John Lewis has been forced to defend its latest advert, after claims the depiction of a boy in a dress making a mess was offensive.
It shows the boy wearing his mother’s clothes, lipstick and eye shadow, rampaging around his home knocking things over, smearing makeup on furniture and tipping paint onto a carpet while his sister plays quietly in a corner.
The advert, which was first aired this week during Channel 4’s Great British Bake Off, has led to claims that it perpetuates sexist stereotypes of boys playing aggressively while girls stand meekly by and behave nicely.
It has also been attacked for supposedly promoting the idea of children wanting to be transgender.
However, the retailer has hit back, defending the advert against both claims and pointing out that its 2015 Tiny Dancer advert featured a little girl in a tutu dancing around her house in an endearingly clumsy manner.
Nothing to do with the trans debate
“Our advert is a dramatic, fictional story showing our main character getting carried away and dancing to his favourite song,” said a John Lewis spokeswoman, adding. “It’s not peddling stereotypes and it’s nothing to do with the trans debate. It could be a boy or a girl in it. This time it features a boy because last time we used a girl.”
Some critics said the advert sends out all the wrong messages about the different ways boys and girls are expected to behave.
Charly Young, the CEO and founder of The Girls’ Network charity, told The Telegraph: "Gender stereotypes can create arbitrary limitations for both girls and boys. We are always frustrated when we see girls portrayed as quieter, less active and less courageous than their male counterparts, even when the portrayal of masculinity is evolving, which of course we welcome.
We hope that more brands move away from the tired tropes of quiet, compliant girls and boisterous, rebellious boys so that all children can explore their true selves without the weight of gendered expectations."
Frances Weetman, a writer and activist from Newcastle upon Tyne, said: “The John Lewis advert of a young boy being the centre of attention for trashing everything while his sister obediently sits and paints in a corner is sexism encapsulated in sixty seconds.”
Others said the advert is an attempt to foist a transgender lifestyle on viewers and children.
Simon Arnold, a writer and Lib Dem supporter, said: “It appears the propaganda war to turn boys into girls, by applying make-up and a dress, is getting worse.”
Lee Race, a company director from Essex, wrote on Twitter: “Why don’t we encourage a hard working straight family man, that’s what I am and everything I see is the opposite.”