All over the world, women are continually fighting to earn equality and respect within the fields of math and science. Currently, Forever 21's "Allergic to Algebra" shirt is yet another sexist message aimed at young women telling them that math is uncool -- while bragging about being bad at math is cool. This is similar to Mattel's "Math Is Hard" Barbie, or JCPenney's recent "I'm Too Pretty For Math, So My Brother Has To Do It For Me" tee.
Would these retailers ever consider selling "I Can't Do Long Division!" shirts for boys or men? Or "Proud to be Illiterate!" shirts for either gender? Simply put, "Allergic to Algebra" pushes an ignorant, sexist, and debunked trope about women and math that will not die so long as shirts like these are sold by major retailers such as Forever 21.
Why is this shirt harmful? Messages such as "Allergic To Algebra" can lead to sterotype threat for women and girls, which serves to widen the gender gap in math and science at a time when female involvement is critical. Stereotype threat refers the risk of confirming a negative stereotype about one's group. Since 1995, there have been innumerable research studies within the field of social psychology confirming that stereotype threat regarding one's race or gender can be incredibly detrimental to one's personal achievements. More information can be found at reducingstereotypethreat.org
Tell Forever 21 that you will not be shopping at their stores until this shirt pulled from their selection. Forever 21 needs to also make a vow to never again sell apparel with sexist messaging. Women and girls who are proud to be smart can take their hard-earned money - which they're able to count, thank you - elsewhere.
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