Protect the Future
by ting ting on February 27, 2017 - 1:15am
In this advertisement, one can see two children modeling Gap Kids clothing. Though this ad is not the typical ad used when analyzing the sexism that can be found in advertisements, this is a gross example of how the sexism of society does not only exist when looking at ads targeted to adults but also to ads targeted at young children. There are many reasons as to why this ad is problematic. Those reasons are detrimental to societal views of women and will continue the cycle of women being objects and lesser than men.
The words used in the ad send many gendered messages that are problematic. Starting with the characterization of the children, the girl is expected to be nothing more than a “social butterfly” and the boy as a “little scholar”. The ad even goes as far as saying that the clothes that the girl is wearing will make her the talk of the playground. This shows that little girls should aspire to only be the talk of the playground and popular. It does not allow any space for any little girl looking at the ad to want to reach for the stars and be a doctor or an engineer because her main goal is supposed to be to be the “talk of the playground” because of her clothes. This also reinforces the stereotype that girls only care about their clothes and gossiping. One can see that the boy, on the other hand, is expected to be a “little scholar” which is obviously a much higher expectation than what is expected of the girl. The ad also says that wearing a shirt and a graphic tee is a “genius idea”. All this implying that the boy can grow up to be a genius. There is nothing implicitly wrong with what is said about the boy, but the fact that his potential is so much higher than a gossipy social butterfly, extremely diminishes little girls and can put some very undermining ideas into their heads.
There is also the issue of what the children are wearing and the way they are standing. Only when looking more closely and paying attention to fine details, can one see the gendered messages here. The girl is wearing cat ears which points to her being playful. This is obviously not a bad thing because this ad is targeted to children who are supposed to be playful but when it is beside the boy who is wearing an Einstein shirt there is a more profound connotation. The girl is aspiring to be playful on the “playground” and the boy is aspiring to be a genius like Einstein was. In terms of stance, the boy is clearly standing in a very dominant way whereas the girl is standing in a more laid back way. This once again exemplifies what is expected of both genders, and does not show little girls that they can and should grow up aspiring to be more than just a laid back social butterfly.
All of these examples of the terrible gendered messages in this one ad are very concerning. Because the ad is being targeted to children the fact that there was a sense of gender inequality is unacceptable. According to an expert in Miss Representation, “the media is a primary source of children’s education”. Thus it is not ok to show little girls that the boys that they go to school with are supposed to be smarter than them and that they themselves are not supposed to strive to do as well as them, In fact the exact opposite is what should be shown because it will be progressive and not harmful to society. Another expert said that, “being successful, smart, and strong is not something expected of women because they should simply be beautiful”. This is clearly shown in this ad by the many details pointed out above such as the laid-back stance and playful cat ears. The little boy is who is supposed to grow up to be successful and smart, a “genius” not the girl, and there is no reason for both to not be geniuses.
All of these sexist problems could definitely be avoided if manufacturers and advertisers were just to not have any gendered messages in them at all or if they had gendered messages that were positive for both girls and boys so that they know that they are equal. For example if this same ad were to imply the girl wanted to be a doctor and the boy an astronaut, it would show children that anyone can get to where they wanted to be, no matter their gender. After all they are the future.
Miss Representation. Girls' Club Entertainment, 2011. DVD.