According to Gap, little girls are passive and pretty, and little boys are active and clever. Well, that’s what the messaging on their advertising alludes to anyway.
In their latest kids’ collection, the brand features a little girl dressed in pastel colours and sparkly kitten ears. The text reads: “The social butterfly,” and with their chambray shirts and logo sweaters she’ll be the talk of the playground.
In contrast, the little boy in their campaign is a “genius”. Dressed in an Albert Einstein emblazoned T-shirt he is “the little scholar” and judging by the big smile on his face he is pretty pleased about it.
Unsurprisingly the T-shirts have been slammed for their blatant sexism. The criticism started when grassroots campaign group ‘Let toys be Toys’ tweeted about a picture of the shirts.
“For anyone who thinks that sexist marketing to children isn’t a problem,” they wrote.
Reactions included: “That actually made me feel ill. Unbelievable.”
And: “Where is this crap coming from? Who is driving it? My kids were born in the 80s and didn’t have this.”
Caitlin Roper is the campaign manager at Collective Shout, who actively campaign against this sort of sexism in advertising. She tells the Weekly Online that this is yet another example of how we as a culture tend to value girls primarily for their physical appearance and sexuality.
“Boys are encouraged to be and to see themselves as smart, strong and active, while girls are limited by this ongoing focus on their looks to the exclusion of all else,” she says.
Roper notes that items that are essentially the same are marketed in completely different ways for boys and girls.
“Science kits that are marketed as such for boys, but for girls, the same products become ‘magic nail kits’ and ‘perfume laboratories’.
“It’s as if girls couldn’t just have an aptitude for or interest in science, that to have any appeal it must be a product that enhances their physical beauty or attractiveness to men,” she explains.
The Gap T-shirts are just the latest in a long line of similar kids clothing that seeks to reinforce damaging gender stereotypes.
But with the increasing backlash against this sort of sexism, we can hope that brands like Gap are finally starting to get the message