Last month (May 2012), an ad appeared that took the nation by surprise. For Mother’s Day,
J.C. Penney presented a photograph containing two parents, two children, and a grandparent. The picture captured a sharply dressed and gleaming family ready to celebrate Mother’s Day. Why, then, did the One Million Moms (OMM) and a large portion of J.C. Penney’s customers take issue with the advertisement? It wasn’t because of the kids. It wasn’t because of the grandmother. It was because the kids in the photo have two moms.
Although some people like OMM found the ad offensive, many people applauded J.C. Penney for it. Because of people like you, J.C. Penney received enormous support from its more progressive clientele. This advertisement didn’t just say, look at our great clothing line. It also said, We support ALL families.
We, at COLAGE, were thrilled. Many of us felt visible and validated to see families similar to our own being advertised in mainstream media. Still, we were also worried that the OMM’s hate wave would keep J.C. Penney in check for fear of losing much of their customer-base. We at COLAGE are now beyond thrilled to say that J.C. Penney continues to take a stand. For Father’s Day,
J.C. Penney posted this advertisement, picturing two doting dads, aiming to celebrate ALL fathers.
There is, however, an important word to point out in the above paragraph. That word is “aiming.” And though we are grateful for J.C. Penney’s support of families with same-sex parents, we find ourselves concerned about a different representational shortcoming.
In addition to common ad issues like lack of size diversity and the exclusivity of commercialized beauty – issues that deserve [and have] their own respective (and often intersecting) discourse – the photos are not as inclusive (and therefore not as empowering) as we think they should be.
One of the main selling points of the advertisements is that they showcase real, loving families. We can see from the photos that these are real families full of very real love. However, both sets of parents in the advertisements appear to be white. If real families are being modeled, that realness needs to include all kinds of families; families of different races/ethnicities, classes, sizes, etc. When J.C. Penney creates ads that are able to do that, we will truly have something to celebrate. J.C. Penney normally does a tremendous job of showcasing many different kinds of people. We want to encourage that kind of inclusion to continue.
It is important to note that the COLAGErs in the second advertisement appear to be youth of color (and possibly mixed identities). This is certainly a step in the direction we hope J.C. Penney continues to go. We understand the difficulty of representational advertising and the bravery that the folks in charge of advertisement at J.C. Penney MUST have. We applaud that bravery and that gumption. Way to go, J.C. Penney. COLAGE loves you for this. And we encourage you to keep working to make real families visible.
We would love to hear what you think about this post and encourage you to get in touch with us through email.