Five-year-old activist Alice Jacob is learning early in life that standing up for what you believe in can really make a difference.
Jacob first made a name for herself earlier this month, when the Washington Post published the letter she’d written to Gap CEO Jeff Kirwan, asking for less girls shirts with “pink and princesses” and more with “cool” images, like the “Superman, Bat Man, rock-and-roll and sports” usually reserved for boys. Better yet, she asked “can you make a ‘no boys or girls’ section — only a kids’ section?”
And lo and behold, Kirwan wrote back. His response, in the form of an email, addressed Alice’s concerns, and when her mom, Beth Jacob, finished reading it, she writes this week in the Washington Post, her impressed daughter said, “Whoa.”
Here’s what Kirwan told Alice:
“I got hold of the letters you sent in and wanted to be the one to reply to you. I’m Jeff and I’m the head of Gap.
You sound like a really cool kid with a great sense of style.
At GapKids, we try to always offer a wide range of styles and choices for girls and boys. This includes a selection of girls’ tees with dinosaurs, firetrucks, sharks, footballs and some of our superheroes. Our latest Disney Collection, Beauty and the Beast, is also all about the strength and bravery of girls, and that’s something that’s really important to us.
But, you are right, I think we can do a better job offering even more choices that appeal to everyone. I’ve talked with our designers and we’re going to work on even more fun stuff that I think you’ll like.
In the meantime, I’m going to send you a few of my favorite tees from our latest collection. Please check them out and let us know what you think. Our customers’ comments are very important to us, and they help us create even better products with each season.
Thank you again,
Gap Brand President & CEO”
He also sent Alice some T-shirts, one of which she has called “pretty cool.”
And then Beth, a D.C. “policy wonk, writer, and mom,” according to her Washington Post bio, wrote him a follow-up email, telling him his response to Alice means a lot but that “we’ve all got our work cut out for us.” That’s because she of all the not-so-supportive public reactions to Alice’s Gap protest that her mom has not yet told her about — “First, people ask what’s the big deal; why don’t we just buy ‘boys’ clothes? Or why don’t I learn to sew — and better yet teach Alice — so we can make whatever we want?” she wrote to Kirwan, according to the article.
“We grown-ups know what happens whenever someone small challenges the status quo. Even well-intentioned people at the top feel the pressure: Why take a risk if the majority isn’t speaking out? Better not to rock the boat, right? Better to let the outliers change themselves to fit in. In 2017 girls can wear ‘boys’ clothes; you can even buy your son a polo shirt in pink. Why the fuss?” Beth continued.
“Why indeed? Because the fact is kids don’t have long before they learn the world’s limits — or their own. In the meantime, Mr. Kirwan, you and I have a chance to teach them a different lesson.”
To which the CEO responded, “I admire and thank you for standing up for individuality. … We can and will continue to evolve and do better. I remain deeply committed to upholding these values … thank you for your voice in doing the same.”
Having that chance at a different lesson is an opportunity no longer lost on all retailers, as seen recently with nods at gender-neutral clothing options from Target, which released dinosaur shirts in girl sizes as well as a blue “Strong Like Mom” T-shirt for both boys and girls (although they are marketed separately and cut differently); and Zara, which offers an impressive “Ungendered” line. The expanding Swedish kids’ chain Polarn O. Pyret, meanwhile, is completely gender-neutral.
Regarding Kirwan’s mention of “a selection of girls’ tees with dinosaurs, firetrucks, sharks, footballs and some of our superheroes,” this writer could not locate the links for the shirts — only those with Smurfs, flamingoes, butterflies, mermaids, and dolphins — but reached out to the Gap for some direction, and will update with any response.
But the CEO’s response to Alice — not only the encouraging specifics of it, but the fact that it happened at all — presents a powerful case for making your voice heard. It’s something not at all lost on Alice’s mom, who wrote at the end of her article, “I’m pretty lucky. Because I’m a mom who was able to show her daughter that if it seems like no one is listening, speak up.”
Read more on Yahoo Style + Beauty:
- Cate Blanchett Dresses Daughter in Boys’ Clothes for the Best Reason
- Who Is This Stylish Little Guy Making a Splash at Paris Fashion Week?
- Why Can’t I Buy My Daughter a Dinosaur T-Shirt?