Elevate Difference

Long-sleeved Black Red Star T-shirt

You can wear your heart on your sleeve, or your politics on your chest. Ban T-shirts—“redress your world”—provides political t-shirts on themes including the political, environmental, organic, anti-war, Native American, and anti-religious. They break it down from the EZLN to GMOs, and have the sense of humor to send up some traditional idols by combining Manson's face with the iconographic image of Che Guevara. A sign of fanaticism: no sense of humor. I once had a date with a Marxist, and told him the following joke:

“How many Marxists does it take to change a light bulb? (Anticipatory pause.) You can't just change the bulb, you have to change the system.”

“I don't like that joke,” he said. We did not meet again.

I selected the red star shirt due to its potential ambiguity as well as its graphic simplicity. The cotton is lightweight and the fit is comfortable. However, with current levels of cultural literacy, there's a risk that it could be mistaken for the Macy's logo. This spring, a young Republicans organization publicized its event with a stencil-like design featuring raised red fists in front of a blue capitol dome. For those who prefer a strict visual over a slogan, there's Flowerguns, Kill Your Television, BikeFish, Petrolcide, Salish Break Dancer, War is Peace, and The Addiction. Ordering shirts made by Royal Apparel instead of American Apparel is an option for bulk requests.

One question: there's a page of Bush jokes, some of them classic, but if dissent is the duty of the citizenry in an ostensibly democratic society, isn’t it time for Obama criticism? But if you are not so inclined, perhaps I shouldn't ask and I shouldn't tell. Want to tell the world how you feel about your preferred cause? Check out Ban T-shirts.

Photo depicts short-sleeved version of the same t-shirt.

Written by: Erika Mikkalo, August 24th 2009

One last attempt to get through:

Hi Duncan:

Thank you for taking the time to respond to my email. I'll make one last attempt to clarify my position.

I was never confused about your intention for this t-shirt. It is clear from your website blurb what you desire the shirt to convey. However, as you seem to indicate, the intention of the design is only part of the picture; the reception of the design is another part of the same picture.

The point I made is not simply that poor people (of color) eat at fast food outfits. The issue is about the lack of availability and affordability of healthy food options in their neighborhoods, which, in turn, prevents them from eating a healthy diet and contributes to several health problems prevalent in these communities. One can only make a choice if a choice is available to them, and what I am attempting to explain to you is that, many times, a choice does not exist for working class and poor people. Therefore, a statement that condemns fast food eaters instead of the fast food companies has racist and classist overtones.

As for being anti-feminist, it doesn't matter what size the shirts come in nor what sex the model is. Fat oppression is a body image issue that disproportionately effects women given the gendered nature of beauty standards. People who are deemed overweight are targets of much discrimination and verbal vitriol, which is justified (in part) by claims that fatness isn't healthy. Those who perpetuate fat oppression claim that fat people need to change their diets, while fat acceptance activists claim it is society that needs to change its demeaning actions toward and attitudes about fat people. This shirt's conflating healthy with being thin serves to perpetuate this bias against fat people.

The Live Fat Die Young t-shirt demonizes and demeans the individuals who eat fast food, not the fast food industry nor the society that creates conditions whereby the "choice" to eat healthy food is only available to those with economic privilege.

For these reasons, I ask that you cease selling the Live Fat Die Young t-shirt. The reception of the shirt as anti-feminist, racist, and classist undermines not only the sentiment of this particular shirt but of all the other shirts you sell as well. If you are simply concerned about the artistic element then do as you will. It just seems you are as concerned with the political statement these shirts are making since that is the crux of your company's mission statement, and if that is the case, the political statement this shirt makes is rife with anti-feminist, racism, and classism. Surely you can agree there are other statements and designs which have the ability to convey the idea that eating fast food is not the healthiest option that don't have the additional baggage that this one carries.

Recommended Reading:

Nomy Lamm's It's a Big Fat Revolution http://www.tehomet.net/nomy.html

Poor Neighborhoods Lack Access to Fresh Produce http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=aa75b587a95eb1cfda95eb2afd602d3e

Living in a Food Desert http://www.campusprogress.org/fieldreport/4092/living-in-a-food-desert

Racism, Food and Health - The Food Revolution http://www.foodrevolution.org/racismfoodhealth.htm

Cheers, Mandy

As anticipated, he doesn't get it. This is the full response I received:

Thanks for your email, and for your thoughts on the Live Fat design. I hear what you're saying and I guess that some people may interpret the design in the way you have, in fact you are not the first person to write in about that design. Obviously a design or piece of art can provoke different reactions in different people and reflects the observer's mindset and predisposition as much as it does the designer's in some cases.

I can tell you my original intention with the design, which was simply to make a point about fast food diets, which I think you would agree are generally harmful to our health and can make us more likely to become obese. America and the west in general have a huge problem with obesity - I chose to link the Burger King logo with the text to make a point about poor diets. I realise that a lot of poorer people eat at fast food outlets, but I have no idea what the general demographic of the customer base is, and I don't think it makes the point I was making any more or less valid either way.

I don't agree that the shirt is either anti-feminist, racist or classist. The shirt is available in men's and women's sizes. The picture happens to be of a woman. Would you regard it as anti-feminist if a man was wearing the shirt? I don't accept that just because fast food restaurants have a lot of customers of color that the shirt is racist. Similarly with the classist accusation.

I agree that it is possible to be fat and healthy, in some cases. However, we have a problem with obesity, and it needs to be addressed. People need to eat better and think about what they are eating, there are alternatives to eating at fast food restaurants. It's not an issue confined to sex, class or color - the design was just my attempt to highlight the issue, it is not intended as a comment on women, people of color or class.

All the best,



Typical white boy victim-blaming oblivion.

Yah, it'd probably be giving way too much credit to guess there was a good idea gone wrong behind it. Nice letter, I might do the same! As is, I was irritated enough to [write a blog post](http://jadedhippy.blogspot.com/2009/08/fat-phobic-progressivism.html" rel="nofollow), maybe the message will get to him that way as well. Nothing like a little public critique to get the brain wheels a-turnin'.

I doubt it was conscious, mostly because the company seems to be run by a white guy and my experience with radical white guys is that they are largely clueless when it comes to race and gender issues.

You inspired me to write to them (thedude@bant-shirts.com) though to express these concerns. If they respond, I'll post the response here. I wrote:

I just wanted to give you a little food for thought about the Live Fat Die Young tee. While I understand the sentiment is intended to convey the potentially harmful effects that fast food can have on one's body, it also conveys serious fat-phobia by perpetuating the myth that one can't be fat and healthy. The irony of that tee being modeled by a woman of color also leaves something to be desired given the lack of healthy and affordable food options in poor communities, particularly communities of color, which result in an increased prevalence of health issues like obesity and diabetes. I get that it's only a t-shirt. It just happens to be one that puts forth a message that is simultaneously anti-feminist, classist, and racist in its attempt at giving the finger to fast food corporations. Judging by the other t-shirts on your site. You can clearly do better.

On a related note, there are there are other sweatshop free t-shirt options (No Sweat, for example) that don't support a corporation run by a guy who is seriously dodgy in his treatment of women and has engaged in union busting.

Yah, I have to wonder what the thought process on that one was. Like, was that a conscious choice? To use what looks like a mixed race, part of that mix being Black, woman to model that shirt? It's a very loaded image, intentionally or not.

whatsername: The irony of that tee being modeled by a WOC also leaves something to be desired given the lack of healthy and affordable food options in poor communities of color and the positively correlated increased prevalence of health issues like obesity and diabetes. Perhaps they're so busy "racking their brains to bring us the coolest left-wing T-shirts" that they've forgotten to consider the bias in their own sentiment and aesthetic.

I like a lot of their shirts but, "Live Fat, Die Young"? Really?

Thought it was worth mentioning. It's in the "attitude" section.

Uh, I meant t-shirt. Not book. Still funny though!

Funniest. Book review. Ever!