Pampers, one of the nation’s top-selling diaper brands, has quietly decided to drop Sesame Street characters from its design in order to make the diapers more “inclusive,” the New York Post reports.
The move was not made public, but Pampers is reportedly embarking on a “gender equality” effort that apparently requires the company to refrain from using beloved children’s characters Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, and Elmo on its diapers amid concerns that the characters are male. The new diapers have a far more generic look and feature innocuous designs like airplanes and cameras.
When parents reached out to Proctor & Gamble (P&G), Pampers’ parent company, to inquire about the removal of Sesame Street characters from the diapers, service representatives admitted that the change was made because of gender concerns.
“The Pampers rep said … parents who have daughters thought that the ‘Sesame Street’ characters are too masculine,” customer Susie Wong-Benjamin told the Post.
Beatrice Chow, a Sesame Street spokesperson, appears to have not only substantiated the claim, but revealed that Sesame Street is a willing participant in the changes to the design. Chow sent the Post a year-old press release entitled “P&G and Sesame Street partner to promote gender equality,” which highlighted the female character Chamki, “a vibrant, 5-year-old Muppet” who is featured in the Indian version of “Sesame Street.”
“We look forward to deepening our partnership with P&G on all fronts in the future,” Chow told the Post.
According to the Post, there does not appear to be public record of complaints from parents about gender representation in the diapers’ design. When asked directly whether parents complained about a lack of female representation on the old design, a Pampers spokeswoman reportedly tried to dodge the question before responding “No” and providing a more generic response.
“We talk to thousands of parents every year to understand how our diapers are best meeting their babies’ needs and any new trends they might be interested in,” P&G spokeswoman Laura Dressman wrote in an email to the Post. “We learned there was a growing desire from Moms and Dads for modern, fresh graphics.”
Dressman later told PEOPLE Magazine that the Post’s story was “inaccurate.”
“As a proud partner of Sesame Street for over 15 years, we love featuring Sesame Street’s iconic characters on our Pampers Baby Dry diapers,” Dressman told PEOPLE. In that same statement, she said Pampers has “always included a range of Sesame’s characters — male and female (although we know from research that children love the characters equally). This includes Elmo, Zoe, Cookie, Rosita, Big Bird, and Oscar among others.”
However, this is in direct contrast to what the Pampers rep told Wong-Benjamin.
The Post reports that parents certainly took note of the design change, but were far more concerned by the fact that the new designs also seem to leak more, posing a more pressing issue for the end user.
P&G spokeswoman Laura Dressman told the Post that the design changes included a “softer inner liner” and a “3-way fit design” for increased absorbency, but parents contend that the changes have only reduced the quality of the diapers.
Wong-Benjamin told the Post that she demanded a refund from her local pharmacy where she purchased the new diapers after her two-month-old son leaked. She was already miffed by the generic design and was convinced after her son leaked that she had in fact received generic diapers instead of the name-brand she had come to trust.
“I thought this could be something made in China — like something you’d buy at the dollar store,” she said. “I mean, who puts a camera on a diaper?”
But according to LifeSiteNews, not all parents are upset by the removal of the Sesame Street characters.
“I wasn’t interested in getting [my daughter] Yvonne into Sesame Street because of the creepy ideological stuff,” mom Colleen Fimister told LifeSiteNews.
Conservative columnist Ben Shapiro has also accused Sesame Street of harboring a not-so-subtle left-wing bias.
“Sesame Street tried to tackle divorce, tackled ‘peaceful conflict resolution’ in the aftermath of 9/11 and had [same-sex attracted actor] Neil Patrick Harris on the show playing the subtly-named ‘fairy shoeperson,’” Shapiro wrote.
Sesame Street also celebrated gay “pride” by featuring a rainbow-colored crowd of muppets.