Lighten Up

A T-shirt being sold at a national chain of stores has sparked a backlash online, as many customers are claiming the top is offensive to women. The black shirt, which has the word “trophy” in bold white letters across the front and costs $12.99, has many criticizing the retailer for treating women and girls as objects. A number of customers have been posting photos of the T-shirt publicly criticizing what they say is a sexist move on the retailer’s part. 

“Losing outdated, ridiculous attitudes toward women could be helped if everyone chose to stop marketing to women as though they were objects. When was the last time you saw a men’s shirt that said ‘provider’ across the chest? Let’s all do what we can to lose the stereotypes,” wrote one Facebook user. And in a tweet accompanying a photo of the shirt on display, one user added “under what circumstances should any human being wear a T-shirt that indicates that they are a ‘trophy’?”

Now folks--I have seen T-shirts that say everything from “I’m with Stupid >>>>” to, “I go from zero to maniac in 0.2 seconds.”  When I attend the annual county fair, my family and I have a contest to see who can find the best ridiculous T-shirt slogan by the end of the day. We laugh about the notion that people have the need to not only express their opinions but express them so strongly that they paste them across their chests.

Remember the people wearing the shirts mentioned at the top of this story “CHOSE” to put them on. Whether it’s an inside joke or some form of flattery between couples, those that choose to put such a shirt on have every right to do just that. I recall the Roseanne Barr craze in the 1980s being responsible for T-shirts that read “Domestic Goddess.” The less goddess-like the wearer was, the funnier the shirt became and the irony of that was not lost on the wearer--it was the statement; it was the joke--the joke the wearer chose to crack.

Why does everyone feel they have to weigh in on things like that anymore? When did we all get so hyper-sensitive?

When I was in junior high school, one of the guys on our football team had an enormous head. The coaches had to go over to the Cleveland Browns training facility (which was in my hometown of Berea, Ohio) and ask the trainers to donate a helmet that would fit this guy. His helmet was therefore orange while the rest of ours was white. Due to its size and color, he earned the nickname “Pumpkin Head.” The coaches sprayed-painted the helmet white to match the others but every time old “Pumpkin Head” took a hit, the white would scratch off and the orange was clear beneath. In short--he never lost the nickname. In time, it was shortened to “Punkin.”

Three decades later before our 30th class reunion, he called me to get some details. He and his family had moved after high school and he just had a question or two to familiarize himself again with our hometown  Phone conversation sounded like this:



“It’s Punkin’ Head, man--how you been?”

“Hey Punk good to hear from you, bro. What can I do for you?”

“I had some questions about the reunion.”

…and it went on from there. It was great to hear from him.

There were a lot of characters on that team. One of them was another life-long buddy that was one of our offensive linemen. He was a hulk of a guy who moved slowly, smiled widely and never appeared to be in a hurry. His last class of the day was a study hall. It came an hour before football practice so he would dress for practice and lie down at the far end of the field and take a nap before practice. He had a paper route in the early morning so was always tired at the end of the day. When teachers began to complain about him lying there, he moved closer to the dumpster so he couldn’t be seen from the windows in the school. It became a routine for one of the coaches to go wake him up when practice was about to start and we were assembling onto the field. We all waited for the hysterical site of him coming around the side of the dumpster rubbing his eyes and forcing himself awake. He looked like a Neanderthal coming out of his cave and eventually he got that nickname; “The Caveman.” I think he loved it.

We called him “Caveman” ever since. Years later, everyone cheered that name collectively when he took his diploma in hand amid the cheers and applause. Years after I finished college, I wound up seeing him in a car dealership where he was working and he took over the sale and gave me a great deal. When I looked at the paperwork after getting home, I realized he used the “Caveman” moniker as his middle name now, so he clearly embraced it his whole life although I guess to some it might not have been the most flattering name a guy could have.  Still, it was his; it was him and he liked it. He was certainly never offended by it.

As an Italian-American I can tell you I have a good share of family members throughout the generations that look like the guy you always see on the pizza boxes--big, round men with mustaches, a chef’s hat, hairy arms and an enormous smile. Sure, it’s an exaggeration of some of my ethnic traits, but it’s all done in a light-hearted way. It isn’t intended to be a political statement. Certainly nothing to come to fists about when there are so many more important issues for the world to tackle. I know the Native American community seems to wrestle with these kinds of notions when it comes to team logos and names. I hope they lighten up about this as well. I mean in a country where we have now opened up our minds to same-sex marriages and universal healthcare, should we be a little more thick-skinned about things such as these? That’s just my opinion and I have a right to that. I could be wrong--but at least I’m open to talking about it.

Ron Ciancutti has worked in the parks and recreation industry since he was 16 years old, covering everything from maintenance, operations, engineering, surveying, park management, design, planning, recreation, and finance. He holds a BS in Business from Bowling Green State University and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace University and has held his current position as Director of Procurement since 1990.