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​Our opinion: What sells, and what that says about us

by Tom Bixby | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Editorial | January 25th, 2017

Music instructor Kris Kitko was recently in the Kirkwood Mall in Bismarck. She saw a

T-shirt in a store, looked again. On the T-shirt, it said “GRAB AMERICA BY THE PUSSY.”

“Kirkwood Mall is often the site for children’s performances,” said Ms. Kitko, “These shirts were in a front aisle and are easy to see as you just walk in.”

Kris filmed the T-shirt display. “One of the reasons I zoomed in so many times was to let people walk by behind me so that I didn't film them. Do you know why I didn't want to film them? Because they were children. That shirt is at eye level for children. I work in the schools. I have begun to hear this phrase IN SCHOOLS. And why is that? Because it is being normalized, packaged, and sold.”

A lot of people agree with Kris.

“I think everyone understands,” said Pat Ziegler. “Here are the words Spencers has with the shirt on their website: ‘This laugh out loud Spencer's exclusive shirt is [a] perfect way to show your support for the new president!’ They're endorsing the crime he brags about in that tape and make it ‘normal’ to assault women.”

Kitko then asked the employee to complain to corporate headquarters. He said leave my store right now and she did. She was told to leave, not escorted to the door or touched.

As of this writing, her comment and video on facebook have been viewed by more than 19 thousand people and shared 237 times.

A lot of people disagree with her too; thinking she had her panties in a twist about something else and was going around looking for something to be offended by -- or what was she doing in Spencers, whose mission in life is to manufacture rude T-shirts for thoughtless party animals?

Deb Bishop said, “Kris, just keep your hands over yours, and probably nobody will grab it. If you don't like Spencer’s, don't go in.”

Kitko says their other t-shirts can be characterized as consensual; this one advocates sexual assault; the other t-shirts are jokey; sexual assault is never a joke.

Are we prudes if we agree with Ms. Kitko? It’s true that we too use some coarse language, especially in the kitchen and when we’re driving a car. Are we hypocritical?

We don’t think so. Spencer’s goes beyond that by displaying it prominently, at eye level for children, shoving it into our faces and rubbing our noses in it.

Kris Kitko says “What should disturb us all is that the reason the shirt is there and across the country is that corporate KNOWS this will make money in today's United States. THAT is the deeply disturbing larger issue at play here.”

That’s right, Kris, you nailed it, that’s what it’s all about.

Laura Mae Schwartz says desensitization is a documented psychological phenomenon. It occurs when people are exposed to the same thing over and over and are taught that it is normal. That’s right, Laura Mae, there’s a lot of nasty name-calling lately, encouraged by our leader, the Great White Name-Caller-in-Chief in Washington, so that stores like Spencer’s and social media posters and people out walking are ruder than they used to be.

And why did Spencer’s display the T-shirt prominently, so that it was easily visible? Maybe they were afraid that President Trump won’t be president very long and the shirts will no longer be salable. Maybe they know something we don’t know. We hope so.

What you can do: Hannah Balaban called Spencer’s corporate office at 609-645-33080. “It says business hours are 8-5, Mon-Fri and then gives you a menu. When I tried option 3 to leave a message, it said the mailbox was full.”

Angel Young says 609-645-9935 is a better number, the guy behind the guy. If you know the number of the guy behind the guy behind the guy, please get in touch.

You can also call Kirkwood Mall, 701-223-3500, Ext. 106.

David Codpiece says there are reports that stores are having problems keeping them in stock. Spencer Gifts in Bismarck sold out shortly after Kitko complained. Jason Brenno bought the last one.

HPR called Spencer Gifts at West Acres Mall, 701-282-2216. The employee checked for us. They don’t have them and won’t be receiving any. Yay Fargo!

Then we visited, where PUSSY T-shirts are surely for sale, but Spencer’s has more than a thousand rude shirts listed, 44 pages of just the ones for guys and we couldn’t find it.

On page 1, however, there’s a #NOTMYPRESIDENT shirt for $9, half price, marked down from $18.

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