By Quinton R. Arthur
Clothing company Gap has been under public scrutiny following an advertisement by the clothing company’s Gap Kids x ED lifestyle brand, which features active wear clothing for girls.
The girls featured in the ad are collectively known as Le Petit Cirque, the only all-kids humanitarian cirque in the world. All the girls in the ad in question are active in some way, but the black child is seemingly used as a prop and remains silent in the video portion of the ad.
According to reports, the two girls who are the focus of the controversy are adopted sisters.
Many advocates of social justice and diversity view the ad as one of the many micro-aggressions that minority women face on the regular basis.
Kirsten West Savali, a cultural critic and senior writer for the The Root, an online publication, compares the advertisement to the abuse of black women in slavery.
“[This serves] as a prescient illustration of how black women and girls in a white supremacist society continue to be both invisibilized, endangered and exploited for the benefit of white women and capitalism,” Savali said in an article.
However, the Gap Kids previously had a similar ad campaign with the Pink Helmet Posse, a group of girl skateboarders. In a photo, the girls were in the same pose, only it was a black child resting their arm on a white child.
Advertising professional Brittany Applegate views the marketing material from a professional perspective.
“Understanding the various process of approvals this ad had to go through to be released, I do think racism is a reach,” says Applegate. “But, I do believe the direction and shot selection was very poor.”
Gap spokesperson Debbie Felix gave a statement regarding the issue before the ad was replaced.
“As a brand with a proud 46-year history of championing diversity and inclusivity, we appreciate the conversation that has taken place and are sorry to anyone we’ve offended,” Felix said. “…we are replacing the image with a different shot from the campaign, which encourages girls (and boys) everywhere to be themselves and feel pride in what makes them unique.”
While the advertisement lacked creative direction to showcase all the children as an essential part of the campaign, there are those that do not believe it maliciously promotes racial undertones. What helps clarify this is the knowledge that a similar ad already was done by the company which received little complaints, that the two girls are sisters, and that the younger girl is shy.
However, moving forward, Gap Kids and other advertisers will need to need to better reflect equity and diversity in their marketing materials.