Apparently, being smart just isn’t cool for girls. Last year, we saw Forever 21 briefly sell a t-shirt that may as well have said “I’m stupid” on the front of it (actual message: “Allergic to Algebra”). Similarly, the year before that JCPenney hawked a shirt that said “I’m too pretty to do homework, so my brother does it for me.” Message: Math is hard. Heck, homework is hard, so why bother to do it at all?
According to the AAUW in their publication “Why So Few”, only 15.1% of women entering college as freshmen intend to major in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, but 29.1% of men do. These fields tend to pay more than traditional “women’s” fields such as teaching and social sciences, so women put themselves at a disadvantage by not considering these fields.
Research shows that mindset matters when it comes to performance in school. Also from the AAUW’s paper:
“…a “growth mindset” (viewing intelligence as a changeable,
malleable attribute that can be developed through effort) as opposed to a “fixed mindset”
(viewing intelligence as an inborn, uncontrollable trait) is likely to lead to greater persistence
in the face of adversity and ultimately success in any realm (Dweck & Leggett, 1988;
Blackwell et al., 2007; Dweck, 2006, 2008).”
And for girls, the mindset often is that math and science are too hard for them.
Now we have Lands’ End perpetuating this ugly myth in their latest back-to-school catalog. At least in this case, the message is only printed in the advertising copy and not on the actual product, but still. Why promote this message anywhere?
Their line of backpacks called “FeatherLight”, advertised in the latest catalog, shows some interesting dichotomies between the way the boys’ and girls’ versions are marketed.
For the girls: “Tough as long division”?
Well boys apparently aren’t expected to have problems with long division…what, no “tough as reading and writing” tagline for the boys? If we’re going to perpetuate stereotypes, let’s at least do it across the board.
Because girls don’t want to be superheroes. That would be tough…long division tough.
Homework is tough? Why stop there? How about “school is tough?”
He’s a boy, and therefore a Neanderthal who will someday drag his woman by her hair to the cave:
At least Lands’ End didn’t print the message right on the product as other companies have done, but still. I expect more from them, and you should too.