Is it offensive? The Ardorous X American Apparel Period Power Washed Tee (Images NSFW)

It’s been a long time since our last “Is It Offensive?” post, in which we look at fashion items which have been deemed “offensive” by some sections of society, and as our readers: IS IT offensive? Or is it simply a case of people getting their knickers in a twist over nothing in particular? Today, we look at Petra Collins’ ‘Period Power’ t-shirt for American Apparel, which depicts… actually, it would probably be easier to show than to tell with this one:

Petra Collins 'Period Power' t-short for American Apparel

Buy it here

With an image designed by Toronto-born artist Petra Collins, the shirt currently retails for $32 at American Apparel, where Collins once worked as a sales associate. Collins says:

“I decided to put a super-taboo topic right on a t-shirt to make it viewable for everyone. I’m really interested in what is hidden from our culture. We are always repressing or hiding what is natural to a post-pubescent body. We’re taught to hate our menstrual cycle and even to hide masturbation.”

Not everyone, however, is as comfortable with the image as Collins is. Some have called it yet another cynical ploy by American Apparel, who have never shied away from the use of controversy to sell clothes. Others are simply repulsed by the image, and even many of those who appreciate the taboo-busting message have questioned why anyone would actually want to WEAR such a graphic image. Pointing out that 50% of the proceeds from the shirt will go to female art collective The Androgynous (Be aware that the images on that page may not be safe for work either…),  Jezebel comments: “It seems like a cool project to want to support. But the question remains: where the f***would one wear a menstruating vagina shirt?”

Where indeed: it strikes us that even if you support the message of this shirt, and don’t consider it to be just another way to exploit women’s bodies for shock value, there must be limited opportunities to wear such an item. Indeed, many media outlets are refusing to even run the image alongside their editorials on the subject, claiming it’s too offensive to print. So where would you wear it, assuming you WOULD actually wear it in the first place? In other words…

Is it offensive?

19 Comments

  • October 18, 2013

    Theresa

    Definitely offensive. And disgusting.

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  • October 18, 2013

    Lenandrea

    not offensive, or it shouldn’t be. But I have no need for it, do not anticipate one, and don’t want it.

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  • October 18, 2013

    Carol

    There are many things in my life that are perfectly natural, every day occurrences. Some are run of the mill, some are beautiful. Some we keep to ourselves and deal with behind closed doors because it’s nothing you need to know about and nothing you need to see. I will not be showing those things on my chest either.

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  • October 18, 2013

    Annette

    Who said women hate their menstrual cycle? Having my period is natural and normal. Wearing this T-Shirt is disgusting though.

    Annette | Lady of Style

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    • October 21, 2013

      Claudia

      Manufacturers of hygiene products say it. They say it must be unnoticeable to the outside world and is a matter of shame. What would you say if you had to sell something even more adsorbing than the last product? And had no idea about what women really feel?

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      • November 22, 2013

        Gillian

        Women dislike their menstrual cycle. My friends and I are always complaining about it, because, let’s face it, cramps and all that are annoying. While there’s no denying the menstruation is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, the mere fact that it’s uncomfortable makes it annoying. And if there’s a product that helps me feel better so my day can be smoother? I’m all for it.

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  • October 18, 2013

    Viper

    Examining how we label and think about women’s bodies is an interesting and important topic of study. However, wearing a graphic depiction of genitalia, regardless of whether it’s male or female, just isn’t socially acceptable, and neither is a graphic depiction of elimination of waste. The fact that periods are gender-specific doesn’t counteract the fact that it is a function of waste elimination, like urination or bowel movements, but we wouldn’t wear those.

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  • October 18, 2013

    Rock Hyrax

    If you go on a march and want to dress for comfort, in non-black (so the police don’t arrest you), rather than style, and don’t want to find highly unflattering video footage of you appearing on the news for months, this would be the perfect tee shirt to wear.

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  • October 18, 2013

    Claire

    It’s not so much offensive as just in exceedingly poor taste. I think this has very little to do with anyone wanting to help women’s body image and a lot more to do with, as you said, using the female body for shock value to make money.

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    • October 21, 2013

      Claudia

      I agree.

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    • November 21, 2013

      Saraha

      These were my exact thoughts as well. Nothing about this is helping women overcome body shame. It’s also equating, in some sense, female existence with the state of the reproductive system at any given time.

      Besides, this intense focus on certain aspects of our anatomy and physiology seems likely to only make people less able to see women as anything other than bodies. So even if the intent was good, the execution was not.

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  • October 19, 2013

    Jane

    I wouldn’t personally wear it, but if I saw someone wearing this I would be much less offended than if I saw someone wearing “a cool story, girl, go make me a sandwich” t-shirt.

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  • October 19, 2013

    JJ

    That shirt is gross.

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  • October 20, 2013

    Heidi

    The creepy hand makes it fetishy. Without the hand, it’s just tasteless. Either way, if you choose to wear this in public, it would draw an unpleasant reaction from passers by. Offensive, no. Obnoxious, yes.

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  • October 22, 2013

    Jaynie

    Hmm. I’m annoyed that newspapers consider it unprintably offensive (especially given some of the things they DO print!), but I suspect that the only people who would want to wear it would be TRYING to cause offense. Difficult to know which side to fall on, really.

    I think we’re altogether too prudish in a lot of ways, but I don’t know that “shock value” is a very good counter to that. It almost reinforces the shock, rather than promoting reflection or change.n

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  • November 5, 2013

    Honeybee

    I get the artist’s message – the fact that it get’s printed on an American Apparel shirt makes me doubt this is really about the public debate. And yes, the shirt is gross. I can think of many completely natural things I wouldn’t want printed on my t-shirts…

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  • November 8, 2013

    Jane

    I know this artist and I can tell you 100% that she is doing this for the message– whether American Apparel is is definitely up for debate– as many of her most famous photographs include women’s natural bodies in a way that isn’t for shock value. Ex. Unsexualized underwear shots of girls with pubic hair peeking out rather than a pristinely waxed bikini line.

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  • November 22, 2013

    Gillian

    It’s disgusting. And totally unnecessary. Obviously women don’t like periods because they are uncomfortable and annoying to deal with. They are still, though, natural and healthy. But it’s still a private thing, and wearing it on a shirt is…well…not very private. This shirt’s offensive because it’s trying to be offensive. Her whole point is not to say something truthful but to be rude.

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  • December 15, 2013

    Maureen

    I thought the shirt was absolutely HILARIOUS and FUN! I tried to order it for my college aged daughter as I am sure that is where it would actually be worn – in a dorm with her girl friends as they navigate the world of dating and learn to Love THEMSELVES in every way possible and not allow our culture to define either beauty or show women only as objectivied objects of sexual gratification for men. I think this is an issue my daughter and her friends find very relevant to their young lives. I was disappointed it was sold out frankly!

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