You can officially buy an Ayn Rand t-shirt at Forever 21. Named the Unstoppable Muscle Tee, the shirt bears the following Rand quotation across the front: "The question isn't who is going to let me, it’s who is going to stop me."
The fusion of Ayn Rand and Forever 21 is in no way surprising. Rand’s philosophy, as introduced and developed in her books, prioritizes self-interest over the public good. Forever 21 is no stranger to prioritizing profits over people. Here are seven products Forever 21 has tried to profit from at the expense of others that would probably make Rand absolutely giddy.
1. "Oriental Girl Necklace"
As if the very name — "Oriental" — isn't already racist given its common use as a slur, the actual product itself is nothing but a stereotype. A pale-faced Asian girl with black hair pulled tight in buns wears what may or may not be some sort as Asian garb, as if all Asian people look and dress one way.
Did you know that the diverse peoples of continent of Asia can all be boiled down to this tired stereotype, and that wearing stereotypes is a sign of respect for the culture? No? Oh, right, that's because it's actually racist. Christina Ng, at ABC News, connected the stereotype represented in the necklace to the Ohio University poster campaign that sought to end racist portrayals of marginalized groups on Halloween.
Unfortunately, this isn't the only concerning necklace the company has sold ...
2. Native American Girl Necklace
Continuing in the trend of selling racist stereotypes of diverse groups of people for profit, Forever 21 also stocked a Native American girl necklace. With her tan, dark braids, and stereotypically Native outfit, this girl has the power to connect you to your 1/64 Cherokee roots! No ... wait, she doesn't.
Dhani Mau at Fasionista smartly quips, "Apparently, Forever 21 thinks that people want to wear outdated cultural stereotypes as necklaces, and that it's okay to sell them." This just in: people may want to wear stereotypes, but it isn't okay. It's racist.
3. "Indian Princess Top"
It gets worse. This top was not marketed alone. In addition to several other Native American "inspired" pieces including a "Native Print Hoodie" and "Ethnic Print Board Shorts," it was sold in a Columbus Day sale.
Has it hit you yet?
Forever 21 had a sale to commemorate Columbus Day, as many other stores do. However, Forever 21 thought it would be a good idea to capitalize on Columbus Day by selling "Native American" themed items. Basically, Forever 21 commemorated the genocide of Native Americans by selling cheap, stereotypical goods that appropriate Native culture. It doesn't get much worse than that.
4. "Allergic To Algebra" Shirt
Of course, Forever 21 isn't only racist. They sell sexist shirts too! Following in the legacy of a JC Penney shirt that claimed girls couldn't do their own homework and needed their brothers' help, Forever 21 started marketing a shirt for women that said "Allergic to Algebra."
Women are already extremely underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This underrepresentation reinforces the notion that women are "born with a physical inability to do math." They aren't, but Forever 21 wouldn't have you believing that. They'd rather make a buck feeding off sexist stereotypes.
5. NWA Shirts, Straight out of Compton
Where do we even begin with these?
First, there are no Forever 21 stores in Compton. A Google search shows that the store actually makes a large circle around the neighborhood. The company is literally profiting off a neighborhood without ever engaging the people who live there.
Second, the people modelling the clothes clearly don't fit Compton's demographics. Forever 21 is trying to sell "thug appeal" to young white people who will never have to face the racism and classism that people from Compton face on a daily basis. This twitter user said it best:
Cultural appropriation isn't cute, but it fits perfectly with Ayn Rand's philosophy of promoting self-interest over the public good. If nothing else, at least Forever 21's most recent product is consistent with its history of relying on racist and sexist stereotypes.