The Power Of Offensive T-shirts

By Tameka Ware

Like an dear, valued friend, a T-shirt can evoke feelings of comfort and happiness. If the slogan or design is funny, you will laugh and make others break into a smile too. It may even make them think. This is usually the idea behind wearing offensive t-shirts.

A slogan that may offend will get tongues wagging. People will talk about it and hopefully they will think about the message that you're trying to send. After all, often it isn't really the message that's potentially distasteful, but rather people's reaction to it. This is especially the case with slogans that have to do with basic human rights.

Most T-shirt slogans are designed to provoke a reaction. The idea is basically to wear your heart on your sleeve, or rather on your chest. Of course your message may get some people really upset, but if you're lucky, someone somewhere will read the slogan and think about it, what their own attitudes are towards the issue and whether these behaviors are fair and justifiable.

A great time for interesting and clever slogans are during an election campaign. Designs with 'Vote for Candidate A' are everywhere and the message may become lost. However, a humorous design that pokes good-natured fun at Candidate B will explain to people why they should be voting for Candidate A instead. They may not even realize that you are trying to sway their vote. This is a much more effective way of drumming up support for the candidate of your choice.

Many tees designed to shock and offend do so by mentioning bodily functions. Most people will react to these with a mixture of horror and disgust. However, some may start wondering why it is that perfectly natural functions like menstruation, breaking wind or excretion should be swept under the carpet when everyone does it.

Sometimes your tee can offend without you meaning it to. A slogan about being a sexy girl, for instance, can be construed by some as just another example of how the patriarchal system puts women in boxes and expects them to fulfill only certain roles, like being appreciated for their sex appeal and not their ability to think. The message that you were trying to send then gets lost in a completely opposite interpretation of what you intended.

The way that the tee is worn can also make the message either more meaningful or completely meaningless. A slogan calling for war will just become silly when worn as a fashion statement with pink camouflage pants, for instance. Instead of showing that you support war, you then show that you find the idea of war utterly ridiculous.

Offensive T-shirts can be a bit of a minefield. The line between provoking and simply hurting is a very blurry one. You may think it's funny or thought-provoking to wear a slogan that, for instance, pokes fun at the idea that rape victims were 'asking for it'. For a rape survivor who has to hear people implying this all the time, however, it may not be so funny after all. This is why you should choose your slogans with the utmost care.

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