Confession: I’ve Worn Racy T-Shirts at the KOP Mall!

If a “Fu*k Cancer” hat bothers you, just ignore it.

Attention, Americans: From here on out, please keep any modest displays of rage, love, truth and/or solidarity within the confines of your own home. Those kinds of emotional outbursts can offend people, and that’s bad for our corporate masters’ businesses. Please vacate your First Amendment rights, utilize mandatory inoffensive language at all times, and keep your arms and legs completely inside the country until it comes to a complete and total collapse.

This goes doubly for our clothing, which serves as another pathway to dreadful free expression—especially in upper-crust areas, where store patrons’ ears would surely begin to bleed uncontrollably in the presence of *gulp* curse words. And don’t go thinking that any kind of recent personal tragedy gets you out of it, either.

The King of Prussia Mall, an apparent bastion for all things wholesome, proved that this past weekend with the ejection of Zakia Clark, 29, Tasha Clark, 27, and Makia Underwood, 32. Over a hat.

The trio took a trip to the mall on Sunday wearing hats and shirts reading “Fuck Cancer,” with the “c” in “fuck” replaced by a breast cancer awareness ribbon, to shop for funeral dresses to wear to their own mother’s funeral. Jackie Underwood, the group’s mother, passed away on May 14th due to complications stemming from breast cancer, which she’d been battling since 2004. The hats and shirts, naturally, served as a show of remembrance for their recently deceased matriarch. Which, as I mentioned above, is unacceptable in the states.

Now, KOP didn’t have a problem with the commerce-centered part of that interaction. “Fuck” was the issue, even though it was abstracted, and even though the Clarks’ message is a pretty universal one. “No fucks, no how” is the policy at KOP, and it seems pretty ironclad. Why else would you call over something like eight security guards—and then the actual police—to get the message across? That message being, evidently, “get the fuck out,” with authorities ejecting the group and then following them to their car to insure their departure.

As a Delco boy, I’m a little bit confused by KOP’s reaction. I grew up going to that mall, and have worn just about every style of offensive t-shirt you could imagine—everything from a steamy Bad Religion shirt featuring two sexy nuns making out, to a shirt with the lyrics from “Bullet” by the Misfits printed on it, to a tee that read, simply, “FUCK EVERYTHING”—within its hallowed walls. Needlessly antagonistic, maybe (I still wear them), but no one in KOP ever even looked at me strangely, let alone threatened to kick me out.

But then, I’m not black. And there’s this.

Anyway, never mind that KOP houses stores like Spencer’s Gifts, Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters, all of which hawk clothing with racy (if you’re in middle school) language and imagery proudly displayed. So, apparently, you can buy offending clothing at King of Prussia, just don’t wear it there. But, please, do stay long enough so they can get your money.  After all, the mall doesn’t sell anything any more offensive than a piece of clothing damning a horrible disease that everyone hates.

So, this is what it’s come to. Walking on eggshells, keeping ourselves sheltered from essentially innocuous language in a world where we all accidentally see a dozen ads for hardcore porn every time we try to find the latest blockbuster to watch online. And then claiming, what, company policy for our faux offense?

Americans love to be outraged, and all the better if that outrage comes from something as intangible as language. Then, at least, we get free range to bitch to our hearts’ content because of how it made us “feel” to see “fuck” three-quarters written on a hat. How lazy.

The more difficult path is one with which the Clarks are already undoubtedly familiar: acceptance. Just as they had to accept that their mother was diagnosed with cancer, wasted from it, and eventually passed as a result of the disease they’re all railing against in the first place, so too must we accept that the words they used to convey their inner turmoil at the death of a loved one are just that—words. We can choose to take offense at someone’s genuine display of despair/call for solidarity, or we can choose to empathize and not shit all over them when that display takes form. Or, at the very least, we can ignore it.

And if someone tries to tell you differently? Well, fuck ‘em.

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  • phunnyphilly

    I think it would have been much more acceptable if these people were wearing all-pink clothing with more appropriate slogans like “Save a life, grope your wife” or “Have You Had Your Boobs Squeezed Lately?” or “Save the Ta-Tas”. You know, a tasteful saying.
    Was their clothing offensive? Yes. Was it any more offensive than many other breast cancer awareness slogans? No. I suspect WHO is wearing the shirts does have something to do with it.

  • Michele G Rogers

    What the heck are people so seriously “offended” by anyway? How does seeing the word “fuck” in print offend you, exactly? It is not target at YOU, in this case, it was targeted at CANCER. The only way anyone could be legitimately offended in this world by words written on a t-shirt is if their name was spelled out or their race demeaned or their sexual preference criticized, etc. You can’t tell me a curse word is by itself offense, especially if the target is a horrible disease. You’re so right about people…they’re so bored and lazy they don’t even have anything to be mad at anymore so they make shit up. Those poor girls. Talk about rubbing salt in a wound. KOP mall should issue a public apology. I’m glad I don’t go there anymore.

  • Richard Colton

    Smug, even for Phillymag. Thank you to the King of Prussia mall for being brave enough to stand up for decency and against the coarsening of our culture. Moms and Dads should be able to take their kids to the mall without being subjected to nudity and swearing.

  • Michele G Rogers

    Do you know what smug even means? Or nudity, for that matter? Did you read this article? Nothing you said made sense. No one was naked or swearing in this story. Good lord.