Monday, February 7, 2011

What went down when I called Nena and Pasadena....

So, let's get up to speed. Nena and Pasadena clothing has released several offensive t-shirts with semi naked women in provocative poses, including topless. (Refer to my previous post for more information.) Several people that I know have have made complaints, either directly to Nena and Pasadena, to the Advertising Standards Bureau, or to the stores that choose to stock this clothing. My sister in law Kylie received the following response from Nena and Pasadena.

Thanks for your comments and views but we feel we know what young people want to wear so we choose to continue our design concepts in full. I have three teenage boys of my own and have discussed your email with them, they were humored by your thoughts and added that the 6 o'clock news contained far more adult contact than a tshirt!! If you feel that we degrade women or promote violence against women please further your emails to the editor of the herald sun.

Kind Regards

Tim Arandt.

This response was unsatisfying to me, as it didn't actually address anything we mentioned in our letters. Tim also left a mobile phone number, so today I called it and had a chat to him. We had a pleasant enough conversation, well, debate. I will summarize what his argument was.

  • There are plenty of other companies making similar soft porn t-shirts.
  • There is a market for the shirts- teenagers want to buy them.
  • They do not believe in censorship of any kind.
  • They are acting within the bounds of the law.
  • They actually already removed some of the worst offending shirts, including those with drug references, suicidal references, and some kind of machine gun shirt.
  • Kids already see porn everywhere.
  • The shirts are not aimed at children (as consumers).
  • It should be up to parents to decide what they will allow their kids to wear- and he also thinks the shirts are distasteful and would not let his teenage sons wear them.

Some fair points. I also shared some additional ideas.

While there may be other companies doing it, and regardless if there are teenagers who will pay for them, these images are distasteful and offensive, and as a corporation they should act responsibly- and pornographic, sexist images and slogans are not that.

As for the freedom of speech/censorship issue (which always comes up)- he said "I don't believe in censorship." I agreed education and discussion is important, especially for young people who need to learn to think critically for themselves. And I don't think teenagers are stupid, but I do think they are bombarded by a hyper-sexualised culture and become desensitised.

I asked him if he did not believe in censorship, would he think it was appropriate to put racist slogans on a t-shirt. He said if someone chooses to wear a shirt with the word 'Nigger' across it, he should be free to. (Question: Then am I free to smack said person?) While I agreed that people should be free to wear what they choose, I pointed out that by designing and manufacturing these shirts, they are not just allowing people to choose to wear offensive clothing, but providing the offensive clothing for those stupid enough to wear them. There is a difference there.

I quote Melinda Tankard Reist, author and activist for women's issues, "Free speech shouldn't mean hate speech. Free speech should be fair speech."

I agree that kids do see soft porn all the time. The public sphere is covered in it. This is damaging to their natural development. Children when faced with adult, sexual material do not have the emotional maturity to process it and make accurate judgments about it as an adult might. It gives them false ideas about what it means to be a man, or a woman and qualities that are considered the most valuable i.e. being hot, thin and sexy. They should be free not to have this material imposed on them, as should I, and anyone else who chooses not to participate in viewing pornography.

AND- the fact that kids are already exposed to pornography doesn't make it okay to manufacture pornographic t-shirts too. I can choose not to allow my children to watch video hits, and control their internet use (as they become older) but a t-shirt is a walking billboard. Regardless of the age group these shirts are intended for, they are t-shirts! I have seen many of them as I am out and about, just as children will as young men wear them out in public. I can not choose to not see them, my choice has been taken away.

I agreed with him that to a large extent parents are responsible for what they allow their children to wear/watch etc, and I do prevent my children from watching or seeing certain inappropriate material. But I'm not that naive, when my kids are teenagers, who are they going to want to listen to? Their friends, or their Mummy? Especially when a lot of things (like stylish clothing) is specifically marketed to them as desirable, cool, and necessary to show off their identity? Plus, once again...they are t-shirts! If I want to keep them from seeing a t-shirt someone is wearing, I will have to lock them away in a tower or something. (Yes, I just watched Tangled.) And what about the kids whose parents aren't so vigilant?

The fact that he acknowledges the t-shirts are distasteful and he would not let his own children wear them indicates pretty clearly to me that the shirts are offensive, but the fact that they would still defend their right to sell products like this also clearly indicates they are profitable!


  1. He wouldn't let his sons wear them but he's happy to sell them to other peoples sons?

    Nice. Glad I'm not married to HIM!

  2. Hi Caitlin,

    I am a reporter for a radio current affairs program in Melbourne and I am very interested in your experience with Nena and Pasadena. I am actually putting together a story on the shirt designs for tomorrow (Wednesday 15th of Feb) and I think you'd be a great person to do a pre-recorded phone interview with for my story. I'm not sure if you live in Melbourne, but it would be a quick interview sometime between 12 - 1pm Melbourne time tomorrow. If you are unable to do that time I may be able to organise the story for next week's programme if you're interested.

    Please email me asap if you're interested:

  3. Caitlin! I had no idea you phoned him! You're brave. You should post that on Collective Shout as well. Or maybe you already have and I missed it? So impressed :)

  4. Hi Melinda! Yeah I did, as you can see this was after I received no reply whatsoever, and my sister in law Kylie got the extremely helpful "my teenage sons had a laugh" response. He included his phone number and I got excited!


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