Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Math is hard!

Girls and homeworkBut not as hard as my math teacher! (I couldn’t resist the Bob & Tom reference.)

Today I came across a post on one of my feeds that showed this sweatshirt available from JC Penney. (See the feed post here.) I posted it on Facebook and asked “Offensive or funny?” I was curious to see how people would react to it, and whether my reaction was typical or too much. I’ll mention the comments, and then write about my feelings on it.

Rot Job wrote: “Yeah, because every guy wants to fuck a moron.”

Elly Bear wrote: “Simply put, sad. Notwithstanding the US slip in educational achievement scores as compared to other countries. For instance, on average, China's children spend 8.6 hours a day at school, with some spending 12 hours a day in the classroom PLUS homework including on the weekends. We might think that's rough, but they're laughing...”

Simon wrote: “Funny! Or, to put it another way, it's offensive about as much as ‘GIRLS RULE / BOYS DROOL’ should be banned for its explicit sexism. Meh!”

Tim wrote: “HUNH? How about nonsensical? Rot - sadly, I know plenty of guys who'd love nothing more....”

Estela wrote: “I think it is funny, but I want to know who has a brother that nice? I sure didn't.... nor do my daughters.”

I think my initial reaction was probably a little too lacking in humor. I won’t go so far as to say that it was offensive to me, but it bothered me on a certain level. I think something like that perpetuates an attitude in young girls that studying and doing well in school is best left to the boys, and “looking pretty” is left to the girls. The further description of the item mentions Justice Beaver, which I DO find rather offensive, but for very different reasons. I’m not sure when this item was for sale, but if you click through, it is no longer available on the JC Penney website.

The title of this entry goes back several years to when Mattel marketed a talking Barbie who really did say “Math is hard!” I didn’t see red or wig out with that or with this sweatshirt; but as someone who went heavy on the science, it does make me worry about what messages we’re sending to young girls with such items. I’m far from the type of feminist that lardbucket Rush Limbaugh likes to call “feminazis.” I take it as a given that I will be treated with the same respect as any man (whether in the workplace or out of it), and Gangsta Bitch Barbieif that’s not the case, then I will address it. Oh, I’ll address it REAL good, believe me. I don’t take easy offense at slightly misogynistic jokes, but I’ll call out true mean-spiritedness. I’m more of the “empowerment” type of feminist, trying to get young women to understand that they can do anything they put their minds to. They don’t have to go into a certain profession or do any certain thing simply because that is what society dictates. They can make their own path, and part of that involves hard work and doing your own homework and not relying upon being “too pretty” for such mundane tasks.

Simon mentioned the “Girls rule Boys drool” thing and said that something that silly shouldn’t be banned for sexism. I see what he’s saying, but I find that sentiment (the drooling boys part) counterproductive and I’ve never liked that whole attitude of “All men are stupid.” Hearing a man say that all women are stupid pisses me off, and hearing women say the same thing about men pisses me off just as much. It perpetuates a ridiculous myth and it’s disrespectful to all parties involved. I understand Simon’s point, and of course I don’t think any such thing should be banned.

But I’d much rather foster an atmosphere of mutual respect and cooperation, one in which young women understand that there is more to life than looking pretty, and that using their looks to get people to do things for them is irresponsible and a complete cop-out. Everyone should aspire to learn and excel in academics, and to me, such items, even as a joke, are counterproductive to that goal.

Am I irate about this? No. I’m not offended, either. But I don’t care for it much, and I don’t like the message it sends.

Now, the Justice Beaver thing...THAT is offensive!


  1. Just like I hate the Princess T's, get real.

  2. Fostering in young people the idea that they can aspire to be whatever they want to be is great. Hand in hand with that is also giving them the tools to deal with those who tell them that they can't do whatever it is -- given that this proclamation has nothing whatsoever to do with their actual skill set.

    As far as math goes, there needs to be a shift in how math is taught in many communities. One of the things that I remember from my teaching math class in my credential program was that the instructor said that many elementary school teachers are math-phobic. They in turn pass their phobias onto their students. First step is to make sure that regardless of their past experiences, these teachers demonstrate nothing but confidence. The second step is to make it accessible to all students. This means allowing students to explore. It's not about memorizing an algorithm; they should be allowed to see that sometimes there are many paths to the same solution.

    If you haven't read it, I highly recommend "Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project." There's also a really cool chart out there that shows various professions and the levels of math one needs to study.

    Sorry for being long-winded. It's something about which I feel quite passionate. Also it's the start of the school year and I'll probably be taking private students for tutoring once more -- in math.

  3. Any parent who buys this for their daughter needs to be sterilized immediately!

  4. I’m far from the type of feminist that lardbucket Rush Limbaugh likes to call “feminazis.

    Hate to break the news to you... but you are. For some men, not being willing and ready to be meek and docile constitutes a 'feminazi' and how threatened do you think fat boy is by an accomplished and talent woman who is light-years ahead of him intellectually.

    Who, is 'Justice Beaver'?

    There are certain meme that get trotted out and have been since I have been alive. While I do acknowledge that it should be brought out to light and inspected, it simply isn't my fight... I am assigned a different unit and when its called to action, I will be ready.

    I do think Toon has a point but a teenager who is trying to establish their character might want a shirt like that... trying to make a comment about themselves of the class as a goof, you know what I mean..?

  5. The last people in the world that we want defining a philosophy of education are the designers of children's clothing. And, yet, those are the very people (they and the designers of toys, video games, television shows, etc.) from whom our kids learn what life is all about.

    That's messed up.


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  8. I didn't see it on your FB, but someone sent me a link to a story about JC Penny pulling the shirt. That was the first I'd seen it.

    I didn't like it. Too many girls are afraid of showing how smart they are, and too many other girls don't know how smart they really are because they've been programmed to think that math and science are hard. Nope. Didn't like the message on the shirt, and I seriously cannot imagine what JCP was thinking!

  9. I for one don't like the message on the TShirt!

  10. Not where we should be going. Though it could be thought of as funny in our society, this perpetuates all the wrong educational attitudes for young women(and young men), and only goes along with the misconception that women aren't capable of achievement in math and science. Those concerns should outweigh any humor found in the product.


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?