I’m not the sort of person who would normally chuckle in delight at a child’s be-sloganned t-shirt.

Yes. Yes, you are. Pic: Unknown

They’re generally nauseating endorsements of the parents’ lack of irony or self awareness, or weirdly sexualised. Many seem to reference boobs, and while boobs are funny and there’s comedy to be had in their dual function as funbags and milk containers, with babies maybe just stick to the milk stuff.

But this t-shirt – ‘Am I rockin’ my extra chromosome, or what?’ – made me chuckle. I saw it pop up on Facebook yesterday and it’s available in different designs at a bunch of websites.

It’s relentlessly positive, cheerful, and provides an excellent opportunity perhaps for other children and families to ask about Down Syndrome, to get to know a bit more about it.
One store, Cafepress, has a whole range - “a unique line of products designed to promote Down syndrome awareness and celebrate diversity and inclusion.”

Meanwhile, 10-month-old Valentina Guerrero became the first person with Down Syndrome to be cast in a major fashion campaign.

This is about where this piece was going to go back to talking about what’s appropriate for kids (t-shirts that make them feel proud) versus inappropriate (‘Porn Star in the Making’). But the idea that no major fashion label has ever before used a person with Down Syndrome has taken this column down a different track.

How narrow is the idea of diversity, when the fashion world considers itself diverse, if it has a couple of plus-size models who are still skinnier and hotter than the average person, and a ‘rainbow’ of skin tones?

Pretty narrow, is the answer.

Elle ‘The Body’ MacPherson disagrees. She seems to think we’ve got about as diverse as we can handle. Britain’s Mirror newspaper recently asked her if she’d consider a plus-size Next Top Model show. She said:

That’s like saying, ‘would you ever consider a six foot five jockey’. Um, I don’t know how well they’d ride a horse or how fast the horse would go, but it’s definitely possible.

But she says now we have ‘coloured’ models – and even some without boobs! -  it’s clear we have attained diversity:

When I started working in America, if you were not blonde haired, blue eyed, 5 foot 8, that was it. Now we have girls that are five foot seven, six foot, coloured, red haired, afros, freckles, big breasts, no breasts. Listen, I’m 50 and I’m still working, so it’s not even ageist anymore.

Rangas. Wow.

Obviously models are there to sell aspiration along with clothes. The not-so-subconscious idea is that we frumpy boobless fanta pants types can shell out for the clothes and somehow get a step closer to being an Elle.

And fitting in the occasional person with a different number of chromosomes or (gasp!) someone who’s five foot six can seem, well, token.

But it would be nice if they remembered, now and then, that the audience they are preaching to is actually quite diverse.

There are even people with Down Syndrome out there. Lots of them. And they shop.

Most commented

41 comments

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    • SydneyGirl says:

      03:09pm | 02/08/12

      I loved the one I saw on a fat 10-11 year old boy:

      Fat Children Cannot be Kidnapped

    • nihonin says:

      03:16pm | 02/08/12

      haha very good, a sense of humour never killed anyone (well not in free democracies wink )

    • Sad Sad Reality says:

      03:44pm | 02/08/12

      “free democracies”

      Now that’s comedy.

    • Fiddler says:

      03:17pm | 02/08/12

      just for the record

      I would have loved to have been dressed in a “Porn Star in the making” t-shirt as a kid.

      As for plus sized (read fat) or unattractive models. Noone wants to look at them. This won’t change.

    • M says:

      03:39pm | 02/08/12

      Diversity doesn’t appeal to male sexuality.

      That T shirt did make me chuckle as well though.

    • Chris L says:

      03:56pm | 02/08/12

      There is a small amount of diversity in what men find attractive, but any business wanting to make big bucks will go with the safe option. Face it, we like boobs and we’re not going to change. Even if legislation forces us to look at plumpas we’ll still be hanging out to see a fit, healthy lass about 5’8 with handsized bazookas.

      Love the chromosome shirt! Pure win!

    • che says:

      04:47pm | 02/08/12

      I know a couple of guys who would like plus-sized models. I believe you name-callers call them ‘chubby-chasers’. smile

    • M says:

      04:57pm | 02/08/12

      Ah, chubby chasers. The exception which proves the rule.

    • Good Grief says:

      05:34pm | 02/08/12

      @che
      “name-callers call them ‘chubby-chasers’”

      No, that’s what they call themselves. And they call their targets BBW (Big Beautiful Women).

      From where I come from, we call them “whalers”. As in “Yar! The white whale! Thar she blows!!!”

    • Cry in my Gin says:

      05:53pm | 02/08/12

      Diversity IS out there, just not in the mainstream media it would seem.Check the menu on elephant tube. (Yes, it is a porn site, my mate told me about it, honest!!!) Hundreds upon hundreds of different categories with thousands of attached videos. Most of them would never even get close to a fashion industry photo shoot. What men/women/GLTB find attractive/appealing never ceases to amaze me. Even has plenty of chunky monkeys for Che’s friends. 5’8 with hand sized bazookas for Chris L. I am sure Fiddler and M could find what they liked too. Vive la difference!!

    • M says:

      06:27pm | 02/08/12

      Crygin, we aren’t saying there’s anything wrong with diversity, just that it doesn’t sell.

    • eRon says:

      07:28pm | 02/08/12

      The ‘ideal’ dress/shirt/suit/kilt/kaftan is best presented on the ‘ideal’ human coat-hanger. Fat-arsed models only exist because the population itself is getting fat-arsed.
      It is, what it is.

    • Mouse says:

      07:32pm | 02/08/12

      Most blokes I know are just happy to have a woman talk to them! lol After all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, is it not and it is just great that we are all not attracted to the same type. Crazy I know, but it just somehow seems to work out.  :o)

    • angry&bitter;@olympicscoverage says:

      08:32pm | 02/08/12

      M, are you serious? Guys find all sorts of things sexy. And the fashion/modeling industry has got nothing to do with what men like - its entirely what women see as the ideal

    • Fi says:

      09:38pm | 02/08/12

      Plus sized is anyone over size ten. Hardly ‘fat’. Also, I bet you’re a real looker.

    • M says:

      06:43am | 03/08/12

      I am, actually.

    • M says:

      06:47am | 03/08/12

      @ Angry and bitter, if guys find all sorts of things sexy, why do all the girls in zoo look the same?

      Hint: That’s what the majority likes.

    • Z says:

      08:19am | 03/08/12

      @M all the women in The Zoo look the same because The Zoo know who their demographic are and they’re not targeting ALL men.

    • HB says:

      11:20am | 03/08/12

      This is a SUPER controversial opinion, and one that has gotten me shouted at and abused, but I stick by it. Men who are not just ‘chubby chasers’ who like a ‘bit of extra plump’ on their girls, but who are actually attracted to morbidly obese women (lets says size 18 - 20+) I truly believe have a mental issue. One that I compare to being attracted to kids and young teenagers, in that it isn’t normal or healthy.

    • M says:

      11:39am | 03/08/12

      HB, I wouldn’t go as far as to say mental issue. Certainly they’re wired differently though. Each to their own and all that, but rest assured that they represent a tiny proportion of men.

      Z, they’re targeting the majority of men. Trust me on this.

    • Amastaycia says:

      12:56pm | 03/08/12

      @HB Since when has a size 18-20 meant someone is ‘morbidly obese’ I agree that some women in that size range may be obese or even morbidly obese but not all are. If the average women today is a size 16 then one size larger does not class someone as so big they’re on the way out.
      I myself am a size 18 and not classed as ‘morbidly obese’ just overweight. I am also happily married, to a man that you would class as having a mental issue. . . . .

      Contreversial opinon is right - but your facts on BMI and weight classes…. not so!!

    • Pete says:

      04:10pm | 02/08/12

      I like t-shirts with cool industrialised writing that you can’t quite read and doesn’t really say or mean anything.  Uber-cool.

    • Bambi says:

      06:43pm | 02/08/12

      “Diversity doesn’t appeal to male sexuality.”

      Seriously? Are you insane? Men have a completely diverse range of sexuality! You only have to look at a tiny amount of porn to get that! There is porn for all types and don’t start going on about there is a mainstream type that most guys like and then there are fringe groups that like the ‘non model type’.

      The other point you seem to miss with regards to female models…female models are wearing womens clothes…not mens. The designers don’t give a stuff what the men in the world think about whether their models are hot or not. They care about what women think about the models. That is because it is women who buy womens clothes…not men. The moment the majority of men start buying womens clothes then designers will start caring whether men think the models are hot.

      Some people are very slow on the uptake….

    • Bambi says:

      06:43pm | 02/08/12

      “Diversity doesn’t appeal to male sexuality.”

      Seriously? Are you insane? Men have a completely diverse range of sexuality! You only have to look at a tiny amount of porn to get that! There is porn for all types and don’t start going on about there is a mainstream type that most guys like and then there are fringe groups that like the ‘non model type’.

      The other point you seem to miss with regards to female models…female models are wearing womens clothes…not mens. The designers don’t give a stuff what the men in the world think about whether their models are hot or not. They care about what women think about the models. That is because it is women who buy womens clothes…not men. The moment the majority of men start buying womens clothes then designers will start caring whether men think the models are hot.

      Some people are very slow on the uptake….

    • M says:

      06:54am | 03/08/12

      Bambi, yes there’s a wide range, but most men like the same thing.

    • Kelly says:

      04:47pm | 02/08/12

      Reality is though, womens fashion models are chosen to appeal to women, not men!

    • M says:

      04:56pm | 02/08/12

      Then there’s even less chance of it working then.

    • George says:

      05:16pm | 02/08/12

      That makes sense. Because the big time fashion models don’t really do it for me. I prefer the ones wearing the bras in the kmart catalogues.

      Also, I’ll stop preferring beautiful women when women stop preferring wealthy men. But I won’t.

    • MK says:

      11:11am | 03/08/12

      Kelly lets be realistic…
      Lets not let reality get in the way of women blaming men for something

    • Hartz says:

      12:01pm | 03/08/12

      and women are way harsher critics than men… men are easy pleased, and although we love the “stereotypical” model we won’t sit around at lunch and complain about the chubby model we saw on a billboard… Women keep the chubbies out of modelling coz no one wants to look like a chubby - they want to look like a model - seems pretty straight forward to me (and not a sexist ploy by men to only employ hot models)

    • Bee says:

      02:00pm | 03/08/12

      M is saying that the fasion look is what all men like, which the male posters are cool with, because it makes most women feel shit about themselves and puts them firmly in their place. Then MK says that point of view would be “picking on men”. I love it. Talk about cake an eating it.

    • M says:

      02:25pm | 03/08/12

      You’ve got it arse about Bee

    • Mother Duck says:

      06:48pm | 02/08/12

      80 - 98% of Downs Syndrome children are aborted. (depending on the country)  I always feel uncomfortable when the ones who survive are described as ‘special kids’ (as is often the case at Christmas time, when there are parties for ‘special kids’)  Smacks of a fairly major case of inconsistency to me.

      Diversity?  Does that include the diversity of disability?

    • Pie in the Sky says:

      10:32am | 03/08/12

      92% of statistics are made up on the spot.

      48% of people know that.

    • RA says:

      09:45pm | 02/08/12

      Tory - that was a great article.  Thanks!

    • Question says:

      10:45am | 03/08/12

      I dunno, I think I disagree with a lot of people’s opinions on the the chromosome t-shirt. I mean, yeah I get why some people would consider it funny, but I personally think its a bit in poor-taste. To me, its kinda saying “I have DS, my shirt is funny because I have DS. Isnt DS funny?”. What are we trying to imply here, that DS is something we should be laughing about (and possibly by extension, we should be laughing about people with DS)? Could we extend that out to, say, people with no legs (maybe something like a shirt saying “World’s Greatest Kick-Boxer?”)? Would that be funny (no, seriously, would it)?

      I will probably be labelled a party pooper or the pc police or the fun nazi, but I just dont see whats so funny about drawing attention to a disability in a humourous way…

    • Question says:

      11:53am | 03/08/12

      In response to Annon below: Yes, thats the bit I get. What im trying to understand though, is where is the line between expressing humour at a disability and expressing humour AT PEOPLE who have a disabilty? Where do we stop saying (for example) “lets poke some fun at Down Syndrome” and start saying “lets poke some fun at people with Down Syndrome”?

    • Annon says:

      11:25am | 03/08/12

      I personally think that if I knew someone with no legs wore a t shirt saying ‘worlds greatest kick boxer it would be brilliant. Why shouldn’t someone with a disability be able to express humor and irony about themselves?  If they are comfortable doing so.

    • Colin says:

      12:44pm | 03/08/12

      I hadn’t ever considered a person with a dead-end evolutionary mutation to be suitable as an object of ridicule; regardless of whether they come up with some “Witty” epithet for their condition themselves…Which, obviously, the child in the T-shirt in question hasn’t - she has merely been emblazoned with a slogan that helps her parents cope through “Humour”. Do you think she will appreciate that when she gets older? Or do you think she might realise that the parents did that foe their sakes and not hers..?

    • steve says:

      01:48pm | 03/08/12

      ” if it has a couple of plus-size models who are still skinnier and hotter than the average person”

      Why do you think this is a problem with the fashion industry?

      Surely it is more of a reflection of our obese society when the “average” person is larger than plus sized.

      Why did we let fat become average?

    • M says:

      02:05pm | 03/08/12

      When feminists started telling men what they should find attractive.

 

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