Sunday, June 15, 2008

The K-mart abstinence pants controversy

I stopped at Kmart on my way back from the airport in mid-April and ran across the now famous "True Love Waits" blue and grey sweatpants at the end of a rack of a dozen other varieties, including non-existent sports teams and the usual inane statements that clothing stores (both high and low brow) use as filler. I thought it was cute that they had this message among all the others since (like all other stores) I've noticed sexually-suggestive messages on other t-shirts, so it seemed fair that they would have at least this more mixed message of abstinence on the ass. I laughed as I thought about buying some to show in my virginity pledge presentations at conferences, but decided to come back when they went on clearance. I didn't think of them again until hearing them mentioned on "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me."

I'm surprised these pants have sparked commentary about whether they work, why the product description is in the third person, why they are only made for girls, and whether the message's placement looks like like a chastity belt. Since the controversy, Kmart has taken down the abstinence pants.

It's possible that these pants are a trademark violation since the Southern Baptist Conference (SBC) owns the True Love Waits program and sells related t-shirts on their website, but otherwise what's the big deal? Doesn't every store write dumb stuff on t-shirts, especially for girls? A brief look through the Kmart website finds the following t-shirts:

  • Girls' Short Sleeve Don't Just Stand There Buy Me Something Tee: "Your little shopper is sure to love this fun tee. The screen print design is lavished with glitter." Just $4.79!
  • 'She will flip for this crewneck tee in a sassy glitter print with "There's no such thing as too many flip flops".'

Any self-respecting person should be ashamed to wear these.

Kmart just wants to sell clothes and they don't care what they write on them, as long as they sell. They choose dozens of slogans a year, and this year apparently they decided one of them should be abstinence-related. Since most t-shirt slogans are slight variations on trademarks, I'm guessing that they didn't even realize that TLW was trademarked or they would have chosen an abstinence slogan which was not a trademark. Though a look through Cafe Press reveals TLW t-shirts being sold by people other than the organization which owns the trademark, so maybe the SBC has chosen not to enforce their trademark ownership.

Teens can wear the abstinence pants with this Extra Virgin thong, created by a Hollywood comedy writer friend of mine.

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