Professor Katie Hinde went to a local superstore to get a “Wonder Woman” t-shirt for her little cousin.

When she was at the store, the Phoenix resident was unable to find any shirts depicting the “Amazonian” warrior princess, but she did notice something else while standing in the little girls’ section.

Across the aisle, prominently displayed in the boys’ section were a number of NASA tanktops. She looked around and didn’t see any space-themed shirts in the girls section, so she decided to change that.

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Katie Hinde/Twitter

In the few days since subversively moving the apparel and sharing her actions, Hinde’s post has received some 133,500 likes and 27,000 retweets.

The Arizona-based anthropology professor wrote a blog to help explain the theory behind her actions and to respond to the huge volume of comments and critiques her tweet has received.

“There is no one way.”

“Some folks suggested that instead of disrupting merchandise it’s better or has more impact to write letters, make phone calls, or leave comment cards rather than engage in direct action,” Hinde wrote. “Some suggested that these were better steps to take because moving merchandise impacts low wage employees but doesn’t get communicated to those who hire and fire.”

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Arizona State University

Professor Hinde acknowledged these reasonable remarks, but didn’t agree with their premise:

“My phone calls don’t go to the CEO,” she wrote, “my letters aren’t opened and read by the head of merchandising, the person who took my comment card wasn’t a major stakeholder- these tactics first reach lower-level employees within the corporate structure.”

“Little kid eye level…”

Most importantly, perhaps, was that those Twitter users’ suggested alternatives “aren’t visible at little kid eye level in the clothing section,” the professor pointed out.

Through the dialogue, it became clear that her picture was taken at a Target, but she had intentionally not mentioned the store in her original post.

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iStock

“The conversation is bigger than any one company. Seriously, the next time you are in one of these kinds of stores look around and think about how they set children on particular trajectories… and whether those trajectories are equal in prestige, income, and opportunity.”

That is, why is it cool for little boys to become astronauts, but to find a similar shirt in the girl’s section, you have to hunt and dig for such apparel?

Haters Gonna Hate

Within her blog post, Dr. Hinde made a list of 19 rude, mostly gendered, insulting names and phrases that she’s been called since posting the tweet, none of which can be repeated here.

It was much worse than just name calling, though:

“I was told I should be ‘punched in the head’, ‘raped’, ‘euthanized’, that I ‘needed a bullet to the brain’, and ‘should kill myself’. I was sent cartoons of Nazis kicking women on the ground.

“Because I moved 5 shirts.

“25 feet.

“And many times while they were cursing at me, they included the assertion that what I was doing was useless, didn’t matter, and was totally insignificant.

“These men are sure worked up for something they say is so insignificant.”

Target Audience

Among the nearly 4,000 replies to Dr. Hinde’s tweet, some were from Target, so her goal of reaching corporate stakeholders seems to have worked.

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AskTarget/Twitter

While they didn’t appear to directly respond to putting such shirts in easy-to-find locations, they did want to emphasize that there are lots of shirts for women and girls as well as the boys.

Learning from Experience

Prof. Hinde did take the time to read and engage with the many rational critiques of her post and clarified how she would recommend doing similar actions in the future:

“I think tiny-scale, subversive, nonviolent, direct action of moving merchandise around to disrupt gender stereotypes is possible without creating more work or trouble for retail workers.”

For instance, if moving five shirts to make a point like she did, she recommended fixing five shirts that have fallen off of their hangers so that the action is “‘work load neutral’ for the person working in that section, that shift.”

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iStock

She also pledges to go back to the store to tell on herself via a comment card so that staff members aren’t punished for her actions. Plus, doing so leaves a paper trail that could potentially make its way to corporate headquarters.

It’s clear that there are much more pressing matters in the world than where a department store puts their science-themed t-shirts, but if no one says or does something, how can it change for the better?

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