This Home Brand Is Sending The Wrong Message To Teen Girls

Target recently made national headlines with its decision to move away from gendered signage in stores, one that many saw as a progressive and necessary step toward empowering young girls to aspire to more than pretty princess-hood. Not everyone was enthusiastic about the change, though, and it remains to be seen whether Target's move will affect industry standards.

The recent changes at Target certainly haven't made waves at RH Teen, Restoration Hardware's newest offshoot, where rote gender stereotypes are glaringly evident in the product line-up. The site clearly delineates between products for girls and boys, modifying the colors and typefaces for each. This is par for the course — many brands use gender to classify and catalog their wares. But the "art" offerings from RH Teen spell out a more literal — and painfully sexist — message, one that caught us off guard.

The brand offers framed pieces of inscribed "Classic Quote Art;" a few examples of the unattributed lines marketed to girls include, "Be your own kind of beautiful" and "Start each day with a grateful heart." "I can't fall asleep, but I sure can dream," reads another $500 poster, a "mantra," the site copy states, that "serves as inspiration for living a thoughtful life." It's a nice sentiment — for Laura Ingalls Wilder, maybe. But when headlines are dominated by the efforts of women like Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai and actress Emma Watson to change the dialogue around women's rights, it feels decidedly dated.
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Other posters are only further deflating ("It is what it is," "Let it be," and, "Enjoy it because it's happening" — subliminal messaging, much?) and really stand out as shockingly tone-deaf when considered in light of the quotes marketed to boys. All of them are attributed to notable (straight, white) male figures, such as, "The best way to predict your future is to create it," from Abraham Lincoln. "The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be," reads another bit of "lasting wisdom — the kind that still holds true today," according to the site copy, this time from the mouth of one Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Based on these offerings, it's hard not to assume some things about how the company views women. Could the design team not think of any notable quotes from important women in history? Does Emma Watson's, "It's not the absence of fear, it's overcoming it," not work in an italicized font on an ivory ground?
RH Chairman and CEO Gary Friedman himself has twin teen daughters, so one would expect — and hope for — more from his company. "Today, teens have tremendous exposure to design through the multiple Web and social media platforms and are becoming tastemakers in their own right," he said in a statement accompanying the line's launch. Apparently, being a "tastemaker" in one's own right means different things depending on your gender.

This is why Beyoncé has to perform in Central Park with the words "Boss" and "Hustler" blazing brightly behind her. Because, even in this day and age, people forget — these aren't just words. This isn't just language. These are the things we believe about ourselves, about who we are and what we can achieve. "As harmless as these descriptors might seem, the effects that they have can be both harmful and long-lasting," Maxwell Tielman writes in an essay on gendered design. "They saturate our language and our culture; they create conformity and inequity."

The writing, in this case, is on the wall.

Editor's note: Refinery29 reached out to RH for comment, and will update the story when they reply.

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