This article has been linked to from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
In this post, I assumed that Lands’ End had removed the lollipop from the ad, however a reader has pointed out that they are still using the original photo – complete with lollipop – in their online kids’ catalog. Click on this link to go to the catalog, then click on the kids’ catalog to see the photo. Breaking News, 10 Minutes Later: After Bonnie’s comment, below, and this update it looks like they removed the photo the catalog.
Many of you have expressed an ongoing interest in my effort to get Lands’ End to stop the media’s trend toward the over-sexualization of children. For those of you who haven’t read my original post, last month when I received my Lands’ End Back-to-School catalog in the mail I was surprised to see this photo in their usually wholesome and age-appropriate children’s catalog:
What bothered me about the photo:
- The 9-or-10-year-old girl in hiked-up shorts, in a somewhat suggestive, leggy and adult-like pose, mouth open, licking a lollipop (prompting one reader to comment, “Who are they targeting? Little girls? Or pedophiles?”)
- Two boys flanking either side exchanging knowing hubba-hubba glances.
Note: The wanna-be best friend’s desperate expression bothered me, too, but for purposes of this post is beside the point.
The photo bugged me when I wrote my original post, but it bugs me a lot more now because I was misled by Lands’ End PR director. As soon as I wrote the post I had a lot of interest not just from parents, but from Lands’ End employees - including one female spammer who told me I was “just jealous of the little girl because she’s pretty and I couldn’t get a date.”
Thinking she was a random spammer who had probably forgotten to take her anti-psych medication, I deleted her comment. But she commented again and said, “You can dish it out but you can’t take it?”
That’s when I traced her IP address and discovered that she works for Lands’ End.
The PR Director for Lands’ End emailed me and asked me to call her, so I did. When we spoke, she apologized for the Lands’ End employee who, she said, did work for the company but did not work for the PR department (um, does this mean it’s okay for her to spam me?).
This is what she said: “I’m sorry that you found the photo to be inappropriate, and I want to assure you that this was not intentional.”
Let’s do the math:
LANDS’ END (OWNED BY SEARS)
+ HUGE ADVERTISING BUDGET
+ HIGHLY-SKILLED ADVERTISING TEAM
+ EXPERIENCED TEAM OF PHOTOGRAPHERS
+ AD REVIEW BY SEASONED PR TEAM
= NOT INTENTIONAL
The PR Director assured me that they “had a Big Meeting in which they took the blog post very seriously, and decided to pull the photo from all future ad campaigns.”
I was so pleased with this, and so pleased with my mom-blogger self, that I wrote an addendum to my blog post in which I informed readers that Lands’ End had promised to remove the offending photo from all future ad campaigns.
Well, that smooth-talking PR woman told me a whopper.
What she should have said:
“We decided to Photoshop the lollipop out of the photo and to keep the short-shorts, leggy-legs, adult-like pose, and two boys exchanging knowing glances because we think they’ll sell backpacks. Is that okay with you?”
The shorts on the little girl prompted one dad to comment, “HELL NO. My daughter is not going to wear shorts that short at that age. We shop or my wife Tracy shops for most of the kids clothes at Mini Boden Clothing out of the UK. They run great deals and have sales and shipping deals all the time and the clothes are made for kids. Kid friendly clothes. I cant believe the looks the boys and girls are giving each other.”
It’s a month later and here is the photo on the Lands’ End kids website:
To their credit, they removed the lollipop. Does this make it look appropriate to you?
Another reader, a parent who teaches at American University in D.C. (and an advocate for the wonderful Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood) has been actively interested in following up on this issue because the photo also bothered her, a lot. She recently clicked on Lands’ End’s online back to school catalog, and was surprised to find that they are still displaying the same photo on their kid’s website, just without the lollipop! Sure – okay, it’s better without the lollipop, but there is still so much wrong about it.
Sadly, I think that Lands’ End missed the point. They’ve used the same photo, with the same girl in short-shorts, posed in the same suggestive manner that bugged us all in the first place. This is like me complaining about the schoolgirl photo of Britney Spears, and someone “fixing it” by buttoning up her top…would that make it any less suggestive?
Now, I’m totally not against sexy.
I’m not even against the Britney Spears photo, above, because she was not a child when this photo was taken, she was 18. What I am against is the constant and insidious effort by the media to sexualize our children, tweens, and teens so they can sell more stuff. It was her choice.
(Oops! She was only 16. I take it back. I am against it. )
It’s just not right. I’m sick of it. And it needs to stop. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let that shit into my house via one of the last few companies I trusted to let kids look like kids, Lands’ End.
I know that my parenting blog isn’t going to do much to stem the tide of marketeers targeting our children by trying to use sex to sell stuff to people. But I am exasperated that Lands’ End, one of my favorite children’s clothiers, intentionally sexed up a photo of a child, then told me they didn’t intend to, then promised they would not use that photo again, then used the photo, just minus the lollipop.
What do you think? Did Lands’ End take appropriate action by erasing the lollipop but leaving the rest? Or do you think I’m over-reacting? Do you think it was okay for them to tell me they would remove the photo from all future campaigns? I mean – technically, they removed part of the photo – but to me, the end result is still the same: a tarted up ad campaign aimed at sexing up our children.
Tell me what you think. I’d love to hear your opinions!