Forever 21 is the latest major retailer to come out with a completely cringe-inducing item. The offensive men's shirt, plastered with the line, "Don't Say Maybe If You Want To Say No," sure reads like a rape-rationalizing slogan. Any article of clothing festooned with rape inferences is just unacceptable, but this particular item adds insult to injury, thanks to the shirt's victim-blaming undertones.
“Forever 21 strives to exemplify the highest ethical standards and takes feedback and product concerns very seriously," a Forever 21 representative told Refinery29. "With regards to the T-shirt in question, upon receiving feedback from our customers, we took immediate action to have it removed from our website. We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the product.”
The incriminating shirt is billed on the retailer's site as the "Maybe No Graphic Tee," and, pretty unbelievably, appears to be sold out. That's likely it's a technical glitch, considering the rep says the shirt was hastily "removed" from the site. We're certainly hoping that the shirt wasn't truly popular enough to sell out; it really shouldn't have been sold in the first place. Could Forever 21 have even wittingly sold the rape-related men's shirt to stir up controversy (since the same phrase wouldn't have been blasted for peddling the same message if it were on a women's shirt), as The Cut posited?
Unfortunately, this isn't all that unique an incident. Last month, ASOS was criticized for selling a "Slave" T-shirt (pictured on a black model, to make already-embarrassing matters worse), though the item was technically sold on the British retailer's independent-vendor sister site, ASOS Marketplace.
Very regrettable designs have been greenlit by other big retailers: In 2014, Zara pulled a shirt that bore an unsettlingly uncanny resemblance to Nazi concentration camp uniforms. The same year, Urban Outfitters also got a lot of flack for a Kent State University sweatshirt, which was so distressed that it had blood-like splatters — a very unsavory design choice given the 1970 massacres that transpired at the institution. (An absurdly overt rape-referencing shirt was even put out by a supermarket chain in the Philippines and China two years ago.)
It's befuddling how this Forever 21 shirt (and the array of other aforementioned offending designs) ever got past a design studio brainstorming session. Next time, how about exercising a very healthy dose of caution? It would be a far wiser move.
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