Friday, 31 January 2014

Why banning bespectacled animals on T-shirts is not a good idea.

Tesco have just announced that they are banning a range of clothing featuring animals wearing glasses alongside the words 'geek' and 'nerd'.  But is this decision the right thing to do?

Of course as a mother, we want to protect our children from the big, wide world, and that instinct kicks in moreso when our child has something that may make them stand out from the crowd.  I appreciate the desire to wrap our children up in cotton wool and keep them safe from hurt, but this campaign seems to be dreadfully misplaced and in my opinion, a step back from achieving acceptance for our 'different' children.

Freddy has worn glasses since he was a toddler as he has one eye that refuses to behave!  He is patched and has regular hospital appointments, so I understand what it is like to have a child who wears glasses. Thankfully, we have not experienced many negative reactions from his peers.  In fact his school friends tend to be very interested in his latest glasses designs featuring Moshi Monsters or the Mr Men.  In fact glasses have had their status as a fashion accessory escalated recently.  Teens without eye problems, opt for non-prescription eyewear and geek chic is totally en vogue.  I feel that this trend is in part fueled by the way that glasses have been featured in the mainstream as a cool logo on clothing, bags and stationery products.  Suddenly, the nightmare NHS glasses of my own youth have achieved cult status!  this is something to be celebrated.

Having giraffes or zebras wearing glasses on a T-shirt range, children are seeing spectacle wearing as something normal and fun.  Children with glasses can relate to the images and know that wearing specs is something perfectly normal.  In fact, I deliberately source items with glasses on for Freddy.  I chose his lunchbox because it featured a chimpanzee wearing glasses and I could say "He's got cool glasses just like you!"  It empowers him to see that glasses are fun, fashionable and not swept under the carpet in an attempt to deny imperfection exists.

Tiny Me, lunch box

I have in fact NOT bought items because they DIDN'T feature glasses.  For example I was going to buy little figurines for Christmas to hang on the tree.  Each figurine would represent each family member.  But all the little boy figurines clearly had 20/20 vision and not a single pair of glasses was in sight in any of the versions available.  Buying a figurine that was not a depiction of my son's true image seemed to imply that he was not as good as the little boys that these figurines were intended to depict.  If figurine makers didn't think glasses were a cool accessory, then I did not want their product on my Christmas tree.  Glasses are a part of my boy and are not something I want to deny.  I don't want them to be conspicuously absent from products in the shops.  I want glasses wearers to be hailed loudly and proudly!  I want glasses wearers represented not hidden.

If children are exposed to this imagery, surely they will be more accepting when they see a peer who needs vision correction.  Surely, therefore, the removal of such iconic imagery on clothing will only serve to mystify the reality of wearing glasses and make bespectacled kids stand out more, setting them up for being singled out because they are not like everybody else?

glasses, geek chic

It is a fact that some kids will tease others for a multitude of reasons, or for no reason at all.  That's an unfortunate fact of life.  I was teased for being tall (What's the weather like up there?)  My husband was teased for his surname (Do you want fries with that?)  It's a part of life.  I'd rather try and give my children the tools to cope with this, instead of shielding them from it.  Empowering them with self-respect, self-belief, self-confidence and an acceptance of diversity is a better tool against being bullied than taking on retail giants in an attempt to remove anything you deem offensive.

I will continue to be a fan of the glasses logo in fashion.  I will buy geek tops for Freddy to wear.  He looks cool in them! We're not ashamed or embarrassed by Fred's specs.  Glasses wearing is not a stigma.  Their image should not be removed as if it is offensive.  That is counterproductive.  The words geek and nerd are no longer considered insults.  Thankfully the days of calling kids "four eyes" or "Mr Magoo" are well and truly over. I want being a 'geek' to be considered a positive thing, for every bespectacled, studious glasses wearer out there! Let's not make those words once again be considered as negative slurs due to their absence in the mainstream. Let's embrace that geek is chic and give our kids who need glasses the chance to be cool, embraced by our culture and represented in the world of fashion!


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