Sadie Says … On Target.

Yesterday I was at Target and I saw a shirt that positively rattled my chain.

Now, I get that my reaction to it (I seriously wanted to throw up) was simply that – a reaction – and I get that a Tee-shirt doesn’t (or at least shouldn’t) have the power to invoke such emotional distress unless I allow it access. But it did.

I let it get to me.

Yes, this ugly grey tee did, admittedly, trigger me. I stood there staring at the message scrawled across its front as several thoughts swirled round my head, each one grasping for ample purchase before settling into a slow stir of whatthefucks.

The first thought had me recalling a very recent occurrence in my life where someone I know and loved might have had cause to wear a shirt with such a message in my presence. An occurrence where deceit, collusion and boundary crossing – all a result of female competition – were egregiously running themes.

Ya know …. things happen and everyone moves on. But the emotional sting of betrayal? That can last longer than we sometimes know. And it can be reactivated, it seems, in the darnedest places. Such as in the middle of the women’s wear department at Target.

The second collection of thoughts that moved through my head were related to the outright hostility of the statement itself. It is meant to be a joke, of course it is. But why is it even funny? This is a women’s Tee in the women’s department, so the presumption is that the woman who wears it is (or was) fucking someone else’s boyfriend and she wants people to know about it. Or she wants to pretend that this is the case. So I ask, where does the humor in the message lie, regardless of its truth? Does it lie in the betrayal of the boyfriend? In the audacity of the chick making the statement? Jokes at the expense of others can be funny, sure. Take a listen to a comedy radio station or attend any stand up performance for evidence of that. But while such joking may get a laugh as an ultimate payoff, is that really worth it? We know that the behavior that this messaging illustrates – women acting in direct competition with other women for affection and adoration of men – only hurts women in the long run. It fosters the patriarchal paradigm. It subordinates them to men by pitting them against each other, opposing vertices at the bottom of a triangle; man perched proudly at the apex.

The subtext of the message is this – “Having a guy, even a guy who is committed to someone else but is fucking me without her knowledge, is what is important. So important, in fact, that I am going to walk around bragging about it.”

It’s a complex issue because women are socialized to compete with each other. It is what we do. Women have very few outlets for aggression and so, as a consequence of this socialization, family dynamic patterning and media influences, we have found our stronghold, and one that appears to serve us well – hurting each other with words and behavior.

But it doesn’t serve us. It only divides us. Keeps us at arms length from one other instead of allowing us the space to embrace each other as we once did. Back when women were valued for our strength, wisdom, independence and inherently nurturing spirits.

Back before we had to battle each other for footing inside of our own social stratus, the one that was comprised of one man and his property; property that included women. Back when we saw each other as allies instead of adversaries.

My point is simply this – major corporations shouldn’t be helping to perpetuate the mean-girl power struggle dynamic which is, essentially, bullying. Bullying is finally becoming a nationally recognized problem and programs throughout the United States are being implemented to curb behavior that falls under this classification, which is decidedly broad (with good reason.) Corporations should instead be aligning themselves with this current shift of consciousness. And we should as a culture, be teaching our girls to let out their aggression in ways that that don’t negatively affect the well-being of other girls. Aggression is a part of our human nature – both male and female – therefore we need to find active, healthy ways of releasing it, instead of relying on our outmoded methods of emotional manipulation and passive-aggressive actions.

Kickboxing, anyone?

For the record, I know some polyamorists who might find the T-shirt and its message totally non-activating and in a sense … sweet. What ethically responsible and compersive poly woman wouldn’t see kindness in such a message if its intended purpose was authentic? I get that. But we know this message is not authentic. It’s meant to cause a stir.

Obviously it stirred something in me.

And I suppose that in the end the intended message lies squarely, and quite literally, upon the shoulders of the wearer herself (or himself for that matter,) but my hope is that very soon no one will be able to buy this ridiculous Tee. Because I called Target and asked them to recall it.

Sometimes it’s something as simple as a reaction that will spur us into action.

Sadie Smythe

Sadie Smythe is a sex and relationships writer, a memoir author, an advocate for sexual freedom, a BedPost Confessions co-producer, a single mother of a supercool kid, the possessor of a degree in psychology, and a polyamory consultant ... among other things. In her spare time, she sleeps.

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2 Responses

  1. Sadie Smythe says:

    Thank you, Lynne! And yes, if we want to diffuse the war on women, we need to start with treating each other with respect.

  2. S. Lynne says:

    I agree with every word you wrote!!! Thank you for this post! I will call Target today. The “war” between women is just another way to keep women oppressed.

    Brilliant, sistah! Thanks for caring so much!!