Gap defends ‘sexist’ ad calling boys ‘scholars’ and girls ‘social butterflies’

Gap says it “did not intend to offend anyone” with its online ad.

Gap has defended an ad branded ‘sexist’ by activists as it claims it “aims to celebrate every child” and “did not intend to offend anyone”.

The fashion retailer found itself in hot water after a digital advertising campaign featured an image of a boy, labelled ‘the little scholar’, wearing a blue t-shirt with Einstein’s face on the front. Next to the boy is a young girl wearing a pink t-shirt alongside the words ‘the social butterfly’.

The ad says of the boy ‘your future starts here’, while the girl’s clothes are ‘the talk of the playground’. Incidentally, Einstein’s name is misspelled as ‘Einstien’ on the garment.

The ad received a deluge of criticism on social media, including from the Let Toys Be Toys campaign group, which wants the toy and publishing industries to “stop limiting children’s interests” by promoting some toys and books as only suitable for girls and others only for boys.

In response to the criticism, a spokesperson for Gap told Marketing Week: “[The] Gap brand has always stood for individuality, optimism and creativity. Our intentions have always been to celebrate every child and we did not intend to offend anyone.”

Gap has a history of partnering with female-focused organisations, having launched its ‘Pace’ programme in 2007. It aims to help women who make its clothes gain the skills to advance at work and in life. According to figures supplied by the company, more than 35,000 women in 12 countries have participated in the program to date, and it has committed to educate one million women throughout the world by the end of 2020.

The brand also partnered with comedian and TV host Ellen DeGeneres earlier this year to produce a clothing line aimed to encourage young girls to “follow their passions”. At the time, one of the campaign images, which saw a white girl using a black girl’s head as an armrest, attracted criticism for being ‘racist’.

According to the Advertising Standards Authority, no official complaints regarding the ad have been lodged yet.


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