EU retail giant accused of ‘sexualizing children’
Swedish clothing giant H&M has pulled one of its online school-season ads after being accused of sexualizing children.
The advertisement shown on social media in Australia featured two young girls in black-and-white school uniforms holding pink backpacks. The caption said, “Make those heads turn in H&M’s Back to School fashion.”
Some users criticized the company, arguing that the combination of the imagery and the tagline were “highly inappropriate” and amounted to “shameful exploitation” of children.
“Parents generally prefer [that] heads don’t ‘turn’ when others see their daughters walking to school, on a bus or in class,” Australian women’s rights activist Melinda Tankard Reist wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “Why would you want to fuel the idea that little girls should draw attention to their looks, bodies and ‘style’?”
H&M Australia causes outrage with parents after the brands Back to School Facebook ad featured an image of two young girls in school uniforms with the caption ‘Make those heads turn.’ 📸 @MelTankardReistpic.twitter.com/T85GpWJ9dB— Oli London (@OliLondonTV) January 18, 2024
H&M took down the advertisement after the backlash. “This ad has now been removed. We are deeply sorry for the offense this has caused and will look into how we present campaigns going forward,” the company said in a statement to the media.
The founder of Mumsnet, a popular UK message board for parents, Justine Roberts, said it was the right decision to ax the ad. “While we’re pleased that H&M have accepted their mistake and removed the advert, it should never have been created in the first place,” she told the BBC.
It is not the first time H&M’s marketing has caused outrage online. In 2018, the company was accused of racist messaging when its UK website featured a picture of a black boy wearing a green hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle” emblazoned on it. The company promptly pulled the ad and apologized, saying that “even if unintentional, passive or casual racism needs to be eradicated wherever it exists.”