Wednesday, October 1, 2014

BlueQ socks, in order...

This isn't a handwritten note, but it is a letter, so I'm posting it here, because it seems to be making a lot of people happy.  At least, people who don't own BlueQ.

Dear BlueQ, self-proclaimed “proud designers and manufacturers of life-improving, joy-bringing products since 1988,”

I was browsing the aisles of a cute store in Raleigh when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the word “math” on a brightly colored sock.

Oh, how exciting, I thought, a math sock. Something that I can wear to school, to proudly proclaim my utter love of, devotion to, and appreciation for mathematics.

But wait… the sock says, in a font so ridiculous it makes comic sans look like something worthy of a Master’s thesis… “The three things I hate most are math.”

Of course. Of course it does. And it’s pink and purple and “girly."  And the sock pattern looks like some creature from the book Flatland (google it) threw up on it.

Well, this sucks.

At least, tell me there’s a coordinating boy sock version.

Of course there isn’t.

Never mind that your socks are ugly. Never matter that your font choice is regrettable. Never mind the fact that you can’t seem to decide if the appropriate grammar for your cheeky little sock-quip is “the three things I hate most ARE math” (as written on the sock) or “the three things I hate most IS math” (as featured on the website.) You claim that these socks are perfect for “you, your bestie, and your aunt” and that “unlike calculus, I can guarantee that you’ll use these socks when you get older.”
Nice job, BlueQ. This stereotype is old, anachronistic, played out, and most of all, STUPID AND WRONG.

Do you REMEMBER the Barbie that said “math is hard” when you pulled the string?
Or the JCPenney “I’m too pretty to do homework” shirt?
Or the Forever 21’s “Allergic to Algebra” shirt?

Enough. Seriously, enough.

I own a dress made from a binary print fabric from modcloth:

Do you know how many young women stop me to tell me that my dress is awesome, and want to know where I got it? Do you know what an opportunity you missed out on in your misguided and offensive design choice?

Upon looking further, I notice that your socks are all women’s socks. And they have such useful, sage phrases for the modern young woman:

"Men ruin stuff."
"It’s my parents’ fault."
"Stay away from assholes."
"Getting freaky-deaky is okey-dokey."

Any my personal least-favorite:

 "Huh? Wait, what?… oh no??"

It seems as though your misogyny runs much deeper than a superficial disdain for mathematics.
If it makes you feel better, you’re not alone. Socksmith sells a "math genius” sock, and it’s only available in men’s sizing.

I don’t even know how this crap persists. A woman just won the Fields Medal, for chrissake. (You can google that, too.)

Your website asks, “did this product make you happy? We sure hope it did! Hugs and Kisses! Let us know right here.”

So I’m taking this opportunity to let you know. NO, this product does not make me happy. You have brought me no joy, as promised in your company mission statement. I hate everything you stand for and your stupid, ugly, antifeminist, socks. Especially the math one.

Cindy Phillips
National Board Certified Mathematics Teacher
18 years and running


Dear Cindy Phillips,

Hello, I'm one of the owners of Blue Q and your letter found its way to me.

We're always receptive to hearing our customer's comments. But your venomous delivery pulls the rug out from under your arguments. -It's hard to wade through your bile to see if there's a valid point worth considering.

You may need a refresher course in lightening up at your local community college. Maybe remember the world is host to paradoxes, fears and foibles, that aren't roped off from commentary because you say so. Some people think math is hard, and want to laugh about it. Not OK? -We find self-appointed manners cops unsettling and scary.

(We have ladies socks full of love and optimism, but you may find them ugly, too.)

The men will get their due on some socks soon. Like it or not, Blue Q's oeuvre speaks to a wide range of truths and fictions, and no single item defines us.

And if you don't like our visual style, move on. Maybe I don't like your bathroom wallpaper. Who cares? Are you a self-appointed style cop, too?

Blue Q is a kind company. We're the area's largest local employer of individuals with disabilities. We  take garbage out of the waste stream and make reusable plastic bags . We donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the environment and world health organizations. We coddle and care for our employees.

But you state that you hate everything we stand for.

Do the math.


Mitch Nash


Now, I have A LOT to say about this.  And I'll get there.  But the BEST PART is that Mitch, I'm assuming unknowingly, SENT ME THE FORWARD FROM HIS COLLEAGUE.  Please enjoy this one:

From: Silka Glanzman
Sent: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 8:55 AM
To: Mitch Nash
Cc: Steven Wardlaw; Katie Frisina
Subject: FW: Comment approval required

Good Morning, Pal.

We just got this comment on the I Hate Math socks...

I don't really think the review section of the website is the right forum for this kind of conversation, but the fact that Ms. Phillips submitted it there seems to mean that she wants this to be a publicly addressed issue. So maybe... do we want to do a blog post? She's not the only one - I had a women the other day write me a message on Facebook about this design being "anti-feminist."  We could spin it in a funny, check out all our girl power items kind of thing? Would you be interested in writing a response?

We could also just write this crazy bitch a personal email back - and I'd be happy to take that one for the team :)

I can't even believe this.

Dear Mitch,
Thanks so much for your expedient and thoughtful reply.

Since it's difficult to "wade through my bile" to find a "valid point" let me try to be a little more clear this time.

Your socks are ugly.  That is my opinion.

Your socks are offensive.  That is a fact.

I'm not going to bother to inundate you with the ways that young women are subtly and not-so-subtly discouraged from learning, enjoying, and pursuing science and mathematics disciplines, and how your socks play into the stereotype that women can't and shouldn't do math.  Luckily, as a math teacher, I have the ability, power, and passion to confront and dissolve this stereotype every day.

What I find more offensive and distasteful than your crappy socks, however, is your poor customer service and business practices.

You encourage website visitors to let you know what they think about your products.  But you clearly don't want to know.  Instead of taking my criticism and giving it some thought, or taking my criticism and just ignoring it, you made a conscious choice to try to belittle and demean me with your smug and self-righteous response.

You told me to "lighten up" at a "local community college."  Your usage of the phrase "local community college" must mean to insinuate that that is the best I could possibly hope for: acceptance to a community college.  Congratulations on your failed attempt to simultaneously insult my intelligence and good institutions of higher education and all they strive to do.

I don't know what fancy and expensive private college you went to, but I wonder if you enrolled in any business classes, because clearly, you haven't learned a thing.

Allow me to help you in constructing what would have been an appropriate response:

"Ms. Phillips, we are sorry you found our product offensive, and not to your taste.  We at BlueQ take great pride in our products and our design. Thank you for your thoughts; we will take this into consideration in the future.  Blue Q is a kind company. We're the area's largest local employer of individuals with disabilities. We  take garbage out of the waste stream and make reusable plastic bags . We donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to the environment and world health organizations. We coddle and care for our employees"


"Ms. Phillips, we are sorry you found our product offensive, and not to your taste.  We of course feel that math is something that young women should study and be proud to study.  Blue Q is a kind company....blah, blah, blah...We coddle and care for our employees."

Or better yet,

"Ms. Phillips, we did not realize this product would come across as anti-feminist.  We will stop production on this sock, and work towards creating ones with more positive messages in the future."

But the pièce de resistance (I see by the use of the word "oeuvre" you understand at least a little French) of your email to me was the email you, I can only assume, forwarded from your dutiful colleague, Silka Glanzman.  Her calling me a "crazy bitch" and wanting to "take one for the team" in retaliation for my email.... well, that just punctuated the point I was trying to make.

I guess in the coddling, caring, kind organization BlueQ, the customer is NOT always right.  She's a crazy bitch.

Forget about your socks.  Work on yourselves.

Cindy Phillips

Mitch replies:

Ms. Phillips,

MAN your panties are in a bunch!
Get some air up there!




I'm going to let Mitch have the last word.  He's doing a good enough job hanging himself.


  1. I totally agree about these stereotyping socks.Those guys clearly need educating. However, your very important point got lost in the diatribe. As the saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

  2. I found the socks much more tasteful than your emails to the company, Ms. Phillips. The socks are cute and funny, and the emails you sent were way out of line. Making a joke about not liking math is not sexist. They do not claim that girls are bad at math, just that the individual wearer does not enjoy it. And you claim that some of the other socks are misogynistic as well, when no such message is portrayed. Furthermore, in your second email you try and sum up your first by saying Blue Q's socks are ugly, and that is your opinion. You are entitled to that opinion, but was it really necessary to say so in such a rude way in your first email? Furthermore, you state that it is a fact that the socks are offensive. That is another opinion, not a fact. Just because you don't appreciate the humor does not make it sexist and offensive.

  3. MaryRose Moss, companies are not people. They don't have feelings. It doesn't matter if I was rude or not. YOU are a person, and YOU have feelings. This is why I might be nicer in telling you that you are perpetuating the notion that women should always be polite and kind above bold and opinionated. I
    Might be kinder in letting you know how ludicrous it is that you addressed MY rudeness and not that of the company's OWNER. That being said, it really doesn't matter... I question the judgement of anyone who thinks those socks are cute.

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