Sunday, March 4, 2012

Are these St. Patrick's Day T-shirts all in good fun or offensive stereotypes?

Are these St. Patrick's Day T-shirts being sold by Urban Outfitters just plain funny or do they cross the imaginary line into offensive and derogatory ethnic stereotypes?

My answer to this question began by heading in one direction and ultimately ending up in another.

The initial thinking was that this T-shirt controversy was simply one more example of a society, hellbent on enforcing the doctrine of political correctness, once again taking itself too seriously.

While irreverent, these T-shirts were obviously created by Urban Outfitters as satirical and humorous observations of a day on which some Irish, and some who are Irish for purposes of celebration, may have the tendency to imbibe a wee dram of spirits.

From my personal experience taking the Long Island Rail Road home from work on many a St. Patrick's Day I can provide a first-hand observation of revelry that can reach a fevered pitch!

Do stereotypes have a place in advertising or anywhere else for that matter?

After my initial knee-jerk reaction that the T-shirts pictured above were "no big deal" and would be received in the spirit(s) with which they were created, I thought back to an ad that ran during this past Christmas season (until the company pulled them) that took a common stereotype about Jews and turned it into part of an advertising campaign.

The ad for Wodka Vodka read "Christmas Quality, Hanukkah Pricing" and it was immediately condemned by the ADL as being "crude and offensive" and for the fact that it "reinforces anti-Semitic stereotypes".

At the time I came the same conclusion as the ADL, bringing me full circle to these Urban Outfitters T-shirts that were designed to make money from St. Patrick's Day, at the expense of the Irish, by proliferating a stereotype.

The bottom line?

Ethnic, racial or religious stereotypes, whether they are being utilized as leverage for the purpose of making money or simply because those using them simply think it's funny, are wrong!

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