Dear Children’s Place,
This afternoon, as I looked through my Facebook feed, the picture of this shirt appeared on my screen. In case you need a little more information, it’s a purple T-shirt for girls that says “My Best Subjects” and has a checklist sprinkled with hearts. The items checked off include Shopping, Dancing, and Music. Not checked off is Math, with a cutesy little notation under it, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”
That’s true, nobody is perfect and I think you, Children’s Place, have shown that you can make mistakes, too, because you’ve made a big one in helping to perpetuate the stereotype that girls aren’t good at math. Not only that but the inherent message is that girls aren’t good at school, only at the frivolities of life.
As an educator, let me tell you about girls and learning. Numerous studies have found that girls learn gender stereotypes about what they are good at learning and what they are not good at learning from a very young age.
Girls are supposed to be “good” at reading and math is supposed to be “hard.” And so parents and children–and sometimes even teachers–often buy into this myth and perpetuate it. But some don’t and that’s worth celebrating.
What happens to the girls who love math, who want to be scientists and computer programmers when they see a T-shirt like this on hanging on the rack at your store?
Hopefully, they dismiss the notion and move on to buy something else, but in a society in which we continue to tell girls (and boys) what they are able to do before they figure it out for themselves, it’s more likely that a little girl who doesn’t like to shop or dance but loves to solve logic puzzles and do math on road trips will feel badly about herself.
And then there’s the inverse implication made by this shirt–that’s a mathematical concept, by the way–that boys are good at math. I say that because I don’t see this shirt marketed to little boys, just little girls. Last year, I wrote about my own son’s struggle with math anxiety. He’s very capable, but he’s also fearful of being wrong or that math is going to be hard. Is there a shirt for him, too?
I think it’s time we do away with these stereotypes and I’m appalled that your company would be willing to perpetuate them. Sometimes a cute joke isn’t so funny after all.
Let’s talk about girls and learning, Children’s Place. I’m happy to continue this conversation with you.
Author, The Everything Kids’ Learning Activities Book
Mom to three bright children , one of whom is a girl who loves math
Update: As of about 8pm EST on Monday, August 5th, The Children’s Place has issued an apology on Facebook and announced the intention to remove the shirt from stores. It’s a good start, but there still needs to be conversation about why there’s a market for this type of clothing in the first place. Parents, your thoughts?