomb after the T-shirt business ‘inadvertently’ sold tops with offensive slogans including ‘Keep Calm And Rape A Lot.’
After hundreds of #NotBuyingIt tweets in less than 24 hours after they went on sale, the T-shirts have since been removed.
The company has since apologised claiming it was a computer error: Slogans had been “automatically generated using a scripted computer process running against hundreds of thousands of dictionary words”, they said on their website.
The clothing line also included messages like “Keep calm and hit her” and “Keep calm and knife her”. These statements show a worrying trend of sexism and general lack of corporate social responsibility, a trend that has been going on under our noses and right in front of us simultaneously for quite some time.
In the latest statement by founder Michael Fowler, he ironically called on the nation to halt the tirade of violent verbal abuse he has subsequently received following this matter. “Turn the hate off and get off the bandwagon,” said Fowler. The same could be said of the company towards women.
Even British politicians voiced their outrage at the “Keep Calm” logo.
Former Labour Party deputy leader Lord Prescott, the MP who was urged to step down in 2006 for being labelled “sexist” said: “First Amazon avoids paying UK tax. Now they’re make money from domestic violence.”
“These are ridiculous, mindless products for anybody to attempt to sell. It is absurd to say they were manufactured in error,” said Conservative Party MP Caroline Dinenage, according to The Daily Mail.
And the shadow Culture Secretary Harriet Harman told The Independent that Amazon should give all profits from sales of the T-shirts to a women’s refuge as an apology.
“Domestic violence and sex offences are not something people should make money out of,” she added.
Amazon in this instance has been caught red-handed. However there are far more examples by the company that can be addressed.
Just typing in the word ‘sexist’ in the Amazon search box, you can find a whole host of sexist products. For example, the “Get Back in the Kitchen” bumper sticker is a popular sell.
And there are plenty more T-shirts of which consumers have an array of options, not just limited to the “Keep Calm” series.
But it’s not the first time a company has used some form of sexism to sell a product and it needs to be called upon. Consumers have an array of options, and are not just limited to the “Keep Calm” series.
And on my quest while searching for sexist products, I was led straight to Zazzle – a godforsaken haven for women-hating imbeciles. One of the first T-shirt messages spotted on the website seemed to make the Solid Gold Bomb T-shirts look like compliments.
Apparently “50,000 women battered and I’m still eating mine plain” is an attractive top to wear when you are outside along with a plethora of other benign messages.
Men’s Lifestyle online website “Ask Men” have even posted about the ‘sexist attire’ trend. According to the writers, JCPenney, and Forever 21 have “all weathered controversies recently”, but their products are only the latest in the long tradition of the sexist T-shirt.
Abercrombie was identified as the “biggest offender” in their T-shirt galley, but they added: “And while we don’t endorse the messages on these shirts, we have to admit: Some of them are pretty funny.”
In 2011, Topman came under pressure to explain why they compared women to dogs and a T-shirt featuring a checklist of excuses which bear an uncomfortable resemblance to those associated with domestic violence.
Topman responded: “Whilst we would like to stress that these T-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning we have made the decision to remove these from the store and online as soon as possible.” It is worrying that such a product was made in the first place that deems a rather sinister T-shirt, a bit of ‘light-hearted’ fun.
Business Insider did a scoop in the same year about all the sexist T-shirts available, worryingly even children were made targets.
David and Goliath, a ‘leading apparel designer, manufacturer, wholesaler and retailer,’ according to their corporate website, is yet another novelty brand that seems to think the way into consumers’ pockets is by targeting certain audiences to make a sale.
The retailer sells anything from men’s and women’s T-shirts to children’s accessories, so it was rather disturbing to find ‘buttons’ that state: “My Other Ride is Your Mum”, and “Gold Digger – Like a Hooker but Smarter”.
So we’ve clearly seen how apathetic businesses respond in terms of social responsibility. But if Amazon is anything to compare by, then internet retailer Play.com is not far behind. ‘Lusty Linda’ the animated talking pen holder, was one for the record books. According to the F-Word, Lusty Linda The Pen Holder had 10 different sayings including: “ooow (ouch)! Get out you, you dirty old man! What are you looking at? Help! Help! Oh ooh (excited).”
You can just picture the hideous misogynistic corporate co-worker ogling it on his desk, while essentially raping a toy.
In a world with a shifting social consciousness and women accounting for 85% of all consumer purchases, it is astounding that such blatant sexism still abounds in the marketplace.
There is a general consensus in the world of business that companies must engage in corporate social responsibility in giving back to their communities and their consumers. And as brands continue to become increasingly interactive with their consumers, we will expect that they become our role models for social change.
Now having seen the heated reaction against Amazon, perhaps a culture of “naming and shaming” may have to be induced as it seems only fair that other companies start showing that same level of responsibility to the wider cause.