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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Children’s Place sends sexist, anti-feminist message to girls

No, you did not do that, Children’s Place. Please tell me it’s not true. Unfortunately, it did. It sold a girls’ T-shirt that read “My best subjects.” Shopping, music and dancing were checked, but the math box was left blank with “Well, nobody’s perfect” written underneath in parentheses. This alone would have been disconcerting enough, but in 2011, JCPenney sold an equally awful children’s T-shirt that read “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.” What the hell?! (Side note: What kind of mother, father, grandma, guardian or ANYONE would buy one of those for a little girl?)

Why do big popular retailers think this is at all appropriate? In five seconds, I thought of five way better things to print on girls’ T-shirts. And bonus: they wouldn’t get the company in trouble and would probably bring in more money. How about “Fun, cute, sassy and smart!” or Children’s Place could have just checked the “math” box and written “Nobody’s perfect, but I’m pretty close.” Granted, that sends a bit of a narcissistic message, but at least it’s better than insinuating all girls are bad at math.

These sexist messages are not just found on kids’ T-shirts; they’re everywhere. And. They. Need. To. End.

With the large majority of college graduates being women, and women gaining more opportunities every day, we should be encouraging girls to pursue things their grandmothers couldn’t, like math and medicine, not telling them it’s good to slack in school.

Children and all people, really, work to be the person they think they’re supposed to be, and it’s pretty hard to change that mindset. So we should be feeding into that. My parents never put too much pressure on me, but it was expected that I would go to college before I was born. And by setting that standard for me; I never thought for one second that I would not be a college graduate in the spring of 2014, and so far, everything’s on track for that.

While more and more women are going to medical school, which is awesome; there still aren’t that many women in engineering and math fields. Why? Possibly because these weren’t the skills that were reinforced and emphasized to young girls. T-shirts like these, not only show girls who may be struggling in math that it’s OK; they tell girls who enjoy math that they’re out of the ordinary and not in a good way. Children’s Place’s T-shirt tells girls that you can’t be good at math and be good at dancing and like shopping, which is totally false.

As a society, we should be encouraging children’s interests, regardless of what they are. Girls can love math, and boys can like music. When I was in preschool and early elementary school, I built elaborate railroads, figuring out how tall ramps could be before trains wouldn’t be able to get up it. I asked for a toolbox for my fifth birthday.  Math was one of my favorite subjects. My parents thought I would grow up to be an engineer. And while I did also have very girly interests, I was never dissuaded from doing those things. But if I had seen T-shirts like these, I probably would have thought I was weird for liking the things I did.

This truly is not just a T-shirt. (Call me over-dramatic if you must.) It really sends the message that big retailers still thinks of girls as pretty little things that can’t do math, be a CEO, work as an engineer, etc. (Sigh.) But at least people are upset about this; 60 years ago, nobody would’ve cared. Slight progress, but progress nonetheless. 

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