There’s Nothing New About Sexist Marketing To Kids

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shutterstock_132585035__1365959336_70.118.110.28When it comes to marketing children’s products, we’ve long been subjected to the sexist viewpoints of advertisers and brands. I’m just trying to figure out which ones I actually take offense to. I think the Marvel Avenger’s “Hero” T-shirts qualify.

Some new Marvel t-shirt designs have two very different messages for boys and girls. The shirt for boys says, “Be A Hero.” The shirt for girls says “I Need A Hero.” Hmm.

I was never really one to jump on the whole “certain colors of toys are sexist” bandwagon. I like pink. I’ve always liked pink. When I was a child, if I had the choice between choosing between a frilly pink design and a basic primary color one – I most definitely would have chosen pink. I also understand that all children aren’t alike, and we should give girls and boys more options when it comes to the design of their toys. The fact that some colors are considered innately feminine and some are considered innately masculine is pretty stupid. Not to mention outdated.

Sometimes these subtle differences carry huge messages. Remember the story of the little girl who started a petition to get Hasbro to offer Easy Bake Ovens in gender neutral designs? That is something I can get behind. The fact that there exists an assumption that only girls should be interested in cooking – and thus all Easy Bake Ovens should come in “feminine” color schemes is totally sexist and stupid.

I think the Marvel t-shirt falls into this unnecessarily sexist and stupid category. “Be a hero” is an inspirational message that all kids should be getting, isn’t it? The whole “damsel in distress” stereotype of needing a hero is a pretty lame message to be sending young girls.

If I had a teenage daughter I would get around the whole thing this way; I’d buy her the boy’s shirt. I don’t see why everything for girls needs to have a V-cut and be form fitting anyway. Until these companies start evolving, we have to do the evolving on our own. Buying our kids products that go against conventional gender stereotypes is a great way to show them that they don’t have to abide by those stereotypes.

I guess what I’m saying is – go ahead and buy your boy a pink Easy Bake Oven and your girl a boy’s t-shirt with a kick-ass message. There’s nothing new about sexist marketing to kids, but we can respond in a new way and stop giving these companies the power to shape the decisions we make for our children.

(photo: boscorelli/