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  • Jefferson Adams
    Jefferson Adams

    Are Zara's "Gluten-free" T-shirts Funny or Offensive?

    Reviewed and edited by a celiac disease expert.

    Celiac.com 04/21/2016 - Spanish fashion brand Zara has been forced to pull a T-shirt from its stores after a petition argued that the slogan was offensive to people with celiac disease.

    Photo: CC--tupeloThe shirt in question is a simple white T-shirt that sports the slogan "Are you gluten free?" in bold black letters. Zara pulled the shirt after a petition urging the removal appeared on the website change.org, and collected over 50,000 signatures in just under a week.

    In a statement released on March 14th, Inditex, the biggest fashion company in the world, which owns Zara, announced it was pulling the T-shirt from its stores. "The T-shirt mentioned in this petition was pulled from our online store a few weeks ago now and we are currently confirming that it is not for sale in our stores either," said the statement.

    Zara's quick response came as a pleasant surprise to the petition's author. Marta Casadesús, who started the petition. Casadesús told reporters that she really "just wanted Zara to reflect on the message, I was trying to explain that perhaps it wasn't the best way to make people aware of the illness." She said she was "really happy" with Zara's decision to remove the shirt.

    This is not the first T-shirt controversy to befall the fashion giant. In 2014 Zara stirred up controversy by selling a striped children's T-shirt that many people said resembled the uniforms worn by prisoners in Nazi concentration camps.

    The navy-and-white striped "sheriff shirt" featured horizontal stripes and a six-pointed gold star. Zara also removed that shirt from its stores after numerous complaints.

    So, what do you think? Is it offensive to wear a T-shirt that asks "Are You Gluten Free?"

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    It seems to reinforce the misunderstanding by many people that gluten-free is just a choice. For a lot of us, it isn't. I wouldn't mind more restaurants and food manufacturers getting the message though!

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    I have celiac as well but it escapes me how anyone would find offense with someone else wearing or a store selling a T-shirt stating "Are you gluten free?". Please explain how someone "might" find it offensive. Thanks!

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    I'm not sure offended is the right word.

     

    I think I find it disappointing. I'm a celiac who wasn't diagnosed until I was in my early 40s. For years I suffered with multiple symptoms that the medical community could not explain. Anyone who has been through a tough diagnosis with doctors knows that when they fail, they often pass it on to their patients - if they don't know what it is, the patient must be crazy.

     

    After hundreds of tests, it took my doctor retiring and a new set of eyes for me to be diagnosed and when I was, I remember feeling at first elated to have an answer, but then as the reality of eating in restaurants was extremely limited, I became very discouraged that there were so few of us and so little public awareness.

     

    Over the years, as knowledge and numbers have increased, options have as well and it is far easier to live with it now than it ever was. But with it comes this latest round of public ignorance, suggesting that anyone who is "gluten free" is just taking part in a fad, is crazy or is looking for attention.

     

    Whether or not it was the intent, that is the resulting message from this T-shirt. I doubt that anyone from Zara will read this, but it goes for those who don't have problems with gluten too.

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    Wow, people really need to lighten up, have the comics have some kind of gluten free punchline in their act. It is a simple statement, now if it ended with "?!" or if it said, "Don't tell me you're gluten free!" then I could understand.

     

    Maybe I need to make a shirt that says; "I'm Gluten Free, but I'd much rather be enjoying a New York Pizza with a cold beer right now!"

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    Like a lot of people with celiac, I have a long, difficult story of diagnosis, and I have a niece who almost died from this disease. However I do not find that shirt offensive. Every once in a while, someone gives me the "Gluten Free is just a trend talk," but I've got too much in my life to let that bother me. I guess we're all different, but 50,000 people signed a petition?! I wish they would all contribute to a celiac medical charity. Did you know that every time you order from Amazon, you can choose to have a donation made to the North American Society for Celiac Disease? That is constructive work.

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    My son and I are both celiac and have been since before most people including doctors even knew what gluten is. I am sick and tired of everyone wearing their "feelings" on their shirtsleeves. Pretty soon no one will be able to say anything because of someone else's perceptions that might feel offended. Perhaps others liked or enjoyed the t-shirt (or any number of other things) but now because someone cannot deal with their own thoughts and feelings, these people have to adjust theirs. YOU are responsible for YOUR perceptions. Deal with them and leave the rest of the world alone. This is absolutely juvenile. Grow up and get a backbone for crying out loud.

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  • About Me

    Jefferson Adams is Celiac.com's senior writer and Digital Content Director. He earned his B.A. and M.F.A. at Arizona State University, and has authored more than 2,000 articles on celiac disease. His coursework includes studies in science, scientific methodology, biology, anatomy, medicine, logic, and advanced research. He previously served as SF Health News Examiner for Examiner.com, and devised health and medical content for Sharecare.com. Jefferson has spoken about celiac disease to the media, including an appearance on the KQED radio show Forum, and is the editor of the book "Cereal Killers" by Scott Adams and Ron Hoggan, Ed.D.

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