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Mar 19 2012

Proving Skeptics Wrong, Urban Outfitters Successfully Stoops Even Lower

Apparently no longer content with simply ripping off designs from independent artists without paying or crediting them, clothing a generation of hipster misogynists, pulling their “I Support Same-Sex Marriage” tee off store shelves after just one week (citing non-existent “bad press”), selling packages of ramen noodles for $5.00 USD a pop, drastically marking up products cheaply manufactured in overseas sweatshops in order to make heinous profits, funneling exorbitant sums of said heinous profits to finance Rick Santorum’s presidential bid, and their infamous “eat less” women’s long v-neck, Urban Outfitters have decided to continue their campaign of branding themselves the hippest purveyors of pure evil on the corporate high street by engaging in cheap tranny jokes!

Basically, it’s a little card they sell, in a series called “Rotten Rhymes, Tarnished Tales and Vulgar Verse” that is designed to, I suppose, be “clever” and “funny” reworkings of classic fairy-tales and nursery rhymes. It’s entitled “Ye Olde Jack & Jill”. The text reads as follows:

Jack and Jill

Went up a hill

So Jack could see Jill’s fanny

But Jack got a shock

And an eyeful of cock

Because Jill was a closet tranny

Ugh. Fuck you Urban Outfitters. Fuck. You.

(for the sake of context, “fanny” means vagina in the UK, not a butt)

After linking this on twitter, I had someone ask me if I found it offensive. I’m not sure how exactly anyone could honestly think a trans woman wouldn’t find this offensive.

Anyway… I have no idea what to do about this. I’d propose a boycott if I weren’t so certain of the fact that it would quickly be mocked as a “ladyboycott” (though certainly I won’t be shopping there anytime soon). And I’d suggest some kind of public outcry or letter-writing campaign, but clearly idiot hipsters are going to continue giving them their business anyway, since none of the previous appalling actions of Urban Outfitters put any kind of dent in their business. Besides: “it’s ironic”!

So what are we left with? Yet another reminder of the ubiquity of crass, vulgar, demeaning jokes at the expense of trans women. Yet another instance of us being treated as walking punchlines. We’re a joke first, human beings second (if at all). Yet another instance of the “trap”/”deceiver” trope being perpetuated (which gets a whole lot of us killed, as it happens). Yet another look into how for some reason, while almost all other forms of overt bigotry have been (rightfully) deemed inappropriate, it is still perfectly fine for trans women to be openly dehumanized, mocked and derided, with people and businesses rarely suffering any consequences from deciding to profit from our being ridiculed.

I feel a bit sick. And a bit sad. And a lot angry. And also helpless. Which makes me angrier and sicker and sadder. I need to go scream into a pillow for a moment, excuse me.

Okay, I’m back.

I just wish I knew what to do. I wish I knew what we could do. And I’m tired. I’m tired of having to walk around in a world constantly barraging me with the message that I’m a joke, a freak, an abomination, a deception and lie, delusional, a sinner, an acceptable target.

The ubiquity doesn’t lessen the consequences of things like this. It makes it worse. One little card can be ignored. But a whole world telling you that you’re a lesser human being (or just a thing) cannot.

Actually… I think I’ll go lie on that pillow now and just get the hell out of this world for a little while.

 

ETA: Urban Outfitters own site is now claiming the card is “sold out”. Bullshit. It was pulled. Which would be AWESOME if they’d actually own up to that, and admit the fuck-up. Anyway, you can see it for yourself over here.

70 comments

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  1. 1
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    UO is pretty much the worst across the board. I mean, the last thing I heard about them is their being sued for being racist as hell against First Nations people and infringing on their trademarks.

    Not surprised, still disgusted. Fucking dehumanizing, bigoted assholes.

  2. 2
    carlie

    Can I give you an internet hug? Because that’s the only thing I can think to do right now.

    1. 2.1
      Anders

      Clicking on the link, I see they’ve claimed it has sold out. Can it be that they pulled it? One can only hope.

      *hugs*

  3. 3
    Ace of Sevens

    They may have pulled the shirt. The link says it’s sold out and has no picture.

    If it makes you feel any better, the local Urban Outfitters was destroyed in a flood in 2008 and never rebuilt. I walked right past it on my way from work to lunch every day. It seems their main business is mocking and/or appropriating from all minorities, but it’s OK, because irony.

    1. 3.1
      The Nerd

      Here’s hoping that email I sent them this weekend actually did a lick of good. Sometimes it feels like trying to bail a sinking boat with a teaspoon.

  4. 4
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    I’m more than happy to add Urban Outfitters to my list of boycotted organizations along with Rockstar, Chik-Fil-A, and Cracker Barrel. I think I’ve only shopped there once, but I’m more than happy to spread the knowledge of this companies’ reprehensible actions.

    1. 4.1
      Neko

      Just curious- why Cracker Barrel? I hate them already, so I welcome another reason to never, ever venture there again.

      1. Nentuaby

        Because of this bullshit, I presume.

        1. Tony! The Queer Shoop

          It was initially for Cracker Barrel’s treatment of queers, but having now read about the racial discrimination, I have another reason to never set foot there again.

        2. WilloNyx

          Well fuck. They are one of the two, good food restaurants open in this town on Sundays. I have to battle a fuck ton of christians just to eat anywhere on Sundays now and now I am relegated to the other restaurant every week.

          I hate living in a small town.

  5. 5
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Natalie, howzabout a big Internet group hug? I’m sorry you have to put up with this horrible treatment.

    1. 5.1
      Anders

      Can someone in Vancouver get you a big bar of really dark chocolate? Always helps me.

  6. 6
    paul

    I’m almost willing to bet the original design had an extra line or two wherein Jack beats up Jill, but UO decided that’d be too “controversial”.

    Thanks for the tip off about all the other shit they’ve done. I had no idea about all that.

    1. 6.1
      Ace of Sevens

      Natalie didn’t cover the half of it. Google “Urban Outfitters racism” or “Urban Outfitters sexism” for dozens more examples. This is my favorite.

  7. 7
    Christianne

    I saw this a couple of days ago as it was making the rounds. I just wanted to fucking hide away from the world for a while after I saw it. And then I wanted to punch somebody in the face. Repeatedly.

  8. 8
    VeritasKnight

    What assholes. What serious, complete, total assholes.

  9. 9
    MichaelD

    Might I suggest fuzzy animals and maybe some hot cocoa? I’m quite fond of bunnehs ^.^

  10. 10
    Ologies

    Can’t wait for the influx of hipsters making excuses about reclaiming the word, etc etc.

    1. 10.1
      carlie

      You can’t reclaim it when you’re using it in exactly the same way the slur does. I wish people like them would understand that.

    2. 10.2
      Ace of Sevens

      Or that the term “hipster” is offensive and Natalie is hypocritical to force the term on them while objecting to a fictional person being called “tranny.” If I were trolling, that’s what I’d do.

      1. Shattered

        Forgive my ignorance, but how, exactly, is the term “hipster” offensive?

        1. andigrant

          It’s not. Don’t think for a moment, however, that such a thing will stop people from arguing something similar.

        2. Natalie Reed

          He was kidding.

        3. lochaber

          uh… do they have hipsters where you are?

          I’m guessing not, cause if you ever had to interact (or even just observe them) you’d realize how horribly offensive it would be to be confused with/accused of being one.

          Them’s fightin words.

          1. Anders

            You’re just saying that to be cool.

  11. 11
    Anders

    I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit.

    It’s the only way to be sure.

    1. 11.1
      Nepenthe

      I was just scrolling down to say this exact thing.

    2. 11.2
      Erin W

      Please don’t. They have their headquarters in my city. I don’t want to get caught in the blast.

      1. Anders

        Well, we won’t do it as long as there are 10 good people in the city. Obviously.

  12. 12
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Yeah, this sort of thing actually makes me glad I do my clothes shopping out of boxes on the side of the road. I was astonished by your hipster racism post, and completely floored by this. Apparently I really do live in a bubble, because I’m chronically being shocked by how ubiquitous this kind of directed bigotry still is (as opposed to systemic/institutional, which doesn’t require anyone to have any personal malice). I can only offer more internet *hugs*.

  13. 13
    John Horstman

    I very much agree with your sentiments and most of your points, except this:

    Yet another look into how for some reason, while almost all other forms of bigotry have been (rightfully) deemed inappropriate, it is still perfectly fine for trans women to be openly dehumanized, mocked and derided, with people and businesses rarely suffering any consequences from deciding to profit from our being ridiculed.

    While I think you’re correct that it’s more-generally accepted to mock trans people and treat you as jokes, I very much disagree that almost all other forms of bigotry have been deemed inappropriate, specifically in hipster culture; as you yourself have pointed out, racism and sexism are still rampant (certainly body-size policing and transnational exploitation and cultural appropriation are endemic as well). In fact, if this is the only trans-negative item UO sells/has produced (I don’t know if it is, and you don’t mention any others), I’d make the argument that UO specifically is far more SEXIST than transphobic, at least in practice. I don’t think either is okay, I just think you’re giving people generally too much credit for still not being bigoted in all sorts of ways.

    1. 13.1
      Natalie Reed

      I didn’t say all other forms of bigotry have been deemed inappropriate. I said all other OVERT forms of bigotry have. As in, the kinds that don’t even bother with subtlety or coding or a veneer of “irony”.

      1. sisu

        I know this isn’t the Oppression Olympics, but I think that fat-shaming is definitely included in the (thankfully short) list of non-ironically allowable prejudices. Over on Gawker, for instance, the featured (Featured!) comments answering the question “What Else Has Mike Daisey Lied About?” begin:

        “I only had one slice of pizza.”
        “I can see my penis.”
        “I’m just big boned.”
        “It’s a glandular thing.”

        Because he’s fat! hurr hurr hurr.

        Anyway – sorry & feel free to delete if I’m taking it too far off topic.

        1. Natalie Reed

          Well, you’re right, fat-shaming is still disturbingly “acceptable” …but I don’t know why you were expecting anything better from Gawker… :p

          1. sisu

            I know, right? It was just the most recent example that came to mind, since I’d read it just this morning. When will I learn not to read the comments?!?

  14. 14
    Jeremy

    I don’t see why it’s offensive.

    I mean, I don’t see a judgement in the poem itself. Sounds like Jack was expecting one thing and got another – kind of a classic juxtaposition in comedy that from my reading, at least, was more empowering to Jill than anything else.

    That doesn’t mean it ISN’T offensive or that I’m denying that it’s offensive (because obviously the OP was offended!), but I am just not seeing it, personally. Could someone (in seriousness) educate me on the “how” or “why” part? Thank you in advance!!!!

    1. 14.1
      The Nerd

      Google can explain these following points in more detail, but here are some starters:
      “Tranny” = word that must not be used
      Looking up skirt = violation of personal privacy
      Making a joke of trans identity = erasing the serious harm caused by cis supremacy in society

      1. Jeremy

        ohhhh. that’s kinda obvious, now that you point it out. Thank you, The Nerd, for taking the time to answer.

        didn’t even think about the word ‘tranny’ in there, for starters.

        regarding the third point you made – I’ve been of the belief that minorities and oppressed groups tend to internally embrace the use of derogatory slang in order to remove the power of that slang (especially through humor). So would the usage of ‘tranny’ or other similar words be acceptable within the groups that might identify as trans?

        1. Natalie Reed

          Within the trans community, trans women can use “tranny” in a non-oppressive way, if done with sufficient irony or affection. But that is irrelevant here. Urban Outfitters is not a trans woman.

          1. Jeremy

            Yeah, the question was more separate – thanks again.
            (and for the record, I don’t think UO is a trans… anything…:))

          2. Jamie

            I would just add that while it *can* be used by trans women in a non-oppressive fashion (I’m not sure I agree with that, but I have to think about it), not all trans women find this acceptable. I might be less offended or irritated hearing it from a trans woman, and perhaps even less so if she is self-identifying as such, but as a trans woman myself I would still be offended. I think my reaction might range from an internal “Really? Did you have to?” in response to self-identifying trans women to a barely stifled or maybe not at all stifled “You’re a complete and utter smeghead” to the non-trans user of the term.

            In short, some trans women (and trans men) have reclaimed the word, but some of us still find it offensive and find reclaiming it just as problematic.

          3. Natalie Reed

            Personally, I emphatically do NOT consider it “reclaiming” when a trans man uses it.

            As a slur, it has a clear history of being used to specifically denigrate, demean, dehumanize, belittle and mock trans women. Therefore trans men have no right to the term, and no right to “reclaim” it. They were never the targets (except by the fluke of misapplication… the same way a drag queen might occasionally be called a “tranny”, or a trans woman may occasionally be called a “faggot”).

    2. 14.2
      Natalie Reed

      a) Use of the slur “tranny”

      b) Reducing transgenderism to the body

      c) Reduces trans bodies to genitals.

      d) Using our bodies as a punchline

      e) Humour comes not at the expense of Jack, but at the expense of Jill

      f) Punchline is basically “hyuk hyuk trannies are icky!”

      g) Jack is the assumed subject, through whose eyes we see the events. Jill is given no such consideration, simply being an object. No thought is paid to her perspective.

      h) …this enforces cisnormativity, and others trans identities (as not just objects, but as punchlines)

      i) Perpetuates the “deceiver” stereotype, which helps LEAD TO ACTUAL MURDERS OF ACTUAL TRANS WOMEN.

      j) Views transgenderism entirely in terms of how it relates to cis people and how cis people feel about it.

      k) Makes light of situations that are an actual threat to trans people, ignores actual consequences of cissexism and transphobia, ignores the oppression we face.

      l) All that stuff I mentioned in the OP about what it feels like to have to live in a world that treats you like this, as an icky, disgusting, ridiculous joke, whose identity hinges on your genitals.

      Need I go on?

      I’m sorry, but I find it really spooky and disquieting that cis people can look at this and genuinely not see what the problem is.

      1. Jeremy

        Hi Natalie-
        Thank you for taking the time to pass that along to me. I appreciate it.

        I feel like I might have walked into a bit of a minefield, but my experience with the trans community is very limited in terms of direct interaction.

        I fully can see what you’re getting at in all the points. THAT said, your reaction to E (hyuck hyuck) wasn’t my initial impression. Now that you’ve pointed it out, I can COMPLETELY see why it comes across like that – especially when it’s a stereotype that’s so common – I personally just viewed it as “oh hey, I didn’t expect that part to be there” and not “ew gross”. but I’m also not Jack and also wasn’t particularly thinking about the fully justified sensitivities of the community), f, g, AND especially H – I’ve definitely heard stories about the violence, and it’s sickening.

        Thank you again for taking the time to educate this fairly ignorant cis-person (who just looked up the term). :) I appreciate it.

        1. Anders

          There’s a number of older posts you should read. “How to ask questions about trans people”, “How to give compliments to trans people”, the FAQ, the glossary. Look through the archives and you’ll find plenty food for thought.

          1. Jeremy

            Looking them up now. Thanks Anders!

          2. Anders

            You’ll want to read “In memory of another Natalie” and “Why I love My Little Pony” as well. And Coming Out parts 1-4.

            Maybe someone who knows the archives better than I can give other tips.

          3. Natalie Reed

            Actually, the ones I think make best “primers” are

            13 Myths And Misconceptions About Trans Women

            http://skepchick.org/2012/01/13-myths-and-misconceptions-about-trans-women-part-one/

            http://queereka.com/2012/01/02/13-myths-and-misconceptions-about-trans-women-part-two/

            Beginner’s Guide To Trans-Misogyny

            http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/03/06/a-beginners-guide-to-trans-misogyny/

            Bilaterally Gynandromorphic Chickens And Why I’m Not “Scientifically” Male

            http://skepchick.org/2011/12/bilaterally-gynandromorphic-chickens-and-why-im-not-scientifically-male

      2. Jeremy

        Just one further thing to add to this, actually -
        “I’m sorry, but I find it really spooky and disquieting that cis people can look at this and genuinely not see what the problem is.”

        This line is important to me as a cis person. I mean, I consider myself progressive/liberal, supportive of glbtq issues, etc etc. i don’t feel uncomfortable at all with gender issues / roles / identity discussions, and yet here I am basically walking into walls because these issues AREN’T very well passed around to the cis world (am I even using that term correctly? …. probably not, but whatever. you get what I’m saying hopefully :)).

        Thanks for opening my eyes. I appreciate it!

        1. WilloNyx

          I thought I was about to read a bunch of troll-type nonsense and instead I found someone who genuinely didn’t know something and is now (hopefully) working on knowing more.

          Rare.

          1. Jeremy

            … you know, if you’re disappointed and were hoping for something different, I think I’ve picked up some very effective ways to offend you in this thread. :)

            (don’t make me call you a hipster! I’ll do it!)

          2. Anders

            Rare, yes. But diamonds are rare.

    3. 14.3
      Sas

      Aside from what The Nerd said, there’s a very common bigoted trope that trans women are “traps”, who dress as women to trick straight guys into (as the joke-teller sees it) gay sex. It paints us as fake-women, liars, and sexual predators. It’s an idea that is often used to excuse abuses and murders of trans women, that we bring it on ourselves by “tricking” men, and has even been used as legal defense.

      1. Sas

        Should have known I would get ninja’d on that. XD

        1. Jeremy

          Thanks for taking the time tho. :)

  15. 15
    Holly H

    Jeeze, your rant has left me in tears. You have every right to be angry and that anger, as much as it feels like this anger is constantly shitting on you, will be the very thing that motivates you to push for change. You have support and allies and (for what it’s worth) I just want you to know that I, a complete stranger, have your cyber back. As a woman, as a transperson, I might be wrong but I feel like I totally understand the place you are in. It’s the type of thing that tragically destroys your week and cuts you in your mind on the pile of other violence perpetrated against you for the rest of your life. I know this is often how I feel when I hear or see another fucked up shitty thing in the world that is (in)directly and mentally oppressing me.

  16. 16
    McKenzie

    Jack and Jill
    Went up a hill
    To go to Urban Outfitters
    It was full of slurs
    And awful words
    (There’s not a shop that’s shitter)

    I THINK THIS SHIRT WILL SELL MILLIONS

    1. 16.1
      Erin W

      I’d buy several.

  17. 17
    holytape

    Personally, I am tempted to spray the floor of urban outfitters with tangle-foot. Make it into one giant roach hotel for hipsters. But then I am reminded that Hipsters are people too. Sad, Sad people.

    1. 17.1
      lochaber

      No. No, they are not.

      That’s just a myth that they spread when they are inebriated/stoned enough to deign considering themselves approachable by humans.

      Or maybe they are doing it ‘ironically™’ I never quite got that bit.

      If you have any doubt that hipsters need to die (and preferably sooner rather then later(or at least go the fuck away)) find your local not-a-dive-bar that sells PBR, and just try and hang out there for a bit and observe.
      -actually, don’t do this, it will result in irreparable psychological damage; this hipster shit could be almost lovecraftian, if not for the amount of ridiculousness of it…

  18. 18
    Anders

    I thought about channeling my inner hipster to analyze Sunday’s video, but I won’t. This latest bout of hipster-shit has sucked all the joy out of it.

    :(

  19. 19
    Erin W

    I first heard of this yesterday afternoon, via a cis friend saying it was just one more reason she doesn’t shop there. Kinda made me happy that she said that, but yay, once again I’m an unfuckable freak, wahoo.

    Stuff like this makes my life qualitatively worse. I’m so damn tired of it.

  20. 20
    ischemgeek

    Add one to my List of Brands I Will Never Buy.

  21. 21
    Jason

    It may seem like you’re fighting an unwinnable war, but you are making a difference. I for one find reading your posts and learning about your perspective to be a very enlightening experience.

    I may not always agree with you, but I’m glad you’re a blogger and that your voice is heard. I’d also say it’s pretty evident you’re making a difference in the world. I wish you had a larger impact but it’s not your fault.

    Thanks for sharing your views with us.

  22. 22
    nms

    While the typical Urban Outfitters shopper is likely to be liberal-minded–as is the province and privilege of youth–the fiftysomething Hayne is mom-and-apple-pie conservative. He and his wife Margaret have contributed $13,150 to the campaign coffers of Paleolithic right-wing Republican Sen. Rick Santorum and his Political Action Committee over the years.

    Oh the irony!

  23. 23
    Walton

    All I can say is that this is sickeningly offensive and bigoted. I’ve never shopped at Urban Outfitters, but if I did, I’d definitely boycott them.

    (Between this and the racist anti-Obama bumper sticker, I’m rapidly losing my last remaining vestiges of faith in humanity.)

  24. 24
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    *SMH*

    People… think that’s funny?

  25. 25
    Cynthia

    Well, I’ve never bought anything at Urban Outfitters and you just insured that I never will. And none of the teens around me will either, once I get done explaining why.

    So, you’ve made a difference down here in the bible belt – and it’s a positive difference. It’s a small change, but it’s a start.

    And you can check out Greta’s kitty posts for an uplift, too. It’s almost as good as a sonic screwdriver!

  26. 26
    davroslives

    What boggles the mind is that a corporation would do this. By this I mean not only this incident but all the other crap they’ve done. I mean… what happened to the days when corporations would rather be blown to dust than cater to anyone not precisely in the dead center of every single demographic? Not that this is a particularly GOOD thing, but going out of their way to be offensive… is it really a totally “ironic” thing? I mean, of COURSE it isn’t, from an attitude perspective, they mean every word, but how is it marketed? As ironic/”edgy”/reclaiming?

    I just don’t get it. My job, as the stereotypical white/male/straight/cis person, is to shut the fuck up with “reclaiming” and stuff like that. Or at least only speak out in support of the people who really can change things. I don’t have a big enough ego to think that me wearing some t-shirt will BLOW THE WORLD’S MIND, and make everything rainbows and unicorns.

  27. 27
    embertine

    I’ve just gone onto UO’s UK site (never shopped there, never will, so didn’t know what to expect). I couldn’t find the card but, judging by the rest of their offerings, whoever writes them has the sense of humour of an eight year old*.

    I was going to send them an angry email, but having seen just how utterly pathetic they are has taken the wind out of my sails. Not even worth it.

    (I’ll admit that the “Angry Welsh Cheese” joke did make me chuckle…)

  1. 28
    Transphobia at Urban Outfitters | TRiG's links

    [...] Urban Outfitters, which is apparently some kind of clothing company, stocked a “greeting card” containing a grossly transphobic rhyme. [...]

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