Wednesday 23 April 2014

The "I Hate Fangirls" Shirt Debate: why are YOU mad?

by Jordan Danger


So this past weekend at WonderCon, a shortsighted (and in my opinion, PR nightmare of a) company called Tankhead Custom Tees was selling this shirt:

It’s offensive, right? Well, a lot of people thought so. Whenever something like that happens though, where people are getting riled up, I like to ask, what is the core issue here?

Is it that the shirt denigrates fangirls? The tee producer says that a ‘fangirl’ is a specific type of geek, loathed by all. Here’s their official explanation, actually, after the fallout that happened after WonderCon:

So I thought to myself, why IS this shirt so offensive, if there's a boy version, too? 

Can't we all just agree that we all seem to dislike each other, and move on? But somewhere in this shirt was definitely something offensive. What exactly was the problem?

So I thought about the shirt (which, taking the 'fangirls' word out of it, is kind of clever), and made some substitutions to see if it would still be something that causes torches to be lit and fists to be waved:

How often do we see the redneck community denigrated in our humour? Pretty darn often. My guess is, though, that no viral internet outrage would have ensued over this shirt. (Comment on this post and share your opinion, though. Seriously.)

I really despise poodles, so this was an easy one to think up. Because dog breed fanatics are just as fanatical as the most stalwart comic book fan. (Trust me, I'm a pug fangirl of the highest order.) As a pug fan, I obviously think all other dog breeds and their fans are out to lunch. However, aside from being only funny to people who PVR the Westminster Dog Show, this shirt is also unlikely to incite rage across the Web.

Oh MAN, who doesn't hate tailgaters, right? I suppose someone who tailgates because they have poor depth perception could be offended. Or someone who was rushing to the hospital with their pregnant wife in labour and had to tailgate that one time...still, unlikely to get me punched in the face.

So then I thought about more words, like:
'black people'
'autistic people'
'poor people'

...and the reality is, I couldn't make mock-ups of these words on the tee because I couldn't handle the thought that someone might copy the images and spread them across the internet and actually mean what the shirts would say.

So the line on the 'piss people off and sound like an asshole' meter seems to be when the shirt attacks a human group based on their attributes, culture, ability, etc. Basically, anything that someone would be bullied for in grade six.

Okay, but then how come I can totally see THIS shirt being sold at many of the queer women's festivals I've been to, and no one would freak out....

My point right here is that there's a weird 'offensiveness blindness' that happens when men are the brunt of the exact same joke as a woman. Comment below if you've got thoughts on that, but please for the love of Stan Lee, don't rely on the same tired argument that men have all the privilege. I think it's more complex than that. Give me something new to think about.

ANYWAY, I wondered if the Tankhead Tee people were fully aware of what the problem was here (using the word 'hate' in conjuction with reference to an isolated minority). They didn't seem to understand why this would be hurtful. I wanted a way to illustrate for Tankhead how it feels to be the brunt of people's discriminatory hatred--something they'd understand. So this is what I came up with:

I hope they see that, and I hope they have a little moment where the lightbulb comes on. "Ohhhhh, it DOES suck to have a tee shirt making fun of you." And hey, if they say they're offended, I'll just respond with, "You're being over-sensitive. CLEARLY I was referring only specifically to one kind of Tankhead, and it's not YOU. I swear."

Okay, so assuming I have your attention now, Tankhead, I'd like to propose some uses for your clever catchphrase that are pretty universally agreed upon:

Preach it, sister.

It's like Hunger Games with math.

Needs no explanation.
I'd really like to hear what people think about this tee shirt mess. Comment below, won't you please? I hope we can hear from supporters AND non-supporters of the shirt. I'd also like to hear which of the above alternate designs you think should be in production.

Jordan Danger is a veteran blogger, writer, and marketing consultant based in Ottawa, Ontario. She is also President and Editor of Jordan blogs at, a lifestyle blog about crafting life both literally and figuratively. She loves DIY projects, her dog, and Oxford commas.


  1. I love the 'pap-smear' one. That made me laugh. I find it interesting that these people will generalize and be mean. As for the whole 'fangirl' thing...well...I wonder if they'd have the same opinion when the 'fangirls' stopped buying their products. I wonder if they'd stay in business after that? I bet they never even thought of the consumer... I also hate cheap vibrators.

  2. I'm sorry, but men DO have privilege. It's not a tired argument if people still haven't absorbed the content of its message. Furthermore, in the given context of fangirls vs fanboys, fangirls are already traditionally a marginalized group if you look at arguments relating to fan "legitimacy." The amount of garbage sloshed around about "fake gamer girls" and the like is obscene. Compare to the number of references to "fake gamer guys" (can't say I've ever confronted this one) and you start to see an extraordinarily gendered case. Men ARE privileged, and in the context of fandom it is especially so. It's understandable that this would meet with offence. You are right that it is in fact more complex than a simple issue of privilege but privilege still has a major, arguably majority, role in the discussion.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...