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'Problem Solved' shirt is problematic to shopper

It promotes violence against women, the Citrus County woman says.

By ELENA LESLEY
Published March 2, 2007


CRYSTAL RIVER - The T-shirt was marked down from $18 to $9.99, but that didn't diminish its message.

In the first panel, a stick figure man watches a stick figure woman with "shout" lines streaming from her mouth.

"Problem," it says beneath the scene.

In the second panel, the man's arm is extended and the woman has been knocked out of the panel.

"Solved," it says.

Renee McPheeters was shocked Sunday when she saw the shirt on sale at Belk in the Crystal River Mall. She thought the message promotes violence against women.

"Women need to be on the alert," she said. "They need to protect their rights."

So she took action.

McPheeters bought a shirt, kept the receipts and called her lawyer. He told her Belk had the right to sell the shirt, and she had the right to object.

She started to call media outlets. WESH-TV Ch. 2, the NBC affiliate in Orlando, aired a story this week.

On Thursday, a Citrus Times reporter could not find the shirt in Belk. The Crystal River store manager and representatives from Belk's North Carolina headquarters were unavailable.

McPheeters saw the shirt while shopping with her mother. She started a conversation with a Belk's saleswoman and they began chatting about politics.

"I was telling her about how I thought women needed to get more involved," McPheeters said. "And she said there was a certain thing in the store that made her really angry."

She showed McPheeters the shirt. When McPheeters confronted a store manager, she was told that all purchasing decisions were made by regional headquarters, not individual stores.

McPheeters said she will meet today with Diana McIntosh, executive director of Citrus County Abuse Shelter Association, to discuss the shirt and what else can be done.

According to news accounts, a shirt with the same message sparked controversy in December in Augusta, Maine, and in January in Toledo, Ohio.

Times Staff Writer Barbara Behrendt contributed to this story. Elena Lesley can be reached at elesley@sptimes.com or 564-3627.