Culture

These ‘Keep Calm And Hit Her’ T-Shirts Aren’t Going Over Well

The Melbourne-founded online shop who've been selling a violently misogynistic range of T-shirts issued an explanation this morning. It's not a very good one.

Following outcry on Amazon, the Melbourne-founded and USA-based company responsible for selling a hugely offensive range of T-shirts, Solid Gold Bomb, has pulled the line this morning, issued a lengthy apology and a fairly weak explanation, and changed their Facebook cover photo to this:

weresorry

The T-shirt slogans were built around the ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’ propaganda message used to boost morale in the UK during World War II. The company claim they used an automated algorithm that randomly pulled words from an (apparently uncensored) dictionary to arrive at T-shirt slogans like ‘Keep Calm And Rape Her’, ‘Keep Calm And Kill Her’, ‘Keep Calm And Hit Her’, ‘Keep Calm And Punch Her’ and more. Once Amazon had been notified of the Rape line, they were pulled – but Solid Gold kept selling the others until, apparently, enough complaints came through.

Keep Calm and Hit Her T-shirt

The founder of the company, Michael Fowler, issued an apology and explanation over Facebook, reprinted below. The auto-generation of designs is apparently common practice for online retailers, who build and sell slogan clothing around a trending phrase or idea (Solid Gold Bomb had 41 pages of separate ‘Keep Calm …’ designs available on Amazon, which were still being deleted by the company as this piece was written).

But there are a few key points the explanation seems to dodge: Why was there no review process over the posted items, either at Solid Gold or at Amazon? Doesn’t the lack of Hit Him/Kill Him/Rape Him varieties suggest human involvement on some level? If they got to choose ‘Her’ and not ‘Him’, why, when culling 1100 words from 202,000, did they decide to keep the ‘rape’ one in there? And why, if the company “have never had any intention of the spread of poor taste humour t-shirts”, are they still selling these?

no fat chicks

Read Solid Gold Bomb founder Michael Fowler’s full statement below.

I am sorry.

As the party responsible within our company for scripting and creating this automated process that created the matched slogans for this “Keep Calm” series, I apologise for the offensive response this has created across the world.

No words can express how I feel about what has occured and in no way do I condone or promote this serious issue. I will offer a more in depth explanation of cause to explain what and how this occured. Both myself and our company and it’s associated Solid Gold Bomb brand have never had any intention of the spread of violent slogans or even poor taste humour t-shirts. This was a computer error of my creation and I accept my responsibility in the matter.

In process, it was one year ago when this parody series was released in repsonse to the outcry on the “Keep Calm” trademark issue and the fact that it’s trademark was accepted in both the EU and USA. My response to this was to create a large scale release of parodies (something t-shirt companies often do) and relied on both computer based dictionaries and online educational resources ie. verb lists. I then generated word lists that were called using simple scripting methods to generate image based art of the modified slogans. These were subsequently scripted to position themselves on t-shirts and the associated product data was derived simply from the product name and the 16 word combinations like “On” and “Off” and “Him” or “Her” and so forth. Near all of these combinations either work or don’t work and are certainly non-offensive such as “Dream On” and “Dance Off” and so forth.

As the volume of combinations of words/slogans/styles/colours/sizes are well into the millions, a volume of computers were used to do this entirely in a cloud type environment. The ultimate filelist generated created the base data and the core of the problem was certainly the fact that certain words both individually and in combination were or became offensive. This was culled from 202k words to around 1100 and ultimately slightly more than 700 were used due to character length and the fact that I wanted to closely reflect the appearance of the original slogan graphically.

These items sat online and on non-indexed servers for the last year and myself and our company had no idea of the issue. We simply do not produce poor humour or offensive products and are primarily known for our sporting related products and icon series that are based around similar techniques. As a father, husband, brother and son, I would never promote such product in our company and it was clear to see this when looking across the millions of t-shirts that we offer or can produce on demand. Had these items ever sold, we would have immediately pulled the series and are doing so on our own and Amazon channels worldwide. Currently, our listings have been fully removed and we are working to delete the entire parody series. Again, this was never my intention and I am extremely sorry for the trouble this carelessness has caused.

As a company, we are a good company that prints t-shirts and associated product on primarily American made garments. We produce product with related cities, schools, colleges and universities the world over. We have never done such an activity deliberately and ask for understanding in the matter. It can happen, it happened and we are doing everything in our power around the clock the world over to correct the issue. We’ve been contacted by many news agencies throughout Europe and received thousands of emails and letters of all natures. We are not ignoring this and are addressing these as much as we can in the short space of time that this has erupted. Rest assured, we do not condone the offense nor do we have any desire to promote it. Ultimately, it comes down to my error and I should singly accept repsonsibility for the mistake. Again, my sincere apologies for unintended outcome.

– Michael Fowler / Solid Gold Bomb founder