T-shirts in Greenwich Market

// 22 February 2009

Me and zohra were at Greenwich Market this weekend, when we noticed this t-shirt on one of the stalls:

It says:

Vagina (ve. ji, ne) n.

1. The box a penis comes in

There was another t-shirt on sale which said something like “sexism, what only ugly girls complain about” (apologies, I didn’t take a photo…)

The man selling the t-shirts laughed and smiled when zohra challenged him about the shirts and I took this photo. But it didn’t seem like he got many complaints, given his reaction…

Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 23 February 2009 at 12:15 am

isnt the dictionary definition for vagina actually sword sheath or something equally crappy?

amy // Posted 23 February 2009 at 1:12 am

Bit of a shocker!

Things like this only make me think of the designers as little boys, not men.

The ‘sexism’ shirt also is little boy territory. ‘Sexism’ and hatred against an oppressed group is openly cool now?

Jess McCabe // Posted 23 February 2009 at 12:30 pm

Hiya Laurel,

Well, it’s not the dictionary definition, but as I understand it that is the etymology of the word…

JENNIFER DREW // Posted 23 February 2009 at 12:46 pm

Of course the male seller was surprised at a woman challenging him on selling misogynistic merchandise. Sexism and the reduction of women to men’s sexual playthings is now the norm and accepted. What’s the harm in reducing women to sexualised commodities – after all women are all empowered now are they not so a little misogyny is just harmless irony.

Now imagine if this male seller had a t-shirt promoting racism then there would be an immediate outcry of ‘racism – you’re promoting racist hatred etc. etc.’ But women’s bodies – well they exist for men to sexually exploit and profit from do they not?

Yes vagina is defined by some dictionaries as a ‘sheath’ meaning of course its sole purpose is to be covered by the mighty penis!! But then what can one expect when this definition is male-defined and phallocentric.

I wonder what purpose the penis is? Reproduction perhaps?

Amity // Posted 23 February 2009 at 2:23 pm

That is so incredibly offensive that I don’t even know where to begin. I’m speechless.

Jess McCabe // Posted 23 February 2009 at 2:40 pm

Hi Jennifer,

I think that’s a false assumption. Actually, the t-shirt seller may well have had racist t-shirts on display; we didn’t exactly spend ages looking at all the shirts.

I think that gets way too close to the oppression Olympics, so let’s just not go there. We all know racism’s a massive problem in this country, and just in the last few weeks we’ve seen the incident with Carol Thatcher and plenty of people coming out of the woodwork to defend what she said.

Anna // Posted 23 February 2009 at 2:58 pm

Were these shirts for men or women (or both)? Just curious..

Kez // Posted 23 February 2009 at 3:01 pm

Jennifer, I’ve seen people wearing racist t-shirts and nobody swooped down from on high to incarcerate them.

I actually think the sexism one is worse than the vagina one. While I think the vagina one is revolting, it can be seen as just a play on words. The sexism one (“something only ugly girls complain about”) is such a common put-down used against women – “you’re only against page 3/lap-dancing bars/stupid airline commercials etc because YOU’RE JEALOUS!”. So stupid, yet so horribly pervasive.

maggie // Posted 23 February 2009 at 3:23 pm

And if you are gay?

Sabre // Posted 23 February 2009 at 5:00 pm

Yes there is a homophobic/pretending-gay-people-don’t-exist element to the vagina t-shirt.The t-shirt is awful. Box?! Is the message implying a vagina is just something for a penis to ‘come in’ or a gift box containing a penis, or both? Either way, the way a vagina is referred to as secondary to a penis even in its own definition shows how sexist, homophobic and generally stupid this t-shirt is.

I think the etymology of ‘vagina’ comes from the latin for ‘sheath’ (uagina), not sure it mentions a sword specifically, although maybe by implication.

Funnily, the word penis comes from the latin word for ‘tail’ not sword. How about:

Penis (ve. ji, ne) n. 1. The tail between a man’s legs

Posie Rider // Posted 23 February 2009 at 5:11 pm

Apart from being disgusting and offensive, it’s technical nonsense. The penis arrives in a box (vagina) like something you order online and that’s delivered through the post? I think it’s rather funny, a dismembered penis arriving all neatly parcelled up in a vagina. We’re meant to find this ‘funny’ because it reduces the vagina to a mere recepticle for the mighty penis, but how pathetic does it make the penis look? It reminds me of those post-chop scenes in the sublime movie ‘Teeth’ (dir. Mitchell Lichtenstein) when Dawn has to shake the shorn penii from herself and watch them plop resolutely to the floor.

Still, I’d never buy one of these t-shirts. It strikes me as really cheap to talk about people’s genitals in the abstract, even more to make value judgements about which is ‘superior’.

Anne Onne // Posted 23 February 2009 at 6:25 pm

Ahahaa, soooooo funny! Cos like, you come in a vagina, and that’s all they’re about, just something to stick your dick into! And ‘Box’, it’s like slang for a vagina. Because you put your penis into it! Hilarious! So many levels!

/sarcasm. Seriously. I can see the kind of market they are going for – I have the dubious pleasure of having some of the most crass puerile classmates ever to grace a higher learning institution, and I would hazard a guess that a lot of young (and probably quite a few old) men would consider it very witty, what with the attempt at wordplay. Had we been in some alternate universe of equality where women’s reproductive parts were not subjects of disdain, property battles and public scrutiny, and puns on both parts were used, it might have been funny.

But given the context, it’s just another reminder that our reproductive organs are seen as nothing more than something to stick an erect penis into, and our worth as a person hinging on how willing we are to do this.

I’m not surprised, because ‘edgy’ (by which I mean insulting) humour and T-shirts is a winning combination for people who like to display their lack of empathy, which they consider a sense of humour. I believe it goes along the lines of ‘Ha! you’re nasty because you’re different! why aren’t you laughing? You’ve got no sense of humour!’. Now isn’t the idea that THAT is witty an insult to actual humour?

The sexism one is just a way of silencing people who disagree with you, like saing ‘all x are Nazis’. Which feminists get a fair bit of, too. Of course, people don’t consiously realise they’re silencing others, so blinded are they by their privilege, that they see shutting people they disagree with up as being their right. Not new, and not funny.

Kirsty // Posted 24 February 2009 at 1:32 am

Then obviously, Maggie, your vagina serves no purpose! I’m so sick of sexism and heteronormativity it’s untrue. I’m running out of words to tell people it’s unacceptable without being met with cries of ‘feminazi!’.

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