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Row erupts over 'sexist' Debenhams 'groupie' t-shirt

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 13/06/2018 Ella Wills

a close up of a piece of paper © Provided by Independent Print Limited A row has erupted over a Debenhams womenswear T-shirt with the word "groupie" emblazoned across it.

Stephanie Butland, an author from Northumberland, has called on the store to stop selling the top as she claims it "demeans" women and sends the wrong message to children.

She shared an image of the top on social media after walking out of Debenhams in Newcastle because the top made her feel "queasy". It sparked outrage online, and another woman, Helena Burke, tweeted the image to Debenhams asking why it was on sale.

But a Debenhams employee responded to Ms Burke's tweet, saying "I don't see the point you are raising." 

The firm later told the Standard it is working to ensure the item meets its product guidelines. Karen, the employee on Twitter, had replied: "Sorry I don’t see the point you are raising.

"The Cambridge dictionary definition is: a person who likes a particular singer or other famous person and follows them to try to meet them."

But Ms Burke quickly pointed out that the definition on Oxford Dictionaries states the term "groupie" implies the woman wants to have sex.

In an interview, Ms Butland told the Standard: "It makes me sad and angry that a woman is even offered the option to brand herself in this demeaning way. And then there's the question of the message that sends to the children she encounters."

She had earlier tweeted: "It’s 2018 and many of us raising daughters and helping to raise young women in our families and communities are very aware of the messages that the world sends them.

"We are also seeking to send positive messages about what women are for to the men in our communities.

"In case you didn’t check, the dictionary definition of ‘groupie’ is ‘a young woman who regularly follows a pop group or other celebrity, especially in the hope of having a sexual relationship with them’."

A Debenhams spokeswoman said: “We thank the customer for bringing this to our attention. Debenhams has strict guidelines in place to ensure all our products are appropriate.

"We are currently discussing this item with the concession brand that stocks it to ensure it meets those guidelines.”

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