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Back to School = Back to Gender Roles

It is officially 'back to school' season in the media and consumer worlds. Unfortunately, this year (as with many years) it is being used as an opportunity to reinforce old gender roles and stereotypes.

Yesterday, I learned via @HisFeministMama on twitter about a t-shirt that was being sold at The Children's Place. She wrote about the t-shirt on her blog (go read her post!), which promotes the idea that girls should be good at artistic subjects and things like shopping, but that they are just not cut out for things like math. Thankfully, as a result of numerous people speaking out over the weekend, The Children's Place decided to pull the t-shirt from its shelves. The apology on their facebook page read:

We take feedback from our customers very seriously. It has come to our attention that some of you view our Best Subjects T shirt as insensitive towards girls and women. This was not our intent. There are countless women in all walks of life who excel in math, including our very own CEO. We have pulled this product from our stores and we want to express our apologies to anyone we may have offended.

The comments, unfortunately, are full of opinions from people who do not understand the damage that these types of gender stereotypes can do.

While Children's Place was busy pigeonholing our girls, it seems that Canadian Living wants to keep moms and dads in their place. The most recent issue of the magazine included a back-to-school / parenting insert that was labelled "Just for Moms", reinforcing the idea that only moms should and do care about things like packing school lunches for their kids and stimulating their minds with interesting toys. It is already hard enough for many women to get their spouses to be true partners in the home and hard enough for men to be involved at home without it being looked at as "strange", so we certainly don't need magazines continuing to hammer in old gender roles with their "just for moms" editions.

As if that wasn't enough, when I was tweeting about these issues last night around 11:00pm while my children were sleeping soundly, I once again got told that I should get off twitter and volunteer and be involved in my children's lives.

That, of course, called for a dusting off of my post Mothers Shouldn't Have Opinions.

« Staying Home (or "Opting Out") Won't Save Your Marriage | Main | Trayvon Martin Murder Trial: Mothers of Black Sons Speak On Implications »

Reader Comments (9)

Yeah, Annie. If only you would get off social media, you'd have way more time to impower your kids.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterkarengreeners

ugh.I hadn't heard of the T-Shirt controversy. That's just insane. My 8yo would know enough to be offended; why would the design get past so many buyers and store managers? As for Canadian Living, right or wrong, I bet they they were looking for a headline that "spoke to" their parents within subscriber list, which is likely heavily weighted on the female side. "What will make them love this and read this and tell their friends?" is ultimately what they were thinking. But yeah, there certainly are a lot of other options!

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered Commentermumby

I read the comments to after they removed the shirt from their line and just felt sick. How can so many others not understand the implications of the shirt and how it just erodes at young girls' self esteem? I work in a stem field and have two daughters. Every since I picked my career I've met with disbelief at the choice and people will ask right from the get go about working in a male dominated field. Thankfully, at least, my parents have always been supportive.

We try to encourage our daughters as much as possible in math in science and I have to say I totally get warm-fuzzies when they show interest (even though I'd love them to be happy in whatever they chose to do!).

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJune

The t-shirt makes me sick.

The magazine? Not at all. Canadian Living's audience is almost exclusively female, so the "just for moms" issue is for those in their female audience who are moms. And judging by the facebook comments I read every day, many moms do struggle with the daily grind of lunch boxes, so it's a popular topic. It's not like Canadian Living is going to have a "just for parents" issue since they have virtually no male readers.

As for the tweets, I am in awe of your self-restraint. It really must have been hard not to mock the "impower" ;)

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCoffee with Julie

It is possible that Canadian Living's audience is primarily female, but even then I would think they would go out of their way to include any male readers (my brother-in-law is one) they may have in hopes of getting more of them. I also don't think women reading the magazine would want to see further pressure for those things to be entirely their responsibility (I know I didn't). I don't think it would have been a stretch to call that insert "Just for Parents" instead of "Just for Moms.

August 6, 2013 | Registered Commenterphdinparenting

I stopped buying Canadian Living after they published a 'new baby' feature a couple of years ago complete with multiple full page ads for formula. I am not surprised that they're also reinforcing outdated gender roles.

August 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterNicki

I don't understand how these tshirts a) get out of project discussions and find approval and bar that no one can see how offensive these shirts are internally b) do they not read the news about all the previous controversies around these shirts?
Ps. I also find the boy versions with 'Romeo' and 'Alpha Dog,' that I've seen over the years at similar stores, offensive and problematic.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAlex@LateEnough

I really hate that so many parenting magazines are targeted towards women. I say this as a woman who will never have children and as someone who recognizes that plenty of fathers are involved in the care-taking of their children.
My dad tended to get me excited over going back to school more than my mom did. Sure, it was my mom or step-mom who generally took me shopping, but my dad had a hand in back-to-school shopping, aside from hading me money and telling me to have fun.

August 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCourtney

At a community festival the volunteer on the dunk-tank was shouting "you throw like a girl" at little boys, and I wanted to go crazy. I probably would have said something to the people but I had just been told off for being to pushy by someone else and I wasn't thinking straight.

When I read the title "Just for Moms" my first impression was that they were saying the issue wouldn't be of interest to women without children. "Just for parents" might have been nicer, but does the fact its a women's magazine excuse the glitch?

September 6, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterChristy

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