Here we go again. Another Saint Patrick’s Day that will be marked in what some here are calling a deeply culturally offensive manner by another big box U.S. retailer.
Last year it was Old Navy that raised the wrath of the Irish when a t-shirt that read “Irish I Was Drunk” went on sale nationally and created public uproar, before it was quickly pulled from the shelves.
This year another well-known chain is pandering to negative stereotypes about the Irish, and once again it’s a store that tilts heavily toward a younger demographic: Urban Outfitters.
The company has been accused in the past of anti-Jewish, anti Black and anti-Catholic sentiments on their clothing.
On a shopping trip to the East Village at the weekend an alert Irish Voice reader happened upon a table of Irish themed items offered in what many consider an insulting tribute to Saint Patrick’s Day.
First for sale was a baseball hat that read “Irish Yoga – Downward Facing Upchuck” that was rounded off with the image of a vomiting man spewing shamrocks. Beside it a green t-shirt with an image of a beer glass was also for sale that read: “Get Me Drunk And We’ll See.”
Alongside the t-shirts and hats other alcohol related paraphernalia were for sale including beer glasses, hip flasks and how-to guides to mixing your own cocktails.
In recent years a growing sensitivity to negative cultural stereotyping has led to major retailers carefully assessing the potential impact of the negative attention. But negative images of the Irish in relation to Saint Patrick’s Day have still been hard to dislodge.
Critics claim it would be impossible to slam any other ethnicity in the U.S. with this kind of negative campaign and they point to an ongoing double standard in the wider U.S. culture.
Speaking to the Irish Voice, historian Michael Lavery said: “If you allow others to cheapen your culture like this they will find it easier to overlook you in every other sphere from politics to culture. Urban Outfitters are trafficking in out of date stereotypes that have been used to diminish the Irish for centuries and I’m sorry to see it still happening in 2012.”
Irish Voice reader Michelle Doyle said: “I’m a mother of three and the last thing I want my kids to see is these kind of images of Ireland and the Irish. I thought we had moved beyond this kind of thing by now? I can’t imagine Italians or African Americans or anyone else standing for this kind of ethnic bashing without an uproar. We’ve been far too slow to take offense I think.”
Responding to the Old Navy t-shirt controversy last year a spokesperson for the store’s parent company said: “We recognize these t-shirts went too far and we sincerely apologize to the Irish community for any offense caused. We are removing all units from the stores and online as soon as physically possible.”
A phone call and email request from the Irish Voice to Urban Outfitters asking for a clarifying statement from the company about their decision to mark Saint Patrick's Day in this particular fashion went unanswered by press time.
The company has been accused before. In 2003 they released a Monopoly parody called Ghettopoly which drew strong criticism from the NAACP while that same year Jewish groups protested after a T shirt depicting a Jewish girl surrounded by dollars was sold.The Jewish American Defence League expressed “outrage and disgust” at the portrayal.
“Jesus Dress Up”, a game created by artist Normal Bob Smith, drew additional critical response form Catholics.
The company has several outlets in Ireland.
Here's some shots of other products on sale: