As if we needed further proof that social media has permanently changed the way the public receives and reacts to information, the response to the menswear company Topman‘s new t-shirts has sparked a social media riot. The two shirts in question read “Nice New Girlfriend. What Breed is She?” and “I’m so sorry but …” with the following options to fill in the blank:
- You provoked me
- I was drunk
- I was having a bad day
- I hate you
- I didn’t mean it
- I couldn’t help it
The message on these shirts is clear. They are demeaning to women and make light of domestic violence, reinforcing negative images that have been all too visible in our society of late. Topman, however, is hardly the only company manufacturing shirts with these types of slogans, and one does have to question whether calling for the removal of these t-shirts from the market is a brand of censorship that threatens the right to free speech.
But political debates aside, the true celebrity of this controversy has been Twitter. Outraged consumers and Topman supporters alike took to the social media stage to voice their opinions. Tweets such as Guardian‘s Life & Style’s, which reads “What was Topman thinking with these T-shirts” flooded the internet, causing Topman to recall the shirts and issue a public statement acknowledging the wave of negative feedback and apologizing for the offensive slogans.Given the amount of influence social media has in our lives, I think it’ssafe to assume that messages put forth by brands hold a similar weight in the attitudes of our generation.
The irony is, as a product of modern consumerism, Topman as a company must be aware of public sensitivity concerning a perceived tolerance of violence, sexism, and homophobia and the desire to combat it. It is plausible that the t-shirts are in fact just a marketing scheme, a way to highlight the brand’s presence among the vast number of competitors. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?
What do you think about Topman’s decision to halt production on their controversial t-shirts?