A group of fourth-grade students from Luxmanor Elementary School in Montgomery County, Maryland, has urged Children’s Hospital to pull a television commercial that depicts a young girl who is tormented by stomach pains caused by her algebra class.
The ad, which has been running on Washington, DC-area stations since January, depicts an adolescent girl who has been experiencing severe stomach pains and appears very unhappy. A narrator explains that Children’s Hospital sent the girl to a gastroenterologist and an allergist for testing before “a psychologist found the source of her pain in a very unlikely place (pause) third-period algebra class.” The camera then pans to a chalkboard filled with algebraic equations.
Fourth-grade student Anna Bronstein said that she is opposed to the advertisement because, “It gives a subtle hint to the girls that they aren’t good in math.” Bronstein continued, “If you ever felt like that, you know it’s a pretty bad feeling.” Classmate Michael Merchant said, “It’s not fair to give somebody the feeling that they shouldn’t be good at math.”
The student’s teacher, Sharon Fogler, says that she showed the class the commercial without revealing her own disapproval, and was pleased to find that her students also thought the commercial was about girls’ fear of math and recognized the sexist bias of the ad.
The AAUW has joined Fogler’s students in urging Children’s Hospital to revise of remove the commercial. AAUW National Director Nancy Zirkin said, “We cannot continue to perpetuate this myth that girls can’t do math. As well-intentioned as that ad might have been, it really does perpetuate stereotypes as to what girls can’t do.”
Although Fogler’s students have already suggested many ways in which the commercial could be revised, Children’s Hospital has no plans to alter or stop using the ad. Hospital spokesperson Linda Cantwell noted that the advertisement was based on a true story and commented, “We believe it is doing a good job of getting the message across that Children’s has teams of health professionals that can help kids deal with stress or overcome physical symptoms linked with stress.”
Please call Children’s Hospital’s at 410-462-6800 and urge them to revise or remove the sexist stereotypes communicated by this commercial.