What does my T say about me?


It seems that a lot of people were quite offended by the Urban Outfitters t-shirt, so many complaints were made that the shirt is no longer available online.

But in real life, several of my friends and I have been discussing this, and we’re not the only ones who weren’t as offended as people thought we "should" be.

I noticed on one of the on-line discussion boards I’m a part of that many of the adoptive parents were really upset by the t-shirt and a bunch of the adult adoptees found it hilarious.

What my friends and I want to know is: Why is this t-shirt so offensive to adoptive parents, but these:


or my personal favorite :


are somehow okay?

Here’s what my friends and I think; the reason adoptive parents were so upset by the Urban Outfitters is because it was calling into question adoptive parent motivation – as in, adoption is just trendy, therefore the new "black" which in fashion is another way of saying hip and cool.

But, the infamous China Ultrasound t-shirt, the "Made in USA with imported parts" and the hideously awful, "Do not bleach, Made in China" shirt is nothing but objectifying children.

So I guess it’s okay for children to be objectified, just not parents.

Meanwhile, here is what I’ll be wearing.


Author: JaeRan

Assistant professor at UW Tacoma, writer, and researcher.

27 thoughts

  1. You said it. And I agree. Objectifying children is somehow okay, but once it gets personal and objectifies the AP, then all hell breaks loose. Love the t-shirt you’re gonna wear!!! I might have to get one for myself.

  2. Amen! You articulated all of this so much better than my previous feeble attempts on this matter.
    Just a shot in the dark here, but my guess is that Urban Outfitters ultimately pulled the shirt not because they had a sudden “Ah-ha” moment of “Oh, perhaps this shirt IS a little tacky” (and not to mention highly unattractive), but because the almighty dollar eventually won out.
    As I’ve said on other people’s blogs – hopefully people will rally in equal vigor and tenacity to eliminate the shirts which you posted, which are far more insulting, offensive and degrading.
    Thank you for this.

  3. My worst t-shirt offense as an adotive parent was ordering up a shirt from Cafe Press that read, in very large print:

  4. That first one is hilarious but the others are just wrong. They represent the children as property; goods purchased over a counter.

  5. Just found your blog – 110% agree with you, girl! And, I heart the Little Angry Asian Girl – I’ve already purchased some items there.
    A lot of adoptive parents and a-parents-to-be need to get over themselves and look in the mirror a bit, eh?

  6. Ugh. I’d never seen that last t-shirt before. What is wrong with people? I think adoptive parents don’t like the first t-shirt because nobody want to be perceived as adoption bandwagon-jumping. Personally, I kind of roll my eyes at it because I’ve had many people comment on my supposed trendiness for adopting my son. I wonder what happens when it’s no longer the “in thing” to do?
    But those stupid China ultrasound/Made in Korea t-shirts just make my blood boil. I can’t imagine putting any of those on a child.
    Harlow’s Monkey, I’ve been reading your blog for several months now and wanted to thank you for writing about so many transracial adoption and race-related issues. You’ve given me a lot to think about (and subsequently act on).

  7. I think there are at least two different types of APs: there are waaay too many who would buy those “China Adoption Ultrasound” shirts, but there are also a [hopefully growing] number who are reading your blog and others like it. Those in the latter group hate the “New Black” shirt because those APs *are* listening to you and want to learn from your experiences, so they fight against adoption trivialization.

  8. here’s to all feisty angry little girls! jr, you rock. i’ve got the black tee with angry little girl flipping birdies.

  9. I’m so glad you posted this. I thought the T was hilarious – in an ironic sort of way self deprecating way. I wouldn’t wear it because why invite comments from people who would take it literally. I don’t know it that’s what the co. intended but I wasn’t offended – just thought it was sardonic.

  10. I think you hit the nail on the head.
    I’m not a huge fan of Urban Outfitters, but I laughed when I saw this one.
    The really sad thing is I bet you some of the same AP’s who were offended by the UO shirt own shirts and other paraphernalia like it that objectified adoptees.
    It drives me nuts to think of APs buying shirts like those and putting them on infants and little kids who don’t know any better. It’s not “cute” at all. I don’t know any adoptees who would buy that garbage for themselves.
    But, I love the alag shirt!

  11. Okay, I gotta get me the Angry Asian Girl t-shirt.
    I totally agree with your observation – it must be the difference between objectifying the child vs. being called on it. Of course the first is offensive in concept – but funny because there’re those who should be wearing it. The other ones… it’s amazing that so many APs think they’re “so cute” and don’t think twice about putting one on their kids. Yep, I’d say you nailed it on the head.

  12. I find them all obnoxious. I’d be curious to know is anyone has EVER seen anyone in one of these shirts. Do they ever actually get purchased?

  13. Ok, when I first saw that shirt. I thought they meant black as in black people, and I really wasn’t sure what to make if it.
    Did anyone else see that too?

  14. Sometimes I get comments and questions from parents who have three or four kids by birth and think maybe they want in on int’l adoption too, and it is really hard not to tell them to stay off the bandwagon, that an int’l adoption takes more than they have to give when they are spread so thin already, that just because it is done doesn’t mean they should opt in. They could donate half that much money to a good cause and do less damage.
    Maybe if I wore that tshirt they would leave me alone. But I wouldn’t have the guts.
    My favorite joke was about Africa being a Prada store–but I forget where I heard it. The only thing I dislike about this joke is that it is tired, as a joke in general, not specifically regading adoption. But I get it that it is about the trendiness of something that was once seen as a wartime rescue effort, then became a profit driven industry. It’s just hard to say all that on a t-shirt.
    Another thought, if you didn’t adopt to be trendy, why take offense? Why not be offended that anyone would? Or is it a kind of denial that anyone would? Please, knitting was what the stars were doing a couple of years ago and I really wish they would stick to those kinds of innocuous hobbies.
    I wish there was an angry white girl shirt that I liked better than the Disenchanted Princess. The only cartoon character I’ve ever identified with was Hothead Paisan, back in the day when I was part of the L in GLBT.

  15. yeah, i’m loving the double standard for the T-shirts, too. and i will still say a big WTF to that damn china sonagram T shirt. “congratulations, you are giving birth to the entire nation of china!”
    i bought the ALAG shirt “boys are for yelling at”…but it shrank in the washer, i need a new one! (or maybe that’s just what i’m telling myself so i can justify buying a new alag shirt!)

  16. At this point I keep waffling between thinking we take our clothing too seriously and believing that a handy outer label might be handy, at least for adults.
    Instead I will order up one of those “feh muh nist” shirts and see if I can manage a few odd stares.
    Social trends are what they are, but I can’t take the idea that I went to the effort to become an AP based on anything other than an honest desire to be a parent. Which of course is one the most serious decisions any of us can make. No matter how misguided we may or may not be.
    What we need is more crossing of the perspectives I think. That being what makes HM such a powerful voice. She appeals to us all.

  17. I was a bit taken aback by the hostility in this post til I looked at the t-shirts. Those are AWFUL! I don’t know any APs who buy shirts like that. But I’m pretty horrified by some of the things I do hear from APs, so I guess I believe they’d wear these shirts, too.
    The thing that bothered me about the Urban Outfitters shirt wasn’t the humor or tone. The thing that bothered me is that I worry more about what a shirt like that would seem like to my kids, who were adopted (yes, they are from Africa, and the Prada comment strikes me as particularly nasty!) when they’re old enough to read them.
    I don’t want the “joke” going so far that someday, my kid is mocked for being my status symbol. (!)
    Can you give some APs some credit that sometimes we do have our kids’ interest in mind?
    Also, I think it’d be a very different thing for an adult adoptee to wear the Urban Outfitters shirt as opposed to a non-adopted adult.

  18. From my observations on various adoption forums, the overwhelming majority of APs only voiced concerns of what the t-shirt suggested or implied about them.
    While I have no doubt that many APs would also find the shirt hurtful & dismissive to their children, what I seemed to notice is that mostly all who commented on the forums/blogs were first and foremost worried about what the message said about them.

  19. Daisy,
    “I was a bit taken aback by the hostility in this post til I looked at the t-shirts.”
    Hostility? Project much?

  20. As an AP, i just wanted to say that I was concerned about the UO shirt because of what it says to my daughter, not because of what it says about me having adopted. We’re not all that self-centred and self-focused. And frankly, I don’t like any of those t-shirts for their messages. I do not think any of them is okay.

  21. Thank you for your perspective …. as a future ‘adoptive’ mom I appreciate your views, perhaps the views of my future daughter! It certainly makes one think ….

  22. Frankly, I am offended by all the t-shirts you have listed on your blog. Completely thoughtless……..

  23. It is so easy to notice that many APs adopt for “all the wrong reasons” and SO DO PARENTS WHO GIVE BIRTH. It is often not about the honest desire to raise children/be parents. Maybe we need Ts that say “I am a self-centered narcissistic parent.”

  24. I’m an a-mom and I think “the new black” is kinda funny. Not ha-ha, but sort of. I don’t think there was probably a big market for it though… I hope any adopted kids old enough to be seeing it without their parents would have talked about adoption and race and such a lot with their parents already, and so either think it was funny or just kind of boring. Though I suppose some “mean girl” could wear it to be mean to a particular kid–which would suck.
    I’ve never seen any of the others outside of blogs either. Who would wear those?! And worse, who would put them on their kid?! The “100% American” thing bugs me. Why do you need to say that? It just seems kind of defensive. And the “imported parts”?!?! How icky!!!! But the “Do not bleach” part actually strikes me as slightly funny. Probably they don’t mean it to be about race and skin tone, because the shirt is otherwise gross, but to me it kind of is, and I like the idea of no bleach.

  25. I totally misunderstood the shirt. I think it’s funny now that it’s been explained to me, but when I first saw it, I thought it was a racial comment. Like Rachel, I thought it referred to people, not to the literal colour. I was bothered by it not because of adoption, but because I thought it trivialized racism. I thought it was meant to compare being an adoptive parent with being a minority, and it seemed rather insensitive.
    So… if people are getting upset about it, that may be why. I suspect it’s more than just the two of us who weren’t familiar with the “X is the new black” cliched phrase, and took a very unintended and rather racially charged meaning.

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