These boys and girls children’s pajamas were sold at Target in 2014. Both have the superhero Superman’s emblem on the chest, but one is black with grey and white stripes and has the words “Future Man of Steel” printed in bold black lettering, whereas the other is light pink with grey stripes and has the message, “I Only Date Heroes” printed in glittery silver lettering.
What messages about gender are being communicated by these pajamas for children? What would a kid wearing the “future man of steel” outfit strive for? What about a kid wearing the “I only date heroes” outfit? Other than the words, how else are these pajamas signaling gendered stereotypes and associations?
At what age do we start learning about gender roles and expectations? Where and from whom do we learn these messages? What happens when we behave or express ourselves in ways that do not conform to these social norms? How are the consequences different depending on your gender?
What does the “S” on the shirts stand for? How are women featured in this popular culture storyline? Who is the hero?
Why is it important for girls to be able to view themselves as heroes? How does this relate to the representation of girls and women frequently seen in movies, television, and other popular culture? Who are the heroes and rescuers of popular stories? Who is being rescued?
What do you think was the intention of the creators of these children’s pajamas? Whose responsibility is it to avoid perpetuating sexist messages through everyday products like t-shirts? What is a company like Target’s role in selling merchandise such as this?