May 27, 2019 5 min read

Where are the girl power t shirts?

For her school project, my daughter (the chicken) decided to study the differences between girls and boys t shirts in our local shops.  I knew what to expect ... but frankly I was quietly disturbed by the extent of the problem.

Before I tell you about my take on our adventures, why don't you listen to hers?  Here's a video we made about her school project.

School projects are the pits

I'm going to be rather controversial now (I may even make a few enemies): I hate primary school research projects.  Everyone knows that project work always includes homework for mummies, and I resent the assumption that I can be set homework, or that my time at home with my children is insufficiently purposeful so I need bonding tasks, or that my family time is fair game for anyone outside of my family.  But, in the interests of picking my battles and trying super-hard not to be 'that parent', I take a deep breath and we get the job done!

Added to which, there are always two projects, but only one me.

An easy life

So, the chicken and I picked girl power t shirts because it's something we know a bit about: I've been designing girl power t shirts for the last 18 months and the chicken has been my model all that time.

Our first objective, was the research itself.  I certainly wasn't about to open the internet to the chicken in random google searches, who knows what might pop up in a search for strong women's clothes!  So we headed out to the local shops, camera phone in hand.

What we found

The chicken has been wearing nothing but Scarf Monkey t shirts for a while now - all the girls t shirts from our photo-shoots just end up in her wardrobe, so I'd rather forgotten how much gushing and pinkness there is on girls t shirts.  I'm not remotely against pink ... when it's just a colour.  I'm definitely against pink when it's used to define femininity.  Here's some examples of what we found:

It's not all pink, but it is overwhelmingly pink, and overwhelmingly pale.  Maybe I've a heightened sensitivity to it, but to me pale clothes for little girls just say 'don't stand out, don't make a mess, don't make a noise'.  I try and use fuchsia if something is pink, rather than pale pink in my designs (though there are of course exceptions!).

When I was looking through the photographs we had taken, to choose some for this blog, I was struck by how hard it was to read what was written on the girls t shirts in thumbnail form, but the boys t shirts were much clearer: both the background and the text of the girls t shirts were pale, the writing wasn't designed to stand out ... the girls t shirts were speaking more quietly!  And I really didn't like what they were saying - surely we can change the world with a vote, with actions, with decisions: with a smile ... not so much.  Also, I wish the boys t shirts also said 'happy and kind' that would be lovely.  See if you agree:

The things they say!

I can't even begin to explain how awful the difference is in the actually words on the t shirts.  Lots of the boys t shirts say things like 'I'm awesome' or 'You're lucky I'm so awesome', this was rare on girls t shirts.  We did find one girls t shirt for an older girl that said just 'awesome', but the 'o' was a sequined heart shape, which diminished the effect rather, but it was something.

There were a fair few t shirts which were disguised as girl power t shirts, but they missed the mark (in my not terribly humble opinion).  These seem to have powerful statements, but are mostly just persuading girls to believe in themselves, whereas the boys' tees were more likely to say 'everyone already knows I'm awesome'.  Do you agree?

Girl power t shirts

There were definitely some attempts at girl power t shirts - I don't much like the phrase girl power (even though I use it) because it suggests that the power comes from being a girl, whereas boy power is just power, it comes from being human.  Nevertheless, there were some sterling efforts at girl power t shirts.  Asda had the most: George at Asda is trying the hardest at this.  What do you think?

Boys t shirts don't talk about boy power, they talk about just getting things done - a kind of 'obviously I have the power' t shirt.

It's not so much that any one of these t shirts is awful, or dreadful (except the one that says 'I need the wifi code, like now' which is dreadful), more that the whole of them together, the pattern they make is awful. Collectively they create a lack of choice. It's not that t shirts saying 'I love flowers' shouldn't exist, just why should they be only on girls clothes, and why should there not also be sharks and crocodiles for girls?  It's not that 'Let's get things done' shouldn't be on a boys t shirt, but why shouldn't it be on a girls t shirt? 

It's the lack of parity I don't like, and the strange idea that some things belong only on girls t shirts - like unicorns and mermaids.  If unicorns and mer-people were real, then I'm pretty sure 50% of them would be male, so why aren't they featuring on boys t shirts?  Sharks and crocodiles and dinosaurs are all 50% female, so why are they only on boys t shirts?  Do we only need girl power t shirts?  Why not boy power t shirts?

The chicken

Back to the school project.  The chicken asked if she could design her own girl power t shirts as part of her project.  She got the idea from a display on her classroom wall - which is very reassuring!  I'm not sure they really are girl power t shirts, more just be empowered t shirts, in fact I'm going to go ahead and make one for my son too (and one for myself)  I think she did a pretty good job.  They've already started selling nicely on Scarf Monkey.


 Global Goals T Shirts

Scarf Monkey's girl power t shirts

These are the most like girl power t shirts I've designed on Scarf Monkey: you'll have to decide if they do a better job than the ones I said I didn't like!


Suffragettes T Shirt & Superhero Girl T Shirt


 Evolution of Woman T Shirt & Mary Shelley T Shirt

 I hope you've enjoyed this blog about girl power t shirts.  I'd love to know what you think too!


My other blog posts 

If you like this blog, you can check out my other blogs using the links below:

My amazing friend

It's time to be honest about being a first time mum

Why so many women fail at returning to full time work after maternity leave

Pitfalls of working from home as a business owner career mum

A Sizeable Debate - why girls' sizing makes me mad

What About The Boys? - why I only design for girls

Feeling the Customer Love!

Starting a Start-Up

How Scarf Monkey Was Born


My website

Scarf Monkey 'Inspiring designs for aspirational girls'

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