In the six years that IrishCentral has been running, every single year, we receive emails from our readers telling us how upset they are to see offensive, stereotyping and silly merchandise on sale, mostly in the US, associated with Ireland’s feast day, St. Patrick’s Day. Isn’t it about time that Irish America asked for this to stop?
This year, is unfortunately no different, a Mr O’Dwyer emailed IrishCentral complaining about the t-shirt he spotted for sale on Amazon.
He wrote “it is remarkable that March 17 is still being styled as a day to get drunk. It is remarkable because no other nationality tolerates such nonsense. And, beyond ‘remarkable,’ it is an outrage.”
It’s hard to disagree with him. This t-shirt a “juniors” size, which means it’s aimed at young adults, actually bears the description on the site “St. Patricks Day Good Day to Get Drunk Juniors 3/4 Sleeve Raglan T-Shirt (sic).” For shoppers who looked at this item they also recommend the “Funny Beer Coolie St. Patrick's Day”, a foam cover for beer cans with the words “Fit Shaced” emblazoned on the side.
Among their other “St. Patrick’s Day products” is the “Mens Make St Patties Day Great Again Donald Trump Funny Drinking T shirt (sic)” (see main photo above).
We don’t even know where to start with this. The fact that Irish people hate people saying “St. Pattie’s” or the fact that Donald Trump is a massively polarizing GOP figure who wants to deport the 50,000 undocumented Irish if he’s elected President of the United States. And should we mention that Trump is depicted with a pint of beer in his hand, the man doesn’t touch a drop.
In 2013 we spotted St. Patrick’s Day merchandise in Urban Outfitters, including the popular “gag” about Irish yoga, showing someone in the varying stages of inebriation and over the years Spencer Gifts and even Bed, Bath and Beyond have been found to stock inappropriate products.
Of course there are people who will call us “over sensitive” and say things like “real Irish people can laugh at themselves” but the joke has now become too much.
If you google search “St. Patrick’s Day merchandise” this (see image below) is what you get.
Among the first four results are women’s t-shirts with slogans like “Kiss me, I’m Irish, or drunk or whatever,” a portable drinking glass on a plastic chain and men’s t-shirts with the logo “Wasted / Sober” and a drunk leprechaun. What’s the message here?
If you google “Thanksgiving merchandise,” “St. George’s Day merchandise,” or "Australia Day merchandise" nothing of the sort comes up.
Our argument is if everyone is “a little bit Irish” on March 17 shouldn’t we be attempting, as Irish and Irish American people, to make sure that worldwide representation of the Irish is not just a joke.
The Irish are about the only nationality who have had their national feast day become an international joke. An excuse to dress in green clothes, mock the Irish and drink. I don’t think that’s something any of can be proud of.
In 2014, Neil Cosgrove, the National Anti-Defamation Chairman of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians appealed to Bed, Bath and Beyond to cease stocking offensive merchandise.
He wrote “Culturally I think we’ve developed a self-deprecating humor, which I think is taken as carte blanche,that anything goes.
“I also think there’s a general lack of understanding about the struggles that the Irish American community has faced over the years. There’s not a general awareness of what the Irish American contribution has been or what they have put up with.”
He continued, referring to the Red Skins football team, “In an era when American society is rejecting ethnic based stereotypes, as evidenced by the discussions over the appropriateness of Native American sports mascots, the AOH say they continue to be amazed that such blatant defamation targeting Irish Americans. We find it inconceivable that such products would be even considered by a major retailer if 'Irish' was removed and replaced by another ethnic group”
The AOH have had some successes in battling against the ongoing sale of offensive merchandise. They’ve even had to reach out to Microsoft about the drunk leprechaun which was available in Clipart. Their battle seems never ending.
In recent years the Irish have had one hero who found a crafty way around having to look at offensive t-shirts on sale in his local Walmart during March. Last year Kevin Westley, a radio host and Irish dance instructor from Long Island, bought over $400 in offensive t-shirts and then returned them after St. Patrick’s Day.
Happily this year his local Walmart stores, in East Meadow and Uniondale, decided against stocking those same t-shirts.
Last year Westley was annoyed by the t-shirts which had phrases like “I’m so Irish I sweat alcohol” or “In dog beers I’ve had one” on the front. This year the only Irish ts have simple “Dublin” or “Ireland” decorating their fronts.
Sadly shops without the stereotyping merchandise seem the exception. Westley’s wife, Joanie, told IrishCentral she’ll be taking a look at Target’s stock this March.