“Imagine the Possibilities,” an advertisement for Barbie dolls, captures people’s reactions to a series of little girls stepping into the role of adults in a variety of careers. Girls are shown confidently instructing a lecture hall, leading a sports team through a rigorous practice routine, and advising a worried dog owner about his pet’s health. The montage concludes with one of the girls maneuvering several Barbies in a make-believe classroom, accompanied by the tagline “when a girl plays with Barbie, she imagines everything she can become.”
This T-shirt was sold by J.C Penney, a mid-range American retailer, on its website in 2011. The text on the shirt reads “My best subjects” with a checklist including boys, shopping, music and dancing. There was some public backlash against the shirt, as critics argued it suggests that girls are more interested in and more successful at frivolous social activities as opposed to traditional academic subjects. However, the shirt it continues to be available for sale. By contrast, another J.C. Penney shirt -- “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me” -- was pulled by the retailer after a negative public response.
This T-shirt was sold by J.C Penney, a mid-range American retailer, on its website in 2011. The text on the shirt reads, “I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me”. Following complaints from concerned parents and negative publicity from mainstream media outlets, the shirt was pulled from the website after only two hours. The controversy over the shirt has been compared to that of the Teen Talk Barbie doll. Released in 1992 and pulled from shelves after a few months, Barbie was programmed to say “Math class is tough.”
Broadcast in 2011, this segment from Good Morning America explores the controversy stirred by a J.Crew advertisement. In that ad, J. Crew’s President and creative director, Jenna Lyons, was pictured painting her young son’s toenails neon pink. The picture simultaneously sparked a backlash and significant praise regarding the unconventional performance of gender.
In this user-uploaded video, four-year-old Riley is shown in the “girls” aisle of a Newburgh, NY, Toys-R-Us. She explains why princesses aren’t just for girls and superheroes aren’t just for boys. Filmed a few days before Christmas in 2011 by Riley’s dad on his cameraphone, the video and the precocious Riley quickly went viral; it was featured by innumerable blogs, picked up by The Huffington Post, and even aired on CNN. With passion and agitation, alternately slapping her forehead and transferring a Fred (from Scooby Doo) doll from hand to hand, Riley proclaims, “The companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff … Some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses. So then why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff and all the boys have to buy different colored stuff?”