August 4, 2016

Dear Gap: I am More than just a Social Butterfly.


“The emotional, sexual and psychological stereotyping begins when the doctor says, “It’s a girl.”
~ Shirley Chisholm

Dear Gap, I know that you may not know me or my daughters but there are a few things you should know exactly about what it means to be a girl.

I understand that you are donating profits to Girls Inc., a nonprofit organization that aims to help girls—but the thing is that what you can most do to help girls is stop running ads like these.

To you, this was a creative ploy at back to school shopping, but for me as a mother trying to raise my daughters, it’s one more slap in the face, one more lesson I need to teach them, and one more moment when I hang my head in my hands wondering if things will ever truly change.

My daughters are so much more than just social butterflies.

I suppose it doesn’t matter that my eldest skipped first grade because of her advanced skills. After all, the Einstein shirt isn’t being marketed toward her.

To help girls, to actually change the stereotypes and world for them means that you are going to have to do helluva lot more than just throwing money at it. The truth is you can make a difference.

The eyes of the world are on your advertisements, and rather than aiming to promote diversity and equality it seems your company is regularly under scrutiny for racism or sexism.

This is the thing—it’s not just an ad.

This is the visualization of a perpetual stereotype that women work their asses off during their lifetime to overthrow—I would know.

At one point I was labeled by a teacher as just a pretty girl with blonde hair in a ponytail and it has taken me my 30 plus years to show that what we look like doesn’t equate to what we are capable of.

It’s not even about the little girl wearing pink, or cute cat ears—hell, I even wear pink from time to time.

But what it does have to do with is fitting her with a title of being social and the talk of the playground while the boy is the little scholar whose future starts here.

Well, this is where my daughter’s future starts.

It begins in a hundred simple conversations involving us talking about what is most important, and how what we look like is just window dressing to the person that we actually are.

That what truly matters is what is inside, and how you are able to change the world with those precious gems that are yours alone.

This is the message that Gap should be sending children—and their parents.

The thing is only a few short months ago you found yourself on the back end of social whiplash after it seemed you had released an ad perpetuating racist stereotypes.

As a society, we are becoming more sensitive to what we see which means that whether you had intended to send the message of racism or sexism with your images it doesn’t mean that they, in fact, didn’t come across in that very way.

Why not uplift both genders?

Why not create clothing that would empower both boys and girls with messages and pictures that create the ideal that anyone regardless of color or gender can accomplish great things?

Perhaps I am just being sensitive, maybe I am even preaching here but the thing is that I am dedicating my life to raising young women who will make an impact in this world, and by sending messages that my little girls are just social butterflies completely negates the work I am doing every day.

We absorb information each day from the media and through this ad we are once again being shown exactly where that glass ceiling is.

Little girls are being taught that first and foremost, it’s their social skills and what everyone thinks about them that matter most—instead of teaching them that it’s what they know that will determine how far they go.

This is the thing that you should know about girls nowadays—we aren’t buying it.

We aren’t buying into this media circus that dubs us as the weaker sex, nor are we complacent when it comes to swallowing down the falsified ideals, that companies like yours try to sell and push down our throats.

Just because you have an African American girl in your ad doesn’t mean you are sending the message of equality because all of these issues go so much deeper than just this one image.

Likewise, your apparel that shows a lightning bolt in the word girl doesn’t make up for the hundreds of other ads where girls are featured in stereotypical clothing or poses.

In order to actually backup your plans of helping girls, you need to internalize the messages you say you want to send which means not telling my daughters that they need to be concerned with being the talk of the playground.

It means marketing clothing for my daughters with words that will inspire them to continue on their path even when it seems next to impossible, and even if you can’t do that—would it have been too much to ask for a Rosa Parks tee shirt advertising the value in standing up for what is right, in being a game changer?

Because there are thousands of women across the world and through history who would have made excellent ideas for tee shirts to empower young girls and women across this world.

And yet, all you came up with was a “social butterfly.”

Not Activist, or Philosopher, or even Artist—but social butterfly whose context is usually seen as negative (I would know as this was commonly written on my grammar school report cards.)

I’m sorry Gap but you did wrong here.

You took your power and you used it to perpetuate an easy standard that we have bought into for far too long.

Well, not anymore, because this time I don’t think any of us are buying it—not even the scholars or social butterflies.


Author: Kate Rose

Image: Twitter 

Editor: Sara Kärpänen

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