A year ago we posted a photo of a children’s t-shirt, found at Goodwill, that claimed the wearer is “Too pretty to do math.” We were relieved to know the shirt had been destroyed, in the interests of children and appreciators of the fine field of mathematics.
But sadly, Ingrid P. informs us that a magnet with the same slogan is now for sale at youth-oriented clothing store Forever 21:
So the message to girls is that, first, math is something to be avoided if possible; only girls who aren’t pretty enough to get out of it would bother to take it seriously. And, second, being attractive should get you out of doing things you might find difficult or unpleasant.
There do not appear to be “I’m too handsome to do math” or, say, “I’m too pretty to do English literature” versions, because the magnet relies on two notions that preclude those options: that girls, specifically, either can’t or don’t want to master difficult academic subjects, and that math is inherently, and almost uniquely, difficult to learn — a cultural trope my friends who teach math often find exasperating, as it means they have to battle years of socialization that teaches students to be intimidated and convinced they’re likely to fail before they even start.