Thursday, January 4, 2007

Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa and he gets it.

I found this while reading a list serve on violence prevention It's good to know that while Kmart's parent corporation doesn't get it, at least some of their employees do.

"On Christmas Eve I was finishing up my Christmas stocking shopping. In years past done at K-Mart. After several hours and far more $ then usual I got through most of my Chirstmas list. Unfortunartly K-Mart was the only store in town where I could get the last 3 items. I went to the manager of the store explaned about the T-Shirt and showed him how little I had spent in his store this year compared to years past. I ask if he would please forward the info onto the corporate headquarters. He shared my disgust of T-Shirts that show our children that violence is an answer to problem solving and he said he would get an email out right away.

On my way out of the store one of the employees asked if I could show them where the shirt was. The manager of the store followed us and upon seeing the shirt pulled it from the shelve. He said it didn't matter to him if corporate office said it was staying. "I don't care" was his reply.

Don't give up on getting it off the shelves. If enough of the individual stores will stand up to corporate there may be hope yet.
Robin Clover
SAFV Task Force"

In case you missed it, here's the Kmart Corporation's web comment page.

1 comment:

hrdygrlz said...

This was sent to Hardy Girls with a request to post. You go, Ben!

K-Mart Misses Opportunity to Stand Against Violence
By Ben Atherton-Zeman, December 20, 2006

“Problem Solved,” reads the T-shirt. The cartoon above features stick figure drawings of a male and a female. In the first frame, the female is talking excitedly to the male – in the second, he has pushed her through the wall of the frame. She is falling to her doom – he is smiling. “Problem solved.”

Worse yet, the T-shirt is a children’s shirt. According to the Kennebec Journal, shopper Kristin Aiello told the Augusta, Maine K-Mart store manager that the message on the shirt was offensive ( - the article has a photo of the shirt). The manager promptly removed the T-shirts.

Surely, this should have ended the matter. Every twelve seconds in the United States, a man abuses the woman he has promised to love. Every two minutes, a man rapes a woman – usually a woman he knows. Men’s violence against women is supported by societal attitudes that reduce women’s voices to objects of irritation. Silencing women is very much a part of committing violence against them. Violence against women is not funny – least of all to those millions of women who experience it.

In an abrupt reversal, however, K-Mart’s corporate offices changed the store manager’s decision. The Journal article quotes Kimberly Freely, manager of corporate relations for Sears Holdings Corporation. Freely said the Augusta K-mart was putting the shirts back on the shelves - Sears Holdings Corporation believes “these attitude Ts are meant to be light-hearted in nature.”

Light-hearted? No matter what the intent of the shirt, the effect is to minimize and condone men’s violence. K-Mart’s reversal of the store manager’s decision deliberately undermines their history of philanthropy and commitment to agencies dedicated to preventing violence against women. Their decision undermines all who work to stop such violence.

Many men (myself included) find it difficult to seriously listen to women. We tend to become defensive. After all, we are socialized to be the “top dog,” the one in charge of the relationship. If we listen to women, our authority might be undermined, whether in our personal relationship or in the world. If we listen to women, we might have to acknowledge the sexism and violence that women suffer – that our gender perpetrates. If we listen to women, we may have to be accountable for our own actions, for our own sexism, for our own privilege – for our own violence.

It’s so much easier to just make women the butt of the joke.

I use humor to educate about violence against women. Humor can be used to reduce an audience’s defensiveness when it comes to learning and accepting difficult material.

Humor can also be used as a club. It can be used to avoid responsibility – “Can’t you take a joke?” Humor can be used to silence targets of oppression: women, people of color, Jews, lesbians and gay men, etc. And it can allow men, whites, Gentiles, heterosexuals and others to continue to ignore our privilege, and ignore the violence that our group perpetrates.

The “problem” in this T-shirt is defined as the woman speaking – the “solution” is to commit violence against her until she “shuts up.”

What about the real problems of violence? Of sexism? Of woman-hating? Of homophobia and racism? If only a simple, tasteless joke would cause these real problems to “just shut up.”

My calls to Sears Holdings Company have gone unreturned. My call to my local K-Mart was much more illuminating – they had previously stocked the offensive T-shirt, but were not doing so at present. I asked if this was because the shirt was so offensive – “Oh, God, no!” the worker replied. “We just ran out. We’ll be getting more.”

I’m not spending a penny at any K-Mart or any Sears until they remove their shirts and apologize for their mistake.

Problem solved.

Ben Atherton-Zeman can be reached at, website

Addendum on January 4, 2007: Still no word from K-Mart that they’re pulling the shirts. However, the response to the call for the boycott (girlcott?) has been overwhelming!

I’ve seen many emails from folks who refuse to shop at their local K-Mart or Sears until they take the shirts down. Folks have also persuaded their local K-Marts to take down the shirts – the managers and workers have done so, disgusted at the shirts’ message (“I don’t care what the corporate office thinks,” said the manager, and then emailed his opinion to corporate headquarters).

My favorite response has been the shirts that have been created in protest. One nine year old boy in Maine, David Mallow, shows the same stick figures talking through their problem and holding hands in the last panel. Underneath, it reads, “Problem solved. Hurting someone just makes the conflict worse.”

Many groups have now taken up this cause: Hardy Girls Hardy Women, Dads and Daughters, and the Boston chapter of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism, just to name a few. Many have compared this to the protest of O.J. Simpson’s book – hopefully the groundswell of opposition will have the same success this time and the T-shirts will be pulled from the shelves. – Ben 