TOMS Reacts With Lightning Speed to Consumers Voicing Concern Over Gendered Messages

This morning @morandifan1 tweeted a photo to me of a troubling message from the usually progressive brand TOMS. On their website’s kids landing page was a trio of three photos, one suggesting boys’ “Playtime Approved” shoes and the other suggesting to “Little Ladies: adorn their feet for spring” with a bubble gum pink background.

TOMS original landing page.

TOMS original landing page.

Girls are definitely more than adornment. Thanks @morandifan1 for using your voice to call this out.

On the PPBB Facebook page I posted:

Really, TOMS? Girls are not ornaments we adorn. Girls play, too!

Your website says, “A simple idea can make a big difference.” Here’s a simple idea for you: Please regard girls’ feet as the vehicles for climbing, running, jumping, chasing, twirling, skidding, sliding, and tumbling. Girls are children, active, wild and full of energy. Little girls’ feet do the very same things little boys’ feet do.

See girls for the instruments they are, not the ornaments our culture tells them to be!

TOMS post

 

That was at 1:15pm or thereabouts, you can read the thread here. I also sent out a similar tweet around the same time:

TOMS tweet
In no less than two hours TOMS had responded on the PPBB Facebook page with this statement:

TOMS

 

The update to their website now reflects a more gender inclusive message, inviting customers to check out “new arrivals for kids”. A marked improvement from the earlier suggestion that boys do playtime while girls sit pretty. We know that message doesn’t align with TOMS branding or how they view their customers, and I was so pleased to see how quickly they acted once made aware of the misstep.

Pink shoes, patterned shoes, glitter shoes, ice cream shoes, rhino shoes, stars & stripes shoes…..thank you for making all shoes for all kids and recognizing girls AND boys like dress up shoes and playtime shoes. Thanks TOMS!

The update to the TOMS website this afternoon.

The update to the TOMS website this afternoon.

 

MAW Profile PicMelissa Atkins Wardy is a speaker, media consultant, and the author of Redefining Girly: How Parents Can Fight the Stereotyping and Sexualizing of Girlhood, from Birth to Tween. She is the creator and owner of Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies, a company that has been offering empowering apparel and gifts to Full of Awesome kids since 2009 www.pigtailpals.com.

Find her at www.melissaatkinswardy.com. You can connect with her on Facebook (Pigtail Pals Ballcap Buddies) and Twitter (@PigtailPals) and Pinterest (Pigtail Pals & Ballcap Buddies). 

Tokyo Mew Mew and Second Grade

I received this email this morning from a PPBB Community member and I could instantly relate to her. I would be upset if my child brought this home from his or her elementary school library, and the librarian and the principal would definitely be hearing from me. I would be angry, but I would give the educators the benefit of the doubt that they were not aware of the sexualized content and illustrations, perhaps the book was purchased as a way to expose children to multicultural manga texts/graphic novels, or maybe they are just clueless about how the sexualization of childhood impacts kids. While I feel it is the librarian’s job to know the content of the books offered, I can also see where is might be impossible to know every book on the shelf. I would use this as a teachable moment, and work with the understanding the educators will act immediately to remove such highly sexualized content out of the reach of their elementary aged students.

 

Hi Melissa, I follow you on Facebook and really enjoy your posts. You’ve opened my eyes to many things regarding sexualization of girlhood.

My second grade daughter brought home a book called “Tokyo Mew Mew” from her school library. I am appalled that they have such a book and its allowed to be checked out by a seven year old.

The girl characters (Tweens and teens?) are outrageously dressed. Playboy bunny costumes! Large breasts/cleavage in bustiers! And on and on. I’ll send the photos separately.

I will write a letter to the school librarian but I’m wondering what further advice you might have or any other suggestions you or your readers could come up with.

Sincerely,
Rebecca

I am not a fan of manga or anime so I had to look up the book title on Wikipedia. Turns out this was a popular series from 2000-2003, but it was not without criticism like this, “Conversely, in writing for Manga: The Complete Guide, Shaenon Garrity criticizes the series, calling it “uninspired”, “insipid” and “creative[ly] bankrupt” and feeling it was “clearly designed by its publisher to ride the magical girl tsunami for all it was worth: the creators’ marginal notes are filled with references to big book signings, photo shoots, and models hired to dress as the scantily clad preteen heroines.”

So how does this end up in an elementary school library and in the backpack of a second grader? And what can a parent do about it?

I would email or call the librarian and the principal and ask for a twenty minute meeting regarding concern over the content of a book my child checked out from the library. I would have a pre-written list of talking points that I would like to address right before I request the book and others like it be taken off the shelves of the elementary library. Some of my talking points would be:

-The images in these books are for older teen and adult readers. They unfairly place adult concepts of female sexuality onto the young children who would be reading this book. It is age inappropriate.

-The images show young looking girls in sexualized dress and poses, suggesting that prepubescent girls are available and willing sex partners or sex objects.

– The images of the sexualized girls suggest to female readers their sexuality (or pending sexuality) is the number one characteristic they will be valued for. Similarly, it suggests to young male readers that objectified female sexuality is normal and even to be expected.

– The image of an angry looking male grabbing a smaller, younger looking female by the shoulders while telling her she “needs to wear a bell” is dehumanizing and shows tolerance for dating violence.

-Exposure to early sexualization can cause body image issues, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, poor school performance, bullying, and early promiscuity in girls. This has no place in our schools.

An illustration from the book "Tokyo Mew Mew".

A second grader brought home "Tokyo Mew Mew".

Another illustration from "Tokyo Mew Mew".

So what would you do and say if you were in Rebecca’s shoes? And how would you explain this to your young child?