A Letter to Lands’ End on Gender Stereotyping (Updated)

BY  |  Saturday, Jul 12, 2014 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (30)

 Lands' End kids

UPDATE: Lands’ End posted the following message on its Facebook page today earlier this evening:

A note to our fans:

Thank you for voicing your opinions and concerns regarding the assortment of girls’ graphic t-shirts we have introduced for the back-to-school season. Please know that Lands’ End would never intentionally discourage children from pursuing anything that they put their minds and hearts into, whether it’s music, art, sports or academics.

We value our customers and take your feedback very seriously.

We have shared your feedback 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.

 

Lisa Ryder, a Montclair mom, has written the following letter to Lands’ End after looking through the company’s latest catalog with her daughter:

Dear Lands’ End,

My nine year old daughter loves science; She especially enjoys learning about ocean life and outer space. She has read more books on sharks than I ever knew existed, follows NASA news, and hopes to be an astronaut one day. 

So you can imagine her reaction when she saw your company’s science-themed t-shirt designs for boys featured on page 26 of your latest catalog. The boys’ options include realistic images of planets and our solar system, labeled diagrams of sharks and dinosaurs, and a “NASA Crew” tee design that she immediately declared to be “the coolest shirt ever.”

We quickly flipped forward in your catalog to find the equivalent shirts in girls’ sizes. But when 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.

My daughter was very confused. Lots of her friends that are girls love science, too. Why were there no cool science shirts for girls?

So, Lands’ End corporate, how should I respond to my daughter’s question? In 2014, why are you selling “mighty” tees for boys and “adorable” tees for girls? (Descriptions taken straight from your marketing copy.)

My daughter is mighty and she loves science. And until you recognize that it’s not only boys that can fit that description, our family will no longer be shopping in your stores.

Sincerely,
Lisa Ryder

 

Lisa has posted the letter on the company’s Facebook page, where the company responded:

“Thank you for your honest feedback – we sincerely appreciate it. Customer feedback has, and will continue to be, of the utmost importance to us. Please be assured that we are currently sharing your comments with our Catalog Creative and Kids Design Teams.”

 

 

 

30 Comments

  1. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  July 12, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

    Dear Upset In Montclair,

    At 9, your daughter should fit beautifully in a boys size. So buy her one and go on about your business. We “understand” your point, but just as we said to the Mom of the son who likes rainbows and wants to be a teacher, get a girls size– not much difference at 9.

    At 16, she’ll love (and perhaps with an ironic grin for you!) to wear the rainbow unicorn short- short, revealing her navel as many girls do. Her nails painted a sparkly color. Will you demand she doesn’t. That she act less “like a girl,” and more like the “woman” you want her to be? Ever wonder why ballet schools are filled with little girls? Why girls can’t wait for lip gloss, then lip stick?

    Boys and girls are different. We’ll look at our offerings but remember, these are curious times we live in. Best bet is to continue doing what you’re doing, encouraging her and helping her find her own balance between gender stereotypes, mom’s gender hang-ups, and well, just who she is.

    We’re just a company. You are her parent.

    Good Luck!!

  2. POSTED BY ihateplaydates  |  July 12, 2014 @ 6:46 pm

    Spoken, Prof, like a true male. The fact is, ALL of this stuff matters. Words, images, messages–they matter. As a girl growing up in the 60′s, I KNOW I absorbed the sexist imagery in cartoons, commercials, fashion. Unconsciously, mostly, but no less harmfully. When someone (especially a parent who cares very much about her child) feels such images/messages are harmful, and gives perfectly good, measured reasons for those feelings, AND acts on them, I think it’s really callous and, frankly, unhelpful to put a sardonic, glib, and dismissive spin on them. My kids wear a uniform that has to be ordered from Lands End. As soon as I finish with you, I am going to second Ms. Ryder’s motion.

  3. POSTED BY flipside  |  July 12, 2014 @ 7:22 pm

    I wonder if teaching your daughter to get upset and complain about every perceived slight will help her in the long run…especially if she enters in to a male dominated field. Deal with it and prove them wrong seems to be the mindset of the successful females I know. I do have one burning question…Does your daughter run and throw like a girl???

  4. POSTED BY johnqp  |  July 12, 2014 @ 7:46 pm

    What does running and throwing like a girl have to do with it ?

  5. POSTED BY Tim Lynch  |  July 12, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

    As the father of a 9-year-old girl and a teacher: well said, Ms. Ryder. No, it’s not the end of the world and there are bigger problems out there — but that doesn’t mean this one should be ignored either. Good letter.

  6. POSTED BY flipside  |  July 12, 2014 @ 8:50 pm

    @ johnqp…nothing…a reference to last week’s outrageous injustice

  7. POSTED BY johnqp  |  July 13, 2014 @ 12:14 am

    That it was.

  8. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  July 13, 2014 @ 10:25 am

    And thank you prof and flipside for further confirming the need for parents like Ms Ryder to speak up.

  9. POSTED BY flipside  |  July 13, 2014 @ 11:36 am

    @ SSPete…believe it or not girls are different than boys. My daughter at nine probably would have chosen the girly t-shirt but if she the liked the boys t-shirt she would have chosen that one. No complaining, no questions, no unfair rants….choose what you like not what others tell you to like. She is now a D1 college athlete, biology major, that is faster and stronger than most boys but she wears dresses, “adorable” tees, and likes to get her nails done. Pointing out and making a big deal about all that is unfair in the world, perceived or real, in my opinion is debilitating as opposed to inspiring.

  10. POSTED BY kstahl  |  July 13, 2014 @ 6:47 pm

    As a woman who graduated in a male dominated class and has worked for over 20 years in a male dominated field, I can assure you that you will never distinguish yourself in such an environment (as a female or a male) by quietly accepting the status quo and passively waiting to be noticed for your hard work and ability.  You can neither “prove them wrong” nor be recognized as a leader without taking initiative, using your voice along with your actions to make your value known, and gathering a strong network of support.  Kudos to Lisa for teaching her daughter to follow her passions, to have a reasoned & respectful voice that asserts her value and to act on her principles even in the “little” things.  With a role model like that, her daughter will be well positioned to tune out the flippant and dismissive individuals she encounters as she works towards her dream and stands up for her beliefs all while wearing sparkly nail polish or a NASA t-shirt or maybe even both.  Just because “life isn’t fair”, that doesn’t mean you can’t change it.

    And for the record, I know many daughters that run, throw, kick, jump, climb rocks, spar, flip, score goals and break boards “like a girl” because moms & dads care enough to support those daughters & work with them to change both the playing fields and the perceptions…it is a beautiful thing.

  11. POSTED BY flipside  |  July 13, 2014 @ 8:02 pm

    @ kstahl …thank you for proving my point….though I don’t think that was your intention. It is through actions that you achieve your dreams. Complaining to Land’s End, who is in business to make a profit by selling to the majority, is a bit silly. Encouraging your daughter to ignore stereotypes, follow her heart, and embrace her talents is a great thing. How about starting a company that makes t-shirts geared towards scientific minded young girls…now that is a positive action I would endorse. A lot more productive than dwelling on the negative…

  12. POSTED BY adh425  |  July 13, 2014 @ 9:38 pm

    There are some companies doing this,for example: http://www.amightygirl.com/clothing

    I support Ms. Ryder’s letter. Mainstream children’s clothing retailers in general don’t offer the kinds of choices for girls she is looking for. As the mom of two boys, I can report that it can be pretty dismal for them as well. Camouflage for your three year old anyone? But as I’m thinking about it . . . I’ve never seen Carter’s pajamas for girls that say “Mom’s Little Hero”

  13. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  July 14, 2014 @ 9:07 am

    @ ihateplaydates, There is something wonderfully funny (your intention, perhaps?) about you writing so strongly about those evil images from the sixties and how detrimental they were to you.

    And that “as soon as you finish with” me, you’ll be ordering that vestige of 1700′s educational obedience: the school uniform. I sure hope you wrote a leader to the Headmaster to complain about the sorted history of school uniforms? And how many strictly considered gender roles?

    Or are yours of the “we don’t need no education” style of automaton?

    Fun aside, this letter seems to only reinforce that wrong idea that girls are somehow slighted in education. When girls are outperforming boys- in large numbers in some areas, especially if race is included.

    So the idea that such worry over something like this (and I agree, someone at Land’s End should have noticed this) seems like an overreaction. Moreover, the sharing of the outrage smacks of our “LOOK AT ME” culture, which I disdain.

  14. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  July 14, 2014 @ 10:04 am

    flipside, I have one of each so I’m aware of the differences, and I’d be quite happy if my daughter ended up like yours. I just don’t see this as dwelling on the negative. I see this as a exercise in speaking up, in empowering a person to make changes in the world, and in being a wise consumer and telling a business what they want to buy.

  15. POSTED BY Mrs Martta  |  July 14, 2014 @ 10:14 am

    I don’t have kids but occasionally I need to buy a birthday gift for a child. Not much has changed since the 60s, sadly. The toy departments are still filled with the “pink” section, that is, the girls’ section with all the Disney princess crap and girly stuff and the boys get all the cool toys. Most of the time, I just end up going to an educational toy store or get them books or software for their computers. All children, girls and boys, are inquisitive creatures. It’s the manufacturers and ad industry that have created the need for little girls to want pink and sparkly things. I imagine that if you put little boys in the room with that stuff, they would play with it as well. I used to like to play with toy cars, spaceships, and toy airplanes. But I also played with dolls. My point is that I would like to see manufacturers not assign a gender preference to toys. They should just be toys, not boy’s toys or girl’s toys.

  16. POSTED BY thedudeabides  |  July 14, 2014 @ 11:05 am

    wow, what a waste of time

  17. POSTED BY State Street Pete  |  July 14, 2014 @ 11:16 am

    ^^^made even worse by the time it took you to post

  18. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 14, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

    The letter was a fine exercise in teaching a girl to push back against the status quo. Land’s End will probably start marketing masculine-looking t-shrits for girls, but only after the status quo actually changes.

  19. POSTED BY martylorne  |  July 14, 2014 @ 12:42 pm

    Prof, the reaction to Lands’ End only feels so strong because it is new. It is only VERY recently the little things (like t-shirts in a single company’s catalog) are getting called to the carpet. I’m a white guy, everything is default me in this country, so I rarely feel these slights and when I do I’ve got a free soapbox and natural allies to shout them down. Even walleroo’s comment about marketing “masculine” t-shirts to girls is revealing given that dinosaurs and science have nothing to do with gender. If Land’s End makes the change they will simply market dinosaur clothes to kids, not boy’s clothes to girls. Status quo won’t change the t-shirts, the shirts will change the status quo.

  20. POSTED BY flipside  |  July 14, 2014 @ 1:23 pm

    Geez Louise! Doesn’t anyone get it! Land’s End or any other business can’t make everyone happy. They do their marketing research and sell items accordingly. They are not intentionally trying to twist any mommy’s or daughter’s panties or boxers. You don’t like what they they are selling flip to another web site. No big deal…no huffing, no puffing, no tears and no stigma attached. We are turning into a society that is seeking out any possible slight so we can cry foul. There is a lot of injustice out there ….pink t shirts aren’t one of them. Like it or not very few people have the way paved for them….best to teach the little ones to deal with small things and press on.

  21. POSTED BY martylorne  |  July 14, 2014 @ 1:50 pm

    This is an example of the little ones being taught to deal with the small things.

  22. POSTED BY thedudeabides  |  July 14, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

    by turning them into big things?

  23. POSTED BY Nellie  |  July 14, 2014 @ 10:07 pm

    What a blow to Land’s End to lose Ms. Ryder’s business. All that lost revenue….The stockholders are reeling tonight…

  24. POSTED BY Nellie  |  July 14, 2014 @ 10:09 pm

    P.S. Identity is who you are inside, not where the t-shirts lie.

  25. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  July 15, 2014 @ 9:19 am

    @ martylorne,

    Who cares that you’re a white guy? (If you are.) And really, is this NEW to you? You’ve not heard of groups protesting and boycotting products because of perceived gender, racial or ethnic bias?

    You probably still (or let your kids) shop at Abercrombie & Fitch, huh?

    In fact, this is NOT new. From hairstyles, skirt length, nail polish, lip stick, the “over-sexualization” of little girls, to pink—- folks have gotten mad and protested perceptions of bias.

    So while I disagree with the writer here, God Bless her for speaking up. I’d just rather it be done in a, how to say, less “LOOK AT WHAT I JUST DID” manner.

    Change can often come with emails, phone calls and simple communication.

  26. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 15, 2014 @ 9:50 am

    Even walleroo’s comment about marketing “masculine” t-shirts to girls is revealing given that dinosaurs and science have nothing to do with gender.

    Dude, I’m not saying the t-shirts are masculine, Land’s End is: “for boys.”

  27. POSTED BY Mrs Martta  |  July 15, 2014 @ 10:55 am

    In our current society, it is more acceptable for women to wear masculine clothes than it is for men to wear feminine clothes. I say wear what you want and worry less about what other people think (unless, of course, you work in a bank or some other conservative environment). Some days, I feel like wearing camo pants and black T-shirts. Other days, I feel like wearing frilly rockabilly dresses. I think life would be boring if I wore the same type of clothes every day.

  28. POSTED BY listerboo  |  September 07, 2014 @ 12:44 am

    Now, can you please tell us what your REAL issue is with Lands’ End? I really want to know, because I’m ALSO the feminist mother of a 9-year old girl who’s passionate about science, and we were so delighted by the selection of science shirts that we decided to buy almost all of them.
    You obviously have some grudge or some chip on your shoulder if you chose to cherry-pick the two shirts that fit your opinion of Lands’ End.

    Okay, some little girls really like ballet or silly puppies, so your little scientist can skip over those shirts–just like the little boys who don’t like sports skip over half of the shirts marketed to them. While you were looking for images to display here, did you notice the shirt that reads “Girl Genius” with a drawing of an atom inside the “R”? No, did you happen to see the gorgeous blue shirt with Saturn embellished with rhinestones? How about the white shirt with the NASA logo? Or the navy blue shirt with the solar system? No, what did you think of the pale blue shirt with schematics and trajectory for a rocket? Or maybe the glow-in-the dark moon shirt? Did you not notice ANY of these shirts, or did you start with a conclusion about Lands’ End and look for evidence to support it?

    No offense, but if you still find these efforts insincere on the part of Lands’ End, what WOULD make you happy?

  29. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  September 07, 2014 @ 8:46 am

    listerboo,

    When Lisa wrote the letter to Lands’ End, The Girl Genius, NASA, or the rocket shirt were not available for girls. It was because of her letter and the subsequent support of parents on social media, that convinced Lands’ End created the science shirts for girls.

  30. POSTED BY paolo  |  September 07, 2014 @ 9:48 am

    One of the beautiful aspects of modern marketing is that you can “try out” any number of marketing approaches, designs, ad copy etc for every conceivable demographic. Many companies routinely offer dozens of catalogs to cover each perceived distinct market. My family routinely receives different catalogs from Lands’ End on a near weekly basis.

    I fully expect that Lands’ End offers catalogs for other demographics and zips which would horrify some Montclair folks. But might interest families who hunt, gut fish, engage in competitive dog sledding, etc.

    I hope that some smart Lands’ End marketer will review this issue, and perhaps offer inclusive designs, then see how they sell in zips like Montclair. Having a choice is important.

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