July 12, 2009

Flawed Love

That's an icky emo title, but it fits in with the theme of this post.

You probably have, by now, heard of To Write Love On Her Arms, or TWLOHA for short. And maybe you're wondering what the heck it is that they do. I've personally only seen a couple of the T-shirts around, but heard lots of gossip about certain celebrities donning the shirts as well. As the target audience, a teenaged, past and current self-injurer, I would like to think that I'd know about the alleged helpful and life-saving sense of community, but I've never even come close to feeling the love. Poking around the website, all I see are those darned T-shirts.

OK. They sell clothing to raise awareness of self-harm. Using people as moving billboards is a well-known tactic. But surely they do something else as well? Sporting a shirt with "To Write Love On Her Arms" or "Love is the Movement" on it is vague, and doesn't directly reference self-injury at all. A lot of people probably assume it is an indie band and go on their merry way. I would think TWLOHA would make an effort to distribute accurate information about self-harm, depression, and substance abuse, and to provide strong support and assistance to those in need of it.

Um, no. Best I an tell, 25% of the revenue generated from selling this merchandise is donated to other organizations such as Hopeline, Teen Challenge, and Self Abuse Finally Ends (SAFE). If I wanted, I could donate directly to those organizations and they'd get 100%. TWLOHA seems to be less of a mission in its own right than a system to sell teens T-shirts under the impression that they're spreading the love and saving the world, when really, who the heck knows where most of the funds go. It's kind of like the kids at my school who participated in the LGBT Day Of Silence and then went right back to using "gay" as a synonym of "stupid" the next day. Pretending to be concerned about social issues is cool, you know. And buying a T-shirt is not activism.

So anyway, today I ran across a thread on PostSecret Community discussing TWLOHA and whether it's bullshit or not. Sure it's eleven pages, but it's definitely interesting. (xlimepops is a prick- she degrades other users as being too young to understand how a not-for-profit business functions, but she is 17 and apparently knows all. Just had to let that out.)

Basically, almost everyone in the thread agrees that TWLOHA is flawed in some way. However, some people take no issue with there being flaws and are perfectly content to leave them in there because it still managed to help them and the unspecified tons of others.

Why should we not try and get rid of the flaws to result is something that actually works (or works better)? Why should we not strive to make a more perfect situation for the mission? If one really feels that Love is the Movement, then shouldn't they try and make the so-called love beneficial?

I won't be buying T-shirts anytime soon.


  1. Thats an interesting take on TWLOHA, I have always thought its work was dubious but that is because of the strong christian links with it, it has however spread awareness of what self harm is as most who own a t-shirt understand what TWLOHA is about. Hannah X

  2. strong christian links

    Well, there's that too. There's supporting a Christian morality and then there's supporting a Christian faith.

    I see TWLOHA shirts for sale in places like Hot Topic (a store geared toward "alternative" teen clothing- not sure if they exist in the UK or not) with no explaination whatsoever, next to band t-shirts and t-shirts inspired by internet memes.