Global fashion label H&M has apologized and withdrawn its “Back-to-School” ad in Australia after facing backlash on social media over concerns of sexualizing children.
“We have removed this ad. We are deeply sorry for the offense this has caused and we are looking into how we present campaigns going forward,” H&M said in a statement to CNN.
The ad, which was posted on January 18 on Facebook, immediately sparked outrage from netizens after it showed two elementary schoolgirls wearing matching uniforms with the caption, “Make those heads turn in H&M’s Back to School fashion.”
“The little girls’ parents generally prefer heads don’t ‘turn’ when others see their daughters walking to school, on a bus or in class. Why would you want to fuel the idea that little girls should draw attention to their looks, bodies and ‘style,’” Australian author Melinda Tankard Reist posted on X after seeing the ad.
“Perhaps have a word to your marketing team and come up with something that doesn’t draw attention to [pre-pubescent] girls already struggling to thrive in a culture that values ‘lookism’ as an aspirational goal,” she added.
@hm@hmaustralia what is your intention with this sponsored Facebook ad? Little schoolgirls generally don’t want to “turn heads”. The large numbers I engage with in schools want to be left alone to learn and have fun and not draw unwanted attention to their appearance 1/ pic.twitter.com/DDwv42GeNz— Melinda TankardReist (@MelTankardReist) January 18, 2024
Women’s News Network also had a negative reaction and posted, “Little girls in school uniforms who have been sexualized by old men know what is wrong with this ad. Little girls shouldn't be ‘turning heads.’”
While it has already been taken down, many are still questioning the Swedish retailer and why the controversial ad was even approved for posting.
“While we’re pleased that H&M have accepted their mistake and removed the advert, it really should never have been created in the first place,” said Justine Roberts, founder and chief executive of parenting website Mumsnet.
“Our users would love to be reassured that they’re taking steps to ensure everyone at H&M is crystal clear about the issue so it doesn’t happen again,” Roberts added.