No doubt, by now, you have seen the new advert from Gap depicting three white, middle-America girls, and one black girl. In the picture, two of the younger, white girls are performing ballet, gymnastic moves whilst the third, larger, white girl is resting her arm on top of the head of a younger, smaller, and passive black girl.
The picture itself isn’t overtly, racist if you actually look at the picture itself, with your first glance it is simply four girls and it’s difficult to argue it is deliberately racist, as there is no divisive racist message. But there is a deeper message, which may be Gap, and the photographer in question didn’t realise – which is more indicative of American culture which is where the problem lies.
The fact that Gap, such a large organisation, probably didn’t realise how it would look through the eyes of at least 20% of the American population is unbelievable and hard to comprehend – but it’s clear to see that they didn’t. The question isn’t that the image itself is racist, the question lies in the underlying theme it is conveying, and the symptoms it reveals lurking in ‘accepted’ culture, which is a damaging message. The subordinate and passive role depicted by the stance of the young black girl is this is only half the subliminal message within this shot. The other equally worrying message is the gender issue – so Gap is saying girls can do anything yet uses stereotypical imagery of female performance, ballet and gymnastics; the strange text and odd imagery, feeds into American deep-seated problems of racism and sexism, all used for marketing neatly in a single image.
You might disagree, and I am sure Gap will, but in my view the image itself isn’t sexist or racist but why it evokes a response is that the image is indicative of deep-seated problems in American culture. It doesn’t take much of a leap of thought for Gap to have promoted an image that showed equal status, ethnicity, and some of the girls doing things less stereotypical!! Perhaps writing, composing, a science experiment – not just exercises!