One of the t-shirts sold at The Foschini Groups Markham and Sportscene stores which have been slammed for supporting the abuse of women and promoting unsafe sex.

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This T-shirt was withdrawn on Tuesday.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