Is your daughter “born to wear diamonds”? Are her best subjects shopping, music, and dancing (but not math)? And do you want her to embrace the adorable idea that her greatest aspiration in life is to be pretty? Then The Children’s Place has the clothing for you!
The popular children’s clothing store recently pulled two girls’ T-shirts from their stores after outrage from parents over the message those T-shirts were sending to children. The shirts in question read “Born to wear diamonds” and “My best subjects: shopping, music, dancing” with a box left unchecked next to “math.” By contrast, shirts marketed to boys were “all about surfing and playing drums and being a superhero.”
Parents felt that the T-shirts set up an unfair and negative gender divide: the boys’ shirts sold the idea of a pro-active child exploring the world and living up to their full mental and physical potential, while the girls’ shirts sold the idea that girls like to buy shiny things.
It’s by no means an isolated incident.
In 2011 JCPenney had to pull a girls’ shirt that read “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” Then Gymboree divided their baby onesies by “Smart Like Daddy” for the boys and “Pretty Like Mommy” for the girls (but no “Smart Like Mommy” or “Handsome Like Daddy” onesies).
Here’s the thing: perpetuating negative gender stereotypes isn’t cute. And they are never going to go away unless we stop teaching them to children. Sexist training starts early, and it’s by no means harmless.
If you tell a child enough times that they don’t need to be smart, only pretty, they’ll start to believe it. If you constantly tell them “Why would you want to worry about icky old math and homework when you could be SHOPPING!!!LOL111” they’ll start to agree with you.
Boys and girls can be “pretty like mommy or daddy” and “smart like daddy or mommy.” What possible reason is there to restrict them to one limited definition of their selves?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with liking diamonds, or music and dancing for that matter. But when those are presented as the only items of interest for girls while boys are offered a buffet of options ranging from rock and roll to superheroes to video games to snack food to surfing and soccer, then we have a problem.
It is the year 2013 and women only make up 24% of professionals in the STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering, and math). To paraphrase President Obama, women are not a special interest group. They are half of this country… and yet less than 20% of our elected congresspersons.
So now is not the time to be glorifying materialism over smarts.