I'm so sorry but... Topman t-shirts are not acceptable

I'm so sorry but... Topman t-shirts are not acceptable

I'm so sorry but... Topman t-shirts are not acceptable5

Fundraising | Niki May Young | 16 Sep 2011

Has society stooped so low that it accepts messages making light of domestic abuse from its high-street retailers? Thankfully not, says Niki May Young, because of the charities that protect our standards.

I'm a shopper, I could shop all day every day, I love it. Nothing pleases me more than the thrill of a purchase, the smell and feel of new clothes, or getting to try out my new gadget for the first time. So I spend a lot of money. And until recently I was particularly fond of spending it at retail giant Topshop. What a shame then that they've messed that up.

When I read my colleague's story on Topman's recall of a t-shirt that appeared to compare women to dogs and one that hinted at excusing abuse I was struck by the abject stupidity involved with ushering these t-shirts onto their rails in the first place. How many lines of management would have been involved in the whole process? Why did no-one put their hand up and say, "Um, I think that maybe this could be detrimental to our image", or better yet, "Are you out of your freaking mind, could you get more offensive?!"

Topman and its sister company Topshop appeal to a youth market - you can tell this because their clothes are tiny, and  more often than not their aisles are swarming with teenage girls in mini-skirts and crop tops, or teenage boys with jeans hanging so low off their bums they're practically tripping over them. So what kind of example does it set to this next generation to excuse domestic abuse, providing a tick-box list which could easily be interpreted as a list of reasons why one might be violent to their partner. "I'm so sorry but... you provoked me, I was drunk, I was having a bad day, I hate you, I didn't mean to, I couldn't help it," is what it says. What Topman said in response to the campaign that led to their recall was almost as bad. They would "like to stress that these t-shirts were meant to be light-hearted and carried no serious meaning". Well, that's ok then, making a joke out of something so 'trivial' as domestic abuse is acceptable these days is it?

Thankfully not, because there are charities willing to stand up against big corporations like Topman and say "hold on a minute!" Until yesterday neither I nor my colleagues had heard of Tender Education & Arts, the domestic abuse prevention charity that raised the flag on the issue, launching the social media campaign that led to Topman backing down and removing the t-shirts from its stores. Tender works with young people to promote healthy relationships and prevent violence and abuse through the arts.

Its recent victory serves as a welcome reminder of the tireless and invaluable work humbly carried out by the UK's 200,000+ charities every day, protecting the standards of our society where no-one else will.

I save my final note for Topman and Topshop alike: "I'm so sorry but... you're not going to see my money again."


Niki May Young
website editor
31 Jul 2012

**Update** - I wrote this almost one year ago and I can honestly say I have not bought one single item from Topshop or Topman in this time... true to my word!

21 Sep 2011

I think some people are misunderstanding the concept of light hearted humour. Light hearted is Bill Bailey answering a question about what Britain is like by saying, "Well, we've got Nectar points and breakfast is served from 7-9."

Jokes about domestic violence aren't light hearted. If they are funny (and that's debateable, especially in the case of these t-shirts), they are dark humour at best.

And if you don't immediately read "I'm so sorry but you provoked me" as being about domestic violence, you are being naive or extremely obtuse. The point of the list is that it speaks to a commonly understood narrative in our society. What did you think it meant?

If that list isn't about domestic violence, what's the joke?

Let's not forget the fact that Topman pulled the t-shirts because, yes they did mean what we all thought they meant. They just thought we'd find them funny.

And we're supposed to be grateful that they thought better of it when faced with the outrage? Their apology is pretty much in line with the original idea of the t-shirts. The old "you're oversensitive, it was just a joke" defence.

Ha, bloody ha.

21 Sep 2011

I agree with the fact that this is probably a marketing blunder but seriously people what is with the current culture of deliberately interpreting things as their worst possible meaning.
I can see how people could see it has being about abuse but it really doesnt have to be and it didnt occur to me first. Too much eastenders methinks. Bad taste yes probably, encouraging abuse, no I don't believe so.

19 Sep 2011

Seriously???? Anyone that wants to ban this T-Shirt is clearly an idiot.

Lighten up, fools!

Sally Campbell
Fawcett Society
16 Sep 2011

Great post Niki. It saddens me to think that violence against women is STILL not taken seriously, despite all the work done by domestic violence charities, so often on extremely low levels of funding.

Topshop thinks that t-shirts like this carry no serious meaning, but added to all the other messages that pervade adverts, music videos, the internet (I could go on) telling men that violence against women is ok, this is anything but trivial.


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Niki May Young

Niki May Young was employed by Civil Society Media as website editor from March 2010 until July 2013.

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