The Foschini Group has launched an audit of all slogan T-shirts sold in its stores after objections from, among others, feminists, HIV activists and a Christian group which said the messages supported women abuse and unsafe sex.

The move has already led to the withdrawal of some T-shirts that the group at first refused to remove from its Markham stores.

On Tuesday the group indicated that it would be withdrawing a number of T-shirts from its Sportscene and Markham stores.

Earlier this year Markham came under fire for marketing T-shirts with slogans including “I (recycle) girls”. Markham decided to withdraw the particular T-shirt and stop the production of another with an offensive message after receiving a number of complaints.

At the centre of the latest protests were a number of T-shirts including among others a Markham T-shirt which reads as both a series of instructions and unpacking the word SINGLE – S: stay, I: intoxicated, N: nightly, G: get, L: laid, E: every day.

This T-shirt was withdrawn on Tuesday.

In a letter to Markham, signed by a number of journalists, activists, academics and women’s rights advocates, University of Cape Town academic Rebecca Hodes said this T-shirt condoned and encouraged sexual concurrency and alcohol abuse.

The letter points out that the research has shown that the T-shirt is a particularly powerful form of social marketing because of how the wearer literally embodies its message.

“The importance of the T-shirt as a political tool is particularly relevant in South Africa, in which social movements – including the anti-apartheid movement – have used the T-shirt to spread political awareness.

“(Harry) Fokker’s (T-shirt designer) use of images and slogans that are explicitly misogynistic on Markham T-shirts is neither humorous nor satirical. In the South African context in which rates of violence against women are among the world’s highest, his T-shirts display, at best, foolish naivety, at worst, casual bigotry,” the letter said.

Earlier this year the “Africa Christian Action” group called on Markham to remove T-shirts with the slogans “I recycle girls”, “I’m looking for a meaningful one night stand” and a shirt with a picture of a boy and a girl, showing a heart on the girl’s chest and a heart on the boy’s groin. The wording reads: “True Love”.

The messages are described as “offensive, neither funny nor cheeky”.

The group claimed that their pleas for the removal of the T-shirts were ignored and that they were told “(we) should get ready, because they won’t be taking the T-shirts out of stores and that as summer warmed up, there would be more of the same coming to a Markham near you”.

The “recycle” T-shirt was removed.

On Tuesday The Foschini Group’s spokeswoman, Kathryn Sakalis, confirmed that they had removed a T-shirt from Sportscene, which played on the word STD (usually an acronym for Sexually Transmitted Disease). The T-shirt proclaims that the only part missing is “U”.

Sakalis agreed that this T-shirt “has definitely crossed the line”.

She said they were also in the process of doing an audit on all their slogan T-shirts “to ensure there are not more of a similar nature to the STD one”. – Health-e-News Service