H&M Pulls School Ad “ACCUSED” of Sexualising Young Girls

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H&M Apologised for the Back to School Ad But Did it Have to?


Fashion giant H&M has pulled a controversial advert for school uniforms after being accused of sexualising young children with a “highly inappropriate” caption.

The ad featured an image of two girls of primary school age in pinafore dresses with the slogan: “Make those heads turn in H&M’s Back to School fashion.”

The retailer has now withdrawn the ad and apologised.

In an uproar of backlash on social media, users expressed their concern about the ad, with one describing it as “H&M sexualising children” and another labelling it “inappropriate”.

The Independent

Yesterday, when I learned that H&M Australia had to revoke their ad (see image) for “sexualizing” children and issue an apology. I was at a loss for words. Whether it is ads, business, or anything, at the helm of everything is language, which is a beast by its own merit. The problem arises when humans add their interpretations without sufficient study or exposure or from a premise of excess concern hardwired for conformity. The ad copy by H&M alleged of “sexualization” soliciting undue attention toward children, is highly paranoiac and presumptuous (the acceptance of something as true although it is not known for certain.)

This ad copy, “Make those heads turn in H&M’s back to school fashion,” is just a sentence to me as someone who is already obsessed with the language, and considers language to be my entrypoint in all subjects I indulge with, starting from philosophy to psychology, psychiatry, poetry, politics to physics. The text specifically speaks to girls going to school, or young women or fashion lovers who would like to try the back to school fashion. The image used of two little girls doesn’t portray any adult physical gestures to solicit undue sexual attention of any orientation.

Child safety is paramount. But to alleviate paranoia around child safety, we have to accept humans, adults or children, as sexual beings. As parents and as a society, we must protect our children from predators, both online and offline, in an intuitive manner that limits their exposure to predators without assuming that every entity to be a predator. It is like a monkey trying to keep flies away from its master, hitting the flies so hard that it inadvertently kills the master.

Why not “turn those heads?” Young school-going girls, as they evolve sexually, they also evolve emotionally and socially. In schools, within a secured area, wanting to turn the heads of the boys or their adult teachers is sexual development through style and fashion, a way to express. Boys do stuff in their manner. Yet, teachers as adults remain responsible. Understand the buying audience of the ad product.

Finally, I do not find this ad problematic. There is no visual exhibitionism in the H&M Back to School ad, there is no adult gesture, just a sentence “turn the heads,” and it speaks to the young girls who want to turn the heads like young girls anywhere would like to turn the heads. Some turn the heads through fashion, some turn the heads through studies, as advised by their parents. Being an influencer does not justify hastily accusing a brand of having ‘sexually exploitative’ intentions towards children.

I appreciate the team issuing an apology to the media for H&M Back to School ad but I assure, it was just an odd. Remember the story of the poor man who tried to please everyone to end up killing their donkey into the river, their livelihood, don’t be so easy to succumb, learn from how Cloudflare resisted Kiwifarm charges.

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