Wife-Beater?

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How can the name of an article of clothing stir up so much controversy?  I would understand a piece of clothing revealing too much on someone’s body being controversial, but not its name.  A wife-beater is an undershirt that has recently become popular to both men and woman in our nation.  Many athletes and celebrities have promoted the wife-beater because it’s attractive and shows off the body well.  “The name is the issue” (Smith 322).  To many people the name “wife-beater” is inappropriate.  Parents don’t want their children supporting a name of the undershirt by wearing it.  Many have been pushing for years to change the name of this undershirt because it’s unacceptable to most people and the stereotype that comes along with it.

 When I was in middle school I first was introduced to the wife-beater on our school basketball team.  I thought the wife-beater was a weird name at first but I liked wearing it as an undershirt during games.  Personally I don’t think anything is wrong with the name and don’t think the name needs to be changed.  I wore the undershirt because of its purpose not because I beat women or support women abuse.  The stereotype that has come with the undershirt is unfortunate but there isn’t much we can do about how people think when they see someone wearing it. 

 Changing the name of the undershirt isn’t necessary because to almost every person who wears it, the stereotype doesn’t apply to.  The stereotype has been outdated from “only trailer trash wears it” to almost every social class wearing it because of its purpose.  It’s a great way to prevent sweat from forming on your outer shirt and popular among athletes playing in a game and even businessman walking in a suit on a warm day.  I believe people are taking the wrong approach and really isn’t an issue.  We need to accept the name of the undershirt because in the end, it’s only an undershirt.  

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5 thoughts on “Wife-Beater?

  1. Interesting opinions Phiggins12013. Personally, I’m not sure exactly where I fall on this scale… I usually just wear an undershirt, but for a long time did not ever buy a wife beater due to the name. I had a friend who was stabbed, drugged, and left for dead by an ex… So in my mind the term just has some bad memories attached, but I realize that is totally not the norm.
    I have learned never to critique unless you have a suggestion, and interestingly enough, she does not suggest another name for this article of clothing, which makes me care a little less about her stance on the argument. But I don’t see why we can’t just call it a tank, unless I’m missing something, girls wear nearly the same style of clothing and we call them tank tops. Besides, I think tanks are cool (the types that the military drives around) so that’s what I have referred to them as over the years. I’m curious though, I can’t tell if you are really adamant about not changing what you call it, or if you just really like this particular article of clothing. Do you like that it is called a wife beater? Would you have any objections to calling it a tank instead?

  2. I would agree with what you said about how it is unnecessary to change the name of the undershirt that almost everyone in the country knows as a “wife beater.” Yes it can be offensive to some people, but just because you decide to wear a comfortable undershirt doesn’t make you an abusive person what so ever. Also I like how you said that the stereotype that goes along with the tank top is past the point of attempting to try and change the name. There really isn’t a whole lot that can be done to change how most people already know and see the tank top. At the end of the day it is just an undershirt, it’s not like the iron man suit, where you throw on your tank top and you become a ruthless wife beater.

  3. I understand the point you’re trying to make, but I still must politely disagree. Rosenwald’s argument is flawed to begin with as the name “wife-beater” is slang, not an official name. How is it even possible to change a slang word? You can’t officially rename something if the name you want to change isn’t the correct name to begin with. So there’s a slap on the wrist for Rosenwald.
    But referencing you and adonels1, it is true that wearing a “wife-beater” does not make you abusive, but why would you want to be described as such just for wearing a tank top? If anyone should be offended, it should be the people that wear these shirts. You’re character is essentially being judged for your clothing choices. Also, why is it too late to change the nickname of this clothing? I don’t think it’s ever too late to change a problem. If we followed the guideline of “oh, it’s already too established, there’s no point in trying to change it” then we would be all sorts of messed up. The abolition of slavery, interracial marriage, desegregation, women’s suffrage, all of these things would be nonexistent if we had that outlook.
    I most likely take more offense to this than I should, but in all actuality it should be men that are offended. Yes, it may just be a name. Yes, a lot of people probably don’t judge you for wearing a tank top with an unattractive name. But to think that even one person may assume that you are an abusive person solely because of your clothing choices should be enough to get your blood boiling. There is a bigger issue here. By accepting inappropriate nicknames for everyday items, we are condoning tolerance for abusers and judgement based on appearances.

  4. I personally believe that this whole argument is pointless. We are talking about a nickname of a shirt. Yes it references people who abuse their spouses, but it in no way condones the action itself. You will associate the people who are wearing the shirt with trashiness regardless of the name. Changing what we decide to to call this piece of cloth will not fix any issue regarding how people feel about it. The actual problem here, that everyone seems to be poking at, is the morality of beating a spouse. The wife-beater is merely a symbol of a bigger problem. For those who want this name to be changed, I have a question for you. What would that accomplish? If tomorrow, no one called that shirt a wife-beater ever again, it would still take generations for the meaning behind the shirt to disappear. And that’s what everybody seems to be concerned about. Removing that negative connotation from the shirt. Sure, you can wear this shirt guilt free, with no worries about being judged. But, the only way to truly fix this problem, is for wife beating to become a nonexistent problem.

  5. I am 70 and just heard the term “wifebeater” from Louis CK on SNL… In my day it was an undershirt, distinguished from a T-shirt which was also worn as an undershirt. Then somebody gave color to a T-shirt and it became an article of everyday clothing. As an undershirt it was useless to me, never wore one since the reason for an undershirt is o absorb sweat and the place you sweat most is the armpit and only a T-shirt will work, not the old undersgirt as I know them to be.

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