NASA Shirt Sexism: A Social Media Controversy, Deconstructed

It started like this: Arizona State University professor named Katie Hinde tweeted the following: “Did I just take a bunch of NASA tank tops from the boys section & put them in the girls section? Yes. Yes I did.” She included photographic evidence of the same, at what was probably a Target. The idea being, if NASA shirts are only in the boys’ section, STEM careers will continue to be treated as an option only for boys. Subtle cues along those lines could well prevent women from entering such professions.

A heartwarming story of grassroots feminism, one might think. And many did, going by Twitter responses, think this. Others had a very different take. Some called the move “white feminism,” pointing out that moving stuff around in a big-box store gives more work to retail workers, who aren’t particularly well-compensated. Maybe feminism should be more concerned with struggling retail workers, and not adding more work to their pile, just to make a mediagenic statement about one of the less dire manifestations of sexism. A good point!

But as Jillian Keenan pointed out it’s hard to engage in non-violent protest without inconveniencing workers. Also a good point!

Everyone on this planet (and maybe some others) has, by now, weighed in, including at least one former retail worker who does not think a woman moving a few shirts around to make a point is, in fact, the height of neoliberal exploitation. A (former?) bookstore employee concurs.

Oh, and Target itself intervened, pointing out that it does in fact sell NASA shirts for girls. In the girls’ department.

If there’s a bigger takeaway here, it’s that there’s no easy answer to how to engage in inclusive feminism. Trying to get it right means setting yourself up for the possibility of learning you may have gotten it wrong.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy edits the Sisterhood, and can be reached at bovy@forward.com. She is the author of “The Perils Of ‘Privilege’”, from St. Martin’s Press. Follow her on Twitter, @tweetertation

Tagged as:

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

NASA Shirt Sexism: A Social Media Controversy, Deconstructed

Thank you!

This article has been sent!

Close
Close