Babies drinking, sex acts and abusing drugs T-shirts are appearing in American stores this year, marking a big change for the 'Kiss Me I'm Irish' staple.
One T-shirt appears to invite grabbing – a la Donald Trump – while another calls for a crude sexual act to be performed by a woman. A third urges drug use on St. Patrick’s Day. A fourth portrays a drunken baby, of all things, with a tag line “be the talk of the party.”
Mall shops begin to fill up with seasonal merchandise celebrating the approaching St. Patrick’s Day at this time of year.
Most Irish people decide to just grin and bear it, as T-shirts bearing the legend “Irish I Was Drunk,” and other similarly insensitive banners, start to appear in shop windows.
But in recent years the level of pointed cultural insensitivity has really amped up in some outlets, causing mortal offense instead of mild discomfort.
Perhaps the nation finally got the message?
Or perhaps not. It seems other companies have been happy to pick up the anti-Irish gauntlet, printing hundreds of stereotype-heavy T-shirts guaranteed to get Irish eyes seeing red.
RedBubble is a particularly enthusiastic offender this season, offering no fewer than 937 t-shirts when you type “Irish Drunk” into their search engine. That’s making Spencers and Urban Outfitters look like Johnny Come Lately’s in the anti-Irish stakes.
Amazon is no slouch in the “Drunk Irish” T-shirt category either with a staggering 345 offerings. Even craft-centric Etsy offers 22 pages of Drunk Irish themed St. Patrick’s T-shirts of their own.
These things have a bewilderingly large market share, and it leads to the question of who is buying them? Can the buyers all be Irish? Or is it possible that anti-Irish stereotypes are much more profitable than the heritage they exploit?
Alarmingly, some outlets are moving on from cultural insensitivity to rape culture now. Making light of Donald Trump’s horrendous admission of sexual assault Spencer’s came under fire this week for selling a T-shirt that bluntly referenced it.
“In case anyone still needed a reason to never walk into a Spencer’s again, this is proudly being displayed in the front of their PDX store,” writer Mary Numair writes. “Way to normalize sexual assault.”
This week OregonLive reached Spencer's vice president and general counsel Kevin Mahoney in New Jersey, where the company is headquartered, to ask him about the “Grab Them” product.
"The shirt was never meant to promote any type of abuse or attack on any person," Mahoney said, adding that it was "satire" similar to Alec Baldwin's portrayal of President-elect Trump on "Saturday Night Live."
The difference is that Baldwin makes people laugh. Spencers T-shirt has led to national outrage.
Meanwhile, it seems that T-shirts are becoming the go-to place for cultural stereotyping, because what’s expressed on them can be as aggressive and belittling as the stuff you see on some suburban walls.
Let us know what you think. Is America getting the message? Is the war on St. Patrick’s Day being won or lost?