T-shirts that are offensive towards women, ignorant of the HIV/Aids pandemic in South Africa, or are simply offensive are a reflection of a culture that says we shouldn’t care about these things, because misogyny, HIV/Aids and women’s rights are not something to be taken seriously. When a major brand like Foschini chooses to produce shirts that entrench these messages it is important that they are called to account.

On Thursday last week, Rebecca Hodes posted a letter on FeministsSA, signed by a number of journalists and academics, calling the Foschini group to remove the following shirt from their stores, and illustrating to them why it was wrong to have shirts like this in their stores. I put out a call on FeministsSA for others to send me images of shirts that they found offensive. I received three more. One that said “I put the STD in STUD, now all I need is U”. One said “You looked better … from behind”. The final one said the way to a woman’s heart was through money, cars and lies.

What these T-shirts share in common is a deep-seated misogyny, a lack of respect for women, a lack of awareness about sexual health, and the fact that they are all produced by the Foschini group in their stores Markhams and Sportscene.

Foschini is sending us a message — they don’t care about women’s rights, and they are more than happy to print offensive messages about women. They don’t believe that people who shop in their stores are at risk of contracting HIV, despite claiming their own internal comprehensive HIV policy.

The following stores are also part of the Foschini group:

  • Foschini
  • Donna-Claire
  • Fashion Express
  • Luella
  • Markhams
  • Exact
  • Totalsports
  • Sportscene
  • Due South
  • American Swiss
  • Sterns
  • Matrix
  • @home
  • @homelivingspace

I imagine that many of the people who shop at these stores do not support misogyny, do not support the dangerous practice of multiple concurrent partners, and would like their children to grow up in a world where women are respected for their intellect, ambition and talents rather than for how they look from behind.

If you are part of that group, and shop at Foschini, I’d like to ask you to stop. I’d like you to pay up and close your accounts.

I’d like to ask you to go one step further and get in touch with them and tell them about your displeasure with their messaging on the following number: 021 938 1911. The real person you want to talk to is AD Murray, their executive director.

I’d like you to ask Mr Murray if he promotes these views within the directorate of this corporation, and if he is aware that he is offending and alienating the majority of his target market. I’d like you to tell me what he says.

For now, and until they issue an apology for their ignorant offensive messaging, I will be boycotting them. I hope you will be too.


Jen Thorpe

Jen Thorpe

Jennifer is a feminist, activist and advocate for women's rights. She has a Masters in Politics from Rhodes University, and a Masters in Creative Writing from UCT. In 2010 she started a women's writing...

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