Mind the GAP

Sexualisation is on the political agenda, and has always been on ours. At Pinkstinks we are currently working on our submission to the consultation of the government’s sexualisation taskforce (The Bailey Review), set up in response to the growing discontent amongst parents at the much publicised premature sexualisation of our children.

There have been a number of high profile cases which have been the catalyst for all of this: I’m thinking pole dancing kits in Tesco, playboy pencil cases in WH Smith and of course padded bras for seven year olds in Primark. Pinkstinks however has always taken a broader view as we believe that there are some very blurred lines between what are considered sexualised, and what are overtly ‘gendered’ or pinkified products.

Just today the latest website from the Gap was brought to our attention and deserves some thought.

The girls page features the ‘make a shape’ logo, including a young girl, I’m guessing about 7 or 8, standing on tippy toes – as if in heels although actually in flats – looking behind herself at her own behind. All skinny jeaned and skinny, it’s the ‘shape’ of ‘does my bum look big in this?’, ‘am I pretty enough?,’ ‘am I thin enough?’, ‘how do I look?’.

The 'shape' of things to come

And it’s evidence of the trend to use language (visual language as well as written), to describe young girls in the way that was once the preserve of women’s bodies, and women’s fashion. It creates the whisper of self doubt, the hint of concern, the merest smidging of ‘am I good enough?’, and of course added to all the other messages around her, it quickly becomes part of the cause of the suppression of her self-confidence and the shaping of her as a consumer.

So in some ways, whilst we’re all busy shouting loudly about padded bikinis for seven year olds, this stuff, this steady drip feeding of messages, loaded with double meanings for not only our girls but our boys too, quietly continues to further cement some truly dreadful assumptions about what is important for a girl to think and believe, and likewise, a boy too.

Moving - Not posing.

Incidentally, the ‘shapes’ that the equivalent boy is making on the site, is a sort of dancing, running, active moving kind of pose. It is clearly not, however, ‘posing’.

So this is the sort of messaging that we will be highlighting and challenging in our forthcoming submission.

You too can fill in your own submission at:


Please do share with us your own thoughts and ideas.


3 responses to “Mind the GAP

  1. It’s the continual drip, drip, drip effect in the sexualisation of children that worries me. When I first began teaching in PRIMARY schools, a decade ago, children looked like children – school uniforms, simple haircuts, no jewellery. These days, the haircuts are decidedly more fashionable (e.g. many are dyed by parents, shaved into patterns, or cut in edgy, grown-up styles) – no more basin cuts! When children have been changing for PE, I’ve seen 9-year-old girls in THONGS!! Whose parents’ think they’re suitable attire for primary school pupils?! Even the other children didn’t know where to look! And jewellery is creeping in, as pupils seek to emulate gangsta rappers, with chains, chains and more chains. Should we really encourage children to try and look like adults before they have the emotional sense and maturity to go with it?

  2. It’s interesting that Gap have chosen to differ the children’s poses in this way. The boy is active, confident, running with purpose, whereas the girl, as you point out is looking behind her. Are we reading too much into this or should we ask the question, why is there so obviously a difference in the language of boy and girls in this set of images.
    I agree the pose emulates a girl wearing high heels, little girls love to dress up, why not make a shape and pretend your mummy? Oh and why not go for the spray tan, the straightened hair and full face of make up too at the same time.
    Do little girls need super skinny jeans? Do we need such language as super skinny to dress our seven year old in? I think not. A dangerous and damaging route into fashion and unachievable body shape at the age of seven? Well done GAP.
    I detest this advertising with a passion, we as parents need to question this superficial obsession with appearance as adults because our children look up to us.

  3. I have noting against the range of Gap clothing I am aware of per-say, in fact my mother-in-law buys my son a great deal from the toddler section and I think it is a nice mix of cute but casual and most importantly it is comfortable and last more than just a few washes. I would go one step further and say that the clothes the girl is wearing in the advertisement are not so bad, jeans and a grey top is a refreshing change in a world of mini-skirts and a sea of pink. Sure I must agree that skinny fit jeans are not sending the right body image across so I would prefer to see the advertisement saying kids jeans though.

    My real issue here is the girls pose. It is one of those cases that you must wonder why when shown the advertisement no one pointed out the very clear and wrong message getting sent out here. A healthy weight is important regardless of age but this is perpetuating the idea of becoming too thin for the sake of fashion. The “Does my bum look big in this?” connotations would be bad enough for something aimed at adults but it becomes utterly disturbing in this context. Worse still is comparing the two photos, sure dancing/physical activity is normal and healthy for children to be doing but not when the message is clear that this is what boys do but girls must concentrate their appearance.

    Many people would passively observe this advert and not see the issue because of how deeply rooted in our culture this message is however doubt people would miss the meaning if the roles were reversed. If you took the girl and put her in the same pose as the boy that would be quite acceptable but to take the boy and put him in the girls pose and suggest he may have some doubt about his body and that he must conform to a rigid idea of ‘beauty’ (particularly at such a ridiculously early age) it then becomes a very different picture indeed, one I doubt society would accept so easily.

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