Take 1 – the new Wal*Mart back to school ad (girl’s version)

Mom is sitting in the back of a classroom watching as teen boy grabs his laptop and heads for the front of the classroom. In the voice over, she talks about her son starting out in a new school, how she’d love to be able to help him get off to a great start, but she can’t do his homework for him, or show all of his teachers how smart and bright and creative he is – but that’s his job. All she can do is provide him with the tools he needs to show off what he is – and Walmart makes it easy with low prices on all the things he needs the most. Boy is shown studying with laptop, in the classroom with laptop, making presentation to class – off to a great start by impressing his teachers with his intelligence and creativity.

Take 2 – the new Wal*Mart back to school ad (girl’s version)

The star of the girl’s version is a very conventionally girl-next-door pre-early teen wearing a cute top. Voice over mom – I think it’s the same mom but I’ve only seen it once so far – talks about how her daughter is starting fresh in a new school and she wishes she could be there with her to smooth the way and tell her new friends to be how friendly, nice and great to know she is, but she’ll have to do that on her own. All mom can do is provide her with things that make her feel comfortable with herself. Luckily, Walmart makes it easy with the latest fashions that let her daughter put her best foot forward at prices that mom can afford. Girl is shown with other girls just about everywhere BUT in the classroom, laughing and smiling as they apparently bond over their cool new fashions. Not a teacher or schoolbook in sight, as best as I recall.

Can I just say – wow. Just. Wow. Way to promote those gender roles and remind girls what’s really important when you need to get ahead in life. Just make sure you wear the right shirt so you fit in with the cool kids. Don’t worry about the laptop or about impressing your teachers with your smarts. You don’t need to impress the teachers – only the other girls. Leave the smart stuff to the boys.

And just for that needed touch of hypocrisy – this is the ad on the front page of Walmart.com right now. Dove, which has always been about ‘natural beauty’ with one-quarter moisturizer in its beauty bar, is now funding ‘self-esteem’ workshops for girls. I applaud the mission, I really do but – this is a company making billions every year selling anti-aging creams, moisturizers, face washes and body washes to women who want to stay looking young. Let’s hope that they’re teaching girls that you’re beautiful even if you don’t use Dove.


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