Have you seen the new back-to-school ad from JCPenney? It's all about a mom concerned that she needs to get her kid some stylin' clothes. But a certain set of parents are flipping out at the retail chain. They say the ad promotes bullying.
Are they serious? Have they been to a high school lately? This isn't promoting bullying! It's stating a simple fact.
Clothes matter when you're in high school. Accessories too.
I don't like it. But I'm not going to pretend it doesn't happen. And I don't blame JCPenney for admitting it.
The ad features the voice of a mom talking about back-to-school shopping. In it she says, "I’ve been told that this stuff can make or break an entire year."
Cue a shot of a kid sitting all alone in the cafeteria, then suddenly, he gets some fancy new duds, and he's outside with a bunch of pals around.
Parents have been sounding off on the retailer's Facebook page since it began airing. Terri Lewin Gilbert's comment is typical of the complaints so far:
Your Back to School ad is a complete fail. Playing to parent's fears that their kids won't fit in at school because they don't wear the right clothes? Kids' fears about being bullied? Kids today are too materialistic as is-- peddle your wares, but don't do it at the expense of people's feelings about "fitting in".
Gilbert is absolutely right. Kids ARE materialistic today.
Which is why the ad doesn't bother me. What does bother me are parents who want to act like kids aren't bullied over having "the right stuff."
I know parents who turn up their nose at that notion. They say they're not bowing to the trends, they're not letting their kids get caught up in high school politics. So they send their kids off to school in whatever they could find at the local thrift shop, force them to re-use the same tired old backpack with a cartoon character that hasn't been popular in five years, and they consider themselves above the fray.
And maybe they are.
But their kids aren't.
Kids are cruel. Kids find any excuse to pull down other kids.
I remember. I was that kid who was still carrying her backpack from fifth grade during senior year, with the big reflective stripe across the back that was supposed to "protect" me (because a Mack truck's headlights were going to hit that patch and notice me on the walk from study hall to business law?).
JCPenney isn't promoting that sort of activity by admitting that it exists. They're reminding parents that sometimes you need to look at things from your kids' perspective. There's what you want to do when it comes to back-to-school shopping (save money, reuse perfectly good items from last year, etc.). Then there's what you need to do for your child's sake.
I'm not saying you can't find some balance.
I will readily admit that as a bullied kid I have the need to protect my daughter from bullies in mind when I shop for her, but I'm not made of money. My daughter is reusing her lunchbag from last year -- after we talked about it -- and a good portion of her back-to-school clothes WERE purchased at a used clothing store ... which happens to sell great brand name items for a lot less than the new stuff. Other items will be brand new, and I let her weigh in heavily on just which backpack I purchased (we found a great deal on one that came with headphones ... which she needed anyway).
That's what worked for me. Every parent has to find their own way of stretching their dollars and protecting their kid.
But if you think you can completely ignore the chance that your kid will be picked on over their clothes and it will go away, you're only kidding yourself.
It doesn't "promote" bullying to admit that it exists, folks.
Check out the JCPenney ad and tell us: are you offended?
Image via MrCommercialLand/YouTube