Companies, listen up — Lands' End did. Lisa Ryder, a mom in New Jersey, recently wrote on the Lands' End Facebook page about her daughter's experience as they rifled through their latest catalog. Her girl was excited after seeing the realistic, science-themed shirts in the "boy" section, but when they flipped to the "girl" section, they were bummed and confused. "[W]hen we got to the available T-shirt designs for girls on page 56, instead of science-themed art, we were treated to sparkly tees with rhinestones, non-realistic looking stars and a design featuring a dog dressed like a princess and wearing a tutu," she wrote.
I was able to talk with Ryder to find out a little more, and she tells me that she was surprised at how much her post resonated with so many other people. "To me that suggests this is a topic many people find worth addressing," she shares. "I believe Lands' End and other businesses have a wonderful opportunity to be more thoughtful about their product offerings and messages."
While they have not contacted Ryder personally, they did post a public message responding to the situation, and I was also able to receive a statement when I reached out. They acknowledge the input from customers and they happily outline the steps they are taking to rectify the disparity. They say, "We have shared all of the feedback that we received with our Kids design and merchandising teams, and we will be offering more educational-based, gender-neutral graphics for back-to-school and throughout the fall season."
So many times, you send a message to a company on Facebook and your plea is ignored, or your concerns are dismissed. It's encouraging that Lands' End is using this opportunity to not only communicate with their customers, but change the way they create and market the clothing for our kids.
This battle is just beginning, and not just for Lands' End. Parents are taking notice that girls are expected to be cute while boys are urged to be scientifically and mechanically minded. Just like with the toy market, there is a push to see more companies identify areas they can improve upon, with gender-specific marketing a prime example.
Moms like Ryder are not saying that we need to neutralize gender expression completely; instead, companies shouldn't be so quick to pigeonhole a child into specific expectations based on his or her sex. Marketing that targets girls often highlights appearance and physical beauty, while boys are pointed into different directions, such as science, math and sports.
Even our littlest family members absorb messages they glean from the media that is present in our everyday lives, and that can really impact their future. Ryder agrees. "Children should not have gender-based limits projected upon them," she says. "And that's what is being done every time a little girl has to go to the boys' department to find a science T-shirt and a little boy has to go to the girls' department to find something pink."
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