Outrage Averted

I’ve been trying to sort out why I am not outraged about the Old Navy shirt designs that caused so much uproar last week. So much that Old Navy removed them from the store.


I understand why people are feeling outrage; these are the reasons I can’t muster any.

  1. It’s poorly designed – I’m really not sure what the shirt is saying. The common assumption is that they imply that aspiring to be an artist is inferior than aspiring to be an astronaut or the president. I’m not convinced. The design leaves open the possibility that the wearer believes that being a president is just as much an artistic career as anything else – the handwriting is just a clarification.
  2. “President” is a more elite aspiration than “Artist.” My best estimate is that there are 10 people alive right now who are future presidents. Ten. Meanwhile, there are well-over two million artists. There are twice as many American artists in the cast of Hamilton as there are future American presidents. I didn’t research astronauts, but I don’t think you can argue that astronauts are some of the bravest, best-trained, most brilliant people alive.
  3. It’s a t-shirt. You can go to any shirt company and find shirts equally “offensive”. Am I really called upon to boycott a company for it? There are quite simply more important things for me to direct my energy towards.
  4. Outrage is not a valuable emotion to me. Particularly when the end result of most outrage is a post on social media, and no real change, I am very hesitant to engage with outrage. (Of course, that forces me to scroll fast through a fair bit of Facebook these days…)

I’m glad Old Navy discontinued the shirt, because it was bad design. But I didn’t feel offended or outraged by it, and I hope that the lesson they take away is to design better, not to avoid risk.

It puts me in the awkward position of siding with a multinational corporation instead of fellow artists; but sometimes that’s how it goes.