Sexist T-Shirts Spawn Girlcott

Perhaps the T-shirt could read: “Who needs demeaning apparel when you have the brains to turn a local protest into a national cause celebre?”

That’s just a suggestion to a group of girls who have created a news media maelstrom with their campaign against Abercrombie & Fitch’s “attitude T-shirts,” which the girls say are demeaning to young women.

One of the offending shirts reads: “Who needs brains when you have these?”

Another states: “Blondes Are Adored, Brunettes Are Ignored.”

The two dozen or so girls, participants in the Allegheny County Girls as Grantmakers program, are calling for a “girlcott” of Abercrombie & Fitch stores until the targeted shirts are no longer sold. Girls as Grantmakers is a two-year program in which girls discuss and explore ways to make a difference in the community by reviewing and funding grant proposals designed by peers.

Their protest landed the group’s co-chairwoman, Emma Blackman-Mathis, on NBC’s “Today” show with Katie Couric on Tuesday, on Fox’s “Hannity & Colmes” Tuesday night and on CNN Wednesday night. CNN is coming to town this weekend to do a larger segment on the girls.

“We totally didn’t expect it to be picked up a) this quickly and b) by the national media,” said 16-year-old Blackman-Mathis.

The protest began Sunday with a news conference and rally. The girls in the grant-making program also began e-mailing their friends who in turn e-mailed more friends.

“What these girls are saying is we would be happy to shop at your store, but we want you to sell smarter clothing and clothing that doesn’t demean your customer base,” said Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania, one of the Grantmakers program’s funders and overseers.

Arnet said her office had received about 400 e-mails and numerous phone calls in support of the girls’ campaign.

“We’ve gotten a lot of responses from girls across the country asking how they can get involved starting things in their schools and in their cities,” Blackman-Mathis said.

In addition to encouraging young women not to buy the controversial shirts, the Grantmakers girls are asking those who agree with their stance to contact Abercrombie & Fitch “to let them know that girls don’t think the T-shirts are cool anymore,” Arnet said.

The retailer, which did not return calls seeking comment, released a two-sentence statement:

“Our clothing appeals to a wide variety of customers. These particular T-shirts have been very popular among adult women to whom they are marketed.”