T-shirt 'reprehensible': McGuinty

September 24, 2004
St. Catharines Standard
By Kalvin Reid

Local News - A T-shirt that has generated a storm of controversy in St. Catharines has gained notoriety at Queen’s Park.

The shirt, which opponents say promotes domestic violence with a depiction of a bloody hammer and the slogan “She was asking for it...” came under fire from both Premier Dalton McGuinty and Attorney General Michael Bryant Thursday.

Speaking to reporters outside the legislature, McGuinty said the shirt being sold at Cherry Bomb Apparel on Geneva Street is “reprehensible,” and added he would leave it to Bryant to determine if it violates hate crime laws.

St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley said the shirt is totally unacceptable.

“It is quite clearly in very bad taste,” said Bradley, the minister of tourism and recreation. “It sends exactly the wrong message.”

Cherry Bomb owner Kristin Falle is incredulous over the continued attention.

“This is so last week to me,” the 22-year-old said.

A spokesman in Bryant’s office said the minister doesn’t know much about the shirt, but said it is “disgusting” and there is no place for that kind of garment in Ontario.

However, any determination on the legality of the clothing will be left to local police, said the spokesman.

A University of Toronto law professor told The Standard earlier this week that hate crimes in Canada are narrowly defined and aimed at protecting against racism and anti-Semitism.

A majority of Standard readers apparently agree with the government on this one. In a phone-in poll conducted Wednesday, 62 per cent of the 214 respondents said the store should not be allowed to sell the shirt that has been the centre of controversy for the past week.

Despite coming out on the short end, Falle said she was expecting a much larger majority against her and is happy with the result.

“The poll was a great idea, but it was a little biased because it only focused on those who read The Standard,” she said. “The Standard has a target market which is very different from our store.”

Cherry Bomb made headlines last week when protesters set up outside the shop calling for the shirt to be removed from a window display.

They also set up a picket Monday, but were met by a throng of people supporting the store.

Women’s Place executive director Gillian Dooley was pleased to hear top politicians in the province speaking out against the shirt, and she hopes the government can find a way to prevent more of the U.S.-made shirts from entering Canada.

“That that message could even be considered by anyone as a joke indicates a need for more education about the devastating effects of violence against women,” she said.

Falle kept the shirt on display while the protests were under way, but she did remove it from the window Wednesday.

It was replaced with a black shirt with bold white lettering saying, “Don’t hit people with hammers.”

But don’t bother rushing out to buy one. It’s the only one the store has.

“We made it because we wanted to say we’re sorry,” Falle said. “It is basically stating the obvious, but we are apologizing to the people we offended out there.”

Dooley said getting the shirt out of the window is only the first step.

“Above and beyond that we hope the sale of that shirt can be stopped,” she said.

The store also sells a version of the controversial shirt for women with a pair of bloody scissors and the slogan “He had it coming . . .”

Brock University pop culture professor Scott Henderson said there isn’t an inherent danger in the shirt, but it does represent something about the wearer.

“I don’t expect a direct correlation to domestic violence by putting on a shirt,” Henderson said. “But it does send a message that it may be fun.

“I’m open to satire and irony, but I can’t see the wearers of these shirts grasping that irony.”

However, Henderson stopped short of saying the shirt shouldn’t be sold.

“I’m always wary of censorship,” he said. “But it does better for the shop and the shirt to have attention drawn to it.

“There are more ways to critique what is going on there rather than raising the attention.”

Cherry Bomb has sold out of both versions of the shirt, but people have been signing up on a waiting list to buy one when the next shipment arrives.

Patrons at the store, most in their teens or early twenties, were shaking their heads Thursday at the media attention focused on the shirt.

“This is so stupid,” one girl mumbled to her friend as two Toronto television stations taped in and around the store.

Falle is anxious for the whole issue to pass.

“We’ll use more discretion in the future,” she said. “Will I put the shirt in the window again? No.

“We feel like this is now over.”


Letter to Attorney General Michael Bryant re "she was asking for it" t-shirt, September 25, 2004