Have you seen this shirt?
If you haven't, you must not have been on the internet this week, because the shirt has made the rounds on blogs and social media after first being noticed at WonderCon this weekend. Sold by a company called Tankhead Custom Tees, the shirt has raised the ire of pretty much everyone (we're not going to say it better than Greg Rucka, so go ahead and read his thoughts here) for its misogynist implications in a climate where vitriol toward "fake geek girls" is already a major topic of concern in the community. But things just kicked into high gear as the company responded to criticism on Facebook today, doubling down on the shirt and explaining that, really, we're the ones who are sexist. Here's their statement:
So, we've apparently received some bad word on our fan girl shirt, with accusations of sexism being thrown at us from a certain few bloggers...
...who have completely ignored our other variant shirt on display or didn't even bother to ask our take on it.
Apparently it's only sexism if it is insulting to one gender. Woo double standards.
Anyways, the fangirl/fanboy shirts can best be explained like this: fangirls/boys =/= fans. Fans are people who like and genuinely respect a fandom, and it's creators. Fangirls/boys are like those creepy fedora wearing neckbearded bronies, or hetalia fanfiction shippers, who make us all collectively cringe in pain at what they do to the things we love.
No one should ever defend these kinds of people. Seriously, they make the rest of us look bad.
oh and fyi: the ones who bought the shirt design, the fangirl one in particular, half were girls who bought it.
So, assuming we give them the benefit of the doubt and accept that their intention was to insult both male and female geeks equally, we have to believe that the company thought the best place to peddle these wares was at... a geek convention? Maybe a Brett Booth fanclub meeting would be the more appropriate venue, from a pure business standpoint. Just sayin'.
But that was just one of many possible justifications (choose the one that works best for yout). Tankhead wasn't finished. The Facebook post provoked responses, and Tankhead took the opportunity to point out that they are more than willing to insult any minority group for the price of one t-shirt, as one commenter said:
I also look forward to your line of shirts with customer-friendly slogans such as "I Like Gun Nuts How I Like My Coffee" *sure to be a big seller at gun shows) or
"I Like Gays/Black/Mexicans/Muslims/etc. How I Like My Coffee."
To which they replied:
If someone orders a shirt wanting those written on it, sure.
Makes no difference to me.
That's right, just to reiterate, Tankhead will make a shirt to advertise your hatred of gays, blacks, mexicans, muslims, or all of them at once, if you pay them. They really don't care, because they're fed up with our PC bullshit and your attempts to restrict their freedom of speech.
Of course, that's because they don't understand freedom of speech. Tankhead is absolutely free to make sexist, racist, or homophobic t-shirts and sell them if they want to. It's not against the law (as far as we know). As a business in America, they can do that, thanks to their freedom of speech.
But people who aren't bigoted douchebags can also call them out for it, loudly and en masse, and that's exactly what they're doing. That's how freedom of speech works.
So really, Tankhead, it seems that you're the ones who like your first amendment like you like your coffee.