CHEERS to retailers who embrace the wonderful diversity of America by busting stereotypes with their ads and in-store displays.
Conjure up the family featured in a television or magazine ad from the 1950s: There’s dad, mom, the little boy, the little girl. They are slim, well-dressed, perfectly coiffed and white. Dad might be holding a cigarette and martini. Mom surely wears an apron. The little boy grips a truck or toy gun; the girl clutches her doll.
That image dominated for decades. So what’s the problem? While a large number of families matched that image, many looked far different. The ads weren’t connecting with those other people.
Stereotypes limit expectations and curb dreams.
Thankfully, more and more retailers are realizing that America is a nation of broad diversity, in race, body type, interests, living circumstances, life partners and many other factors.
The broader the range of people they include in advertising, the more chance they have of selling a product. That’s why you see more ads featuring people of color, more interracial families and even the occasional gay couple.
But slower to disappear are stereotypes about body image, especially for women. Most ads feature tall, slim, beautiful, fit people.
Do they match what you see in the world around you? They reflect unattainable goals for many.
Some retailers are starting to understand the need to appeal to all body types. Larger-size mannequins are showing up in stores; plus-size models can now be found in some magazines and catalogs.
Traditional gender product stereotypes still dominate in selling toys, sporting goods and kids clothes.
It’s easy to figure out what the “girl” and “boy” aisles are at a store; one is pink and packed with dolls, the other blue/black and stocked with trucks, action figures and Legos.
Pink and pretty still dominate in baby/toddler clothes for girls, blues and dinosaurs for boys. Anyone who has tried to buy baby clothes for an expectant family who doesn’t know the gender of their baby can attest to that.
That approach sets unconscious limits in the minds of children and parents.
But, as Bob Dylan said, the times they are a changin’.
Take the recent toy catalog put out by Target. Flip through the pages, and you’ll see kids of different races and, to some degree, sizes. You’ll also see little girls playing with dinosaurs and trucks and a boy using a toy sewing machine. Old Navy offers some “gender-neutral” baby clothes.
Retailers are now targeting women in ads during sporting events, finally realizing they both play and follow sports.
Imagine a future where more girls are interested in science from the start, where boys learn to nurture from a young age.
It can only help our nation grow stronger if all people are shown they can find their own route to success and happiness.