Baby onesies at a Target store that label little boys as future superheroes and little girls as their dating partners has sparked online outrage after two University of Waterloo professors called attention to their message. 

Christine Logel, an assistant professor of social psychology, found the pair of onesies at a Waterloo Target while shopping for toys for her two daughters on Sunday.

“Sadly, I was not surprised. I have come across things like this before, but I expected better of Target,” said Logel.

When Logel showed the photo she took to a store manager, she says the manager's reaction was along the lines of, “Awww, cute.”

Logel posted the photo on her Facebook page, hoping to attract attention to what she felt was a troubling message. A fellow professor, Aimee Morrison, then offered to tweet the photo in order to galvanize her followers, many of whom share an interest in comics and feminism. Morrison is an English language and literature professor. 

“It’s the juxtaposition of the two articles that really sort of frames this whole feminist critique that says women are judged powerful by who they date, and men get to be powerful in their own rights,” said Morrison.

“We were kind of appalled to see this message being inscribed literally on the bodies of pretty much indistinguishable infants. They’re chubby, they’re bald, they have giant heads, they drool and they poop in diapers all day. They’re not dating anybody, but these messages are so powerful and they start so young that it seemed really noteworthy.”

 

Target Canada responded to questions from CBC News about the pyjamas in an email on Tuesday.  

Company spokeswoman Kalynn Crump replied: "Target strives to treat all our guests with respect, and it is never our intent to offend anyone. We appreciate the feedback we’ve received and will continue to listen to our guests to ensure we offer merchandise that appeals to, and reflects, our diverse guest population.”

When asked if Target would remove the onesies from the shelves, Crump said Target didn't "have any plans to make adjustments to our assortment at this time."

Logel said she is concerned about how this messaging affects the way parents raise their children.

“There’s research that adults treat the same baby differently when think the baby’s a boy, than when they think the baby’s a girl,” said Logel.

'Sadly, I was not surprised. I have come across things like this before, but I expected better of Target.' — Christine Logel

“So you can imagine when a baby girl is wearing a message that she’s a future girlfriend of a superhero, rather than having a future as something powerful herself, you can imagine grown-ups are going to treat in her in a way, maybe more gently, and take her less seriously and sort of teach her to be more passive.”

“It makes me sad and it makes me tired,” said Morrison, on her reaction when she first saw the photo. “I would like to think that as a grown-up woman with a PhD and an important job that people are judging me … on my own accomplishments in the world, rather than what my husband does for a living, or whether I’m married or how much money my husband makes.”

Logel said she’s waiting for call from a Target manager. She wants to get the apparel removed from stores. As of Tuesday afternoon, she had not received any response.

With files from Andrea Bellemare