Some of you may have already seen the menstruation t-shirt designed for American Apparel by The Ardorous. It has now sold out online and in stores, but it caused quite the kerfuffle when it was first released, and the images publicized.
In particular, The Daily Mail seemed to have a huge problem with the design of two t-shirts that The Ardorous made in collaboration with American Apparel; not only the aforementioned menstruation t-shirt, but also one that depicted a wet topless female torso, to the extent that they blurred out the ‘offending’ portions of the shirts before publishing them on their website
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The designer behind the t-shirts, Petra Collins, spoke to VICE after the controversy, and I think that she’s pretty spot on in her assessment of why the menstruation shirt, in particular, was met with the reception that it did. From her interview:
“Menstruation—and also pubic hair—really freaks people out. There’s pubic hair in the drawing, which I guess is super shocking to people, even though I cannot get over that. I feel like I’m so sheltered in a way. I always forget that people are so close-minded.
Grown women are taught to repress their postpubescent body or hide it. When you start puberty and you start growing hair you’re taught to shave it, because no one’s supposed to see it. With your period, it’s something that you conceal—no one’s supposed to know. It’s almost pedophilic—and I don’t want to throw that word around. But this feminine ideology we have, of the woman being a prepubescent girl, is how we’re taught to change our bodies.”
Although I agree with Collins on why the shirt was met with disagreement, especially by those who prefer to think of women as magically beautiful hairless creatures who never secrete anything but the scent of roses, I must admit to having an issue with the pairing up with American Apparel as the distributer of these t-shirts. American Apparel, for those of you who aren’t aware, have a shady history of sexual harassment abuses within their workplace, opposing unionization for their employees, fat-shaming, and constant sexualization of women, whilst depicting men (in the same clothes!) in a non-sexual manner. In relation to the latter, I have never seen anything that convinces me that the male gaze is alive and well as much as an American Apparel advertisement for women’s clothing does.
Do you lose feminist street cred when crying out against repressive ideals of womanhood whilst also producing content for a company that seems happy to use women (that is, women of a certain ‘look”) sexually in order to sell clothes? Perhaps.