Old Navy has removed a toddler shirt from its stores after the graphic tee sparked controversy online.
The shirt, which featured the saying “Young Aspiring Artist,” but had the word artist crossed out and replaced with professions like astronaut and president, got major backlash from online users who criticized the retailer for stifling children’s creativity. On Twitter and Facebook, comments poured in. “Hey Old Navy, what’s wrong with being an artist?” wrote one user. “The fact that Old Navy is saying that being an artist isn’t a respectable profession and promoting that in children’s clothing is ridiculous! They’re discouraging kids from expressing their creativity!” added another. And from one proud artist: “Thanks Old Navy for telling kids that art is a less viable career path than astronaut. Sincerely, A Working Artist.”
Perkins Center for the Arts, an art school and gallery in New Jersey, chimed in on Facebook as well. “The artists and young aspiring artists at Perkins Center are very disappointed in your t-shirt,” the organization wrote on its Facebook page. “Don’t forget, many of our astronauts and political leaders have an arts background too.”
This Old Navy top has been discontinued in response to backlash to the T-shirt’s message. (Photo: Old Navy)
It did not go undocumented online that the person who designed the graphic T-shirt was likely, in fact, an artist. “The ironic part is that they had to HIRE A GRAPHIC ARTIST to do this design!” wrote one user.
The backlash, which started in late December, ultimately resulted in Old Navy removing the shirt from its stores and online. “At Old Navy we take our responsibility to our customers seriously,“ spokesperson Debbie Felix said in a statement to Today. “We would never intentionally offend anyone, and we are sorry if that has been the case. Our toddler tees come in a variety of designs including tees that feature ballerinas, unicorns, trucks and dinosaurs and include phrases like, ‘Free Spirit.’ They are meant to appeal to a wide range of aspirations. With this particular tee, as a result of customer feedback, we have decided to discontinue the design and will work to remove the item from our stores.”
It’s not the first time Old Navy has come under fire for its clothing aimed at young children. In February, the retailer’s marketing of “boyfriend jeans for baby” sparked a controversy, with plenty of parents agreeing that the “boyfriend” aspect of the name unnecessarily sexualized young children. “People may wonder, what’s in a name? But when it comes with a name like ‘boyfriend jean’ and it’s directed towards babies, the name is laden with relational and even sexualized messaging,” child development specialist Dr. Robyn Silverman told Yahoo Parenting at the time. “While the babies are blissfully unaware of what it all means, parents are once again being told that even the littlest of girls have and should be thinking about boyfriends.”
In July, Target faced criticism for one of its graphic T-shirts, which was aimed at girls and had the word “trophy” written across the front in bold lettering. “Dear Target, why are you selling shirts that describe women as obtainable objects such as trophies?” wrote one user on Target’s Facebook page at the time. “It’s honestly appalling. I’m nobody’s trophy, and I sincerely hope that in your eyes, women are more than something to be won.”
At the time, Silverman told Yahoo Parenting that this piece of clothing also sent the wrong message. “Some may say this shirt is all done in fun, but many women want to see themselves, and want to be seen, as more than just a prize someone wins and shows off to others,” she said. “‘Trophy wife’ typically suggests that a woman does nothing more than look pretty for the man who ‘scored’ her.”
Top photo: Old Navy