UK pants label: Give laundry to 'your woman'
This tweet from British journalist Emma Barnett show's the laundry tag from a pair of Madhouse pants
March 8th, 2012
10:28 AM ET

UK pants label: Give laundry to 'your woman'

A firestorm set off in a pair of men's trousers has left a British apparel company deflecting allegations of sexism and denying that it thinks laundry is strictly a woman's job.

It's not every day that clothing care instructions spark controversy. But that's what happened after British journalist Emma Barnett picked up her boyfriend's pants over the weekend while tidying the house.

Underneath the usually customary "machine wash warm" instructions, the tag offered a less appropriate option: “OR – GIVE IT TO YOUR WOMAN, IT’S HER JOB.”

Barnett tweeted an image of the tag on Monday, prompting an immediate outcry on social media and demands to out the company, Madhouse. The ensuing controversy has divided the citizenry into two camps: those who thought it was hilarious, with some asking how they can buy a pair, and those who found it offensive.

"Now normally I am the type of person who can stomach, and often smile along, with a touch of what has just become known as casual sexist 'banter,’ " Barnett, digital media editor for the the Daily Telegraph, wrote in a column. 

"Usually sexist jibes, statements, or even t-shirt logos, have some kind of juvenile or puerile humour to them. There’s more often than not a slight hint of tongue-in-cheek that allows most women to just pass off the remark or slogan as ‘stupid banter’ – even if they are seething inside," she said.

"There was no attempt at wit, and unlike the Topman t-shirts, which offended so many with their brazen slogans to be worn across young men’s chests – this was a hidden message – or rather an order, intended to encourage women to reassume their once their ‘proper place’ (in the home) and young men to maintain the expectations of their grandfathers.

Many who took up the issue on social media agreed with her.

"Way to alienate a substantial part of your potential customer base :O," Mfy Nixon said, echoing the sentiments of many who would later join the discussion on Twitter.

Others, including women, saw humor in the situation, from the label itself to the ensuing controversy.

"Wash labels in these chinos say "Give it to your woman" #SexistHeros …although women all over will riot. #BigMistake," Joe Richardson said.

"Can't take the joke, don't buy them. Now go fix my dinner," Ms. Melisa Kim said.

Others criticized Madhouse for taking a day to respond with the claim that the trousers were manufactured by a brand they stock and that they did not proof the care instructions.

"There was never any intention to offend it is obvious that we need to be a lot more careful when proofing sold goods," Madhouse said on its Twitter feed. "If we had noticed the label the items would never of been put in our stores. A mistake was made and we apologise for this."

The company has not issued a statement and did not respond to phone and e-mail requests for comment. But it has been responding to tweets, including those showing support.

"Glad to see that someone has found it funny. We did not instigate this and the labels on supplied jeans will be proofed better," the company said in response to a comment that the label was "brilliant."

What do you think about the tag? Weigh in and let us know in the comments below.

soundoff (1,471 Responses)
  1. Harlon Katz

    Ok, it was an attempt at humor. I only hope all those women that are offended NEVER participate in any male bashing humor as well, it would be HYPOCRITICAL. This includes ALL the supposed humor that makes men look incompetent, foolish, etc., all to prop up a woman's self-esteem.

    To quote my grandmother (as well as many others' I'm sure) – If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • aaf

      why they angry about their job

      March 7, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kristin

      It is typically the women who bash men the most that get the most offended by stuff like this. I know because I am a woman and I find it hilarious that a company would have the balls to put that on there, but have plenty of female friends who are raging about this and about all the other things that are wrong with men.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lydia

      Yeah, I make those jokes. I am also professional enough to know not to say them to my boss. I would also be professional enough not to sew them into a pair of pants and think nobody would be offended. If you can't take the heat... well, you know the expression. If you are that dumb, you don't deserve to be in business. Obviously a company run by a man. Now let's stand back and watch them sink.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • melvinslizard

      Lydia-
      If you can't take the heat, stay outta my pants

      March 8, 2012 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. eric

    "Give it to your woman" Wasn't that a hit by White Town? So, should I give my laundry to White Town then? Who is White Town? Where is White Town? How do I get there?

    March 7, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      The song is "Your Woman" by White Town (ie., a British bloke with an Amiga computer who made one hit tune sampling an old Al Bowlly song). The lyrics are "I could never be your woman", sung by a guy. That's funny.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    I love watching everyone get so riled up over this. Hilarious. Lets us small timers know where we need to go and what buttons to push for a wee bit o' the free advertisements.

    Now stop reading my comment and go read my blog, the one where I bash women, men, atheists, believers, dogs, cats, kites, and even paper airplanes. I figure if I offend enough people I'll get enough hits so I can charge enough money so I can go get enough college so I can get enough insurance to get enough neck surgery so I can get rid of enough pain to enjoy enough of my life before I've had enough.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • taetae

      Where do I go to read your blog?

      March 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. HoosierQ

    Might this just be some sort of crazy language mixup? Not being an apologist here. I would imagine these things were made in Pakistan or Vietnam or someplace where English is not the first language. Somebody writes text in the native tongue that says "Or Have Them Laudered By a Professional Launderer"...and in many languages other than English words have genders so Launderer comes out literally, in the language and Laundress. Then some other schmuch who has a Pashtun to English dictionary translates the the thing. Then some other smuck with a Pashtun to English dictionary and the thing ends up "give it to a woman to wash". Way stranger things have happened.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  5. slyalys

    I thought this was funny, they should make a shirt of just the label.
    I'd rather wash my man's laundry them have him wash mine.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MontanaTrace

    "No you Can't!"

    March 7, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  7. tothestarz

    Make me a sammich.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Max

    How is this offensive? If my girlfriend bought a new faucet and it's installation instructions said "give it to your man – it's his job", we'd both get a laugh out of it. And then I'd go install it.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lydia

      Probably because there wasn't years in this country where women weren't even allowed to vote because they were considered inferior. Women didn't even get the right to vote until after blacks did. If the joke was reversed, it wouldn't be because people consider men inferior and they should "get in their place." That's why it would be funny. In this case, there are still people who think women actually should be beneath men. Understand?

      March 7, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      1. If you are threatened by a little laundry label, go see a therapist. You have serious confidence issues.
      2. You would not see this label if you weren't doing your man's laundry. Hmm....

      March 8, 2012 at 6:54 am | Report abuse |
  9. abqTim

    See?!? Let them vote and now look. "Give them an inch and..."

    March 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Hey you

    Well Emma Barnett, you obviously pick up his clothes and take them to the laundry room so I guess the label is correct now isn't it, honey.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Frank

    As a gay male, I find this label deeply offensive.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • matt

      I find your orientation offensive!

      March 7, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Then you are too thin skinned. It's not a serious, hateful assault on a gender or orientation. It's a joke, if one that play on slightly outdated stereotypes.

      March 7, 2012 at 5:39 pm | Report abuse |
  12. SKYLAR

    Marketing genius!!

    March 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jim

    Who would have know that the country that gave us Monty Python, The Office, and Blackadder would so thoroughly lack a sense of humor?

    March 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Bill

    To be honest, I wish they hadn't apologized. People have a right to be offended. Kinda hard to take that away. But just the same, everyone has a right to not give a crap about someone else being offended. I wish I could pinpoint the moment in time when people started getting in trouble for being offensive. Being offended doesn't mean you've been victimized. And you don't even have to get over it! That's the cool part! Everyone else moves on with their lives while you sit there stewing over some dumb, meaningless tag on a pair of jeans. This planet, and the USA specifically needs more offensive people. So sick of being told to watch my mouth because of your child (I don't watch it, just sick of hearing it). Be a good parent and then the random ramblings of a guy walking down the street won't ruin your kid's life or innocence.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • MCM

      The problem here, Bill, is that people making "the joke" don't just walk away from the joke. They go home and play out the joke. They go to work and live the joke. The guy who approved that label obviously has some power in the company making the jeans. Knowing that he thought it was fine to print the joke on the label, how do you think he treats his wife? Do you think his secretary was chosen because of skills or bust size? Do you think the man who made this joke is going to choose the sharp-dressed man or the sharp-dressed but equally-qualified woman for a raise? Do you think he's taking the time to teach his children why the "joke" is funny, or do you think he just believes the joke so his children learn from him?

      The problem isn't that people who are offended need to move on, or that people get offended at all. The problem is that the guy who approved the "joke" is probably having some real influence over women in his life. No, I can't positively say he demeans his wife, that he puts the glass ceiling in place, or that his children will grow up to act the same way.

      Would you be surprised, though? If the CEO of the company who made the jeans was arrested a week from now for beating his wife into the ER because she didn't have dinner ready, would the joke be just as funny? Would you still laugh and tell people get over it?

      There is being offensive; telling someone they're idiotic, or making fun of the way they do something.
      Then there is subtly reinforcing an idea that can turn dangerous. By not fighting it, you make it OK. Look at all the women who "get" the joke. Do you think they'd be laughing if their daughter hooked up with the guy who made it? Would they not warn their daughters to get out of the relationship if the guy kept making jokes like that?

      I sincerely hope they would. They just think it's funny because Feminism worked so hard for equality, and won so many battles, that it seems so OBVIOUS this is a joke.

      I mean, it HAS to be, right? People can't SERIOUSLY think that way, right? It's the 21st century!

      Of course it's a joke. Might as well laugh at it! After all, it's not like my son/daughter will see me laughing at this joke and be affected by it. It's not like I don't teach them right from wrong.

      After all, it's not like refusing to address the "joke" as a real problem will subtly imply that it's OK to act that way...

      March 7, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scott

      I would teach my children not to be offended by the little things, because life is going to be awfully hard if they get so upset over something as insignificant as a laundry tag. If a laundry tag with a little joke on it stops my daughter from being successful at whatever she wants to do, then I have failed as a parent.

      March 8, 2012 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. Shahi

    I think it's hilarious.

    March 7, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
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