Author Archives: abimoore

Sugar and spice and all things nicely stereotyped

It’s that time of year again. Christmas catalogues are dropping on door mats, and packaging up a nice bit of gender stereotyping seems to be as high on the Christmas menu as it ever has been.

Susan Whitehouse wrote to us recently, after the Cancer Research catalogue she received literally “sickened” her: with gender stereotyping like this, who needs the Disney princesses?

“For the Fashionistas and Creative spirits in your lives”

Fairies, crowns, embroidered, ribbons, tea sets, knitting needles and sequins.

“For sporty gadget fans and wannabe scientists”

Robots, detectives, power, torch, mechanical, monster and puppets.

No prizes for guessing which page is for girls and which for boys? In fact they don’t even bother trying to be subtle about it.

The Cancer Research Christmas catalogue

We might be forgiven for thinking this was a catalogue from the last century, but unfortunately not. Insulted?  We are! how many of the scientists working on a cure for cancer are women? I don’t have the answer but I’d wager there are a fair few. The Women in STEM group that I met recently would have a thing or two to say about this that’s for sure.  Loaded with messages, is this really how we want to label our girls? Fashionistas? At the age of four?

Ahhhhh Boots – I can admit that I didn’t have high hopes for you, and I’d be right!

The top ten toys for “little princesses”* – that’s ‘girls’ to you and me – include toys to make dreams come true, toys for budding fashion fans, Hello Kitty chocolate (we’ll come back to these shortly) a selection of Disney Princesses and a baby doll. Over the page, Miko make-up (with a similar looking cat to the aforementioned Hello Kitty) is marketed along with a picture of a little girl, no older than four years old. With the words “little girls who love accessories and grown-up make-up”. Grown up make-up? For four year olds! That’ll be for the fashionistas right? And on the next page another selection of make-up called “glitter babes” with some choice adjectives again including “sparkly, celebrity, spangly, trendy and gorgeous”.

For Boys –  allowed to be called boys clearly: Scary, Speedy and Sporty describes the top ten toys. Lego is clearly FOR BOYS, and Playmobil, whilst featuring a girl in the picture, is in the ‘boys’ section, or immediately following the Boys’ page, and therefore off the radar for girls.

Boots Christmas catalogue

Whatever happened to simply TOYS?

We’ve been thinking about the Early Learning Centre as the one year anniversary approaches of our first campaign the “Early Learning Emergency”, and hearing from you too about how it continues to simply not live up to its logo or name, or indeed the new tv ad.

So in response, and with determination, maybe we can all encourage our four, five, six, seven year olds, and enable them – through play – to forget fashion, prettiness and sparkly celebrity gorgeousness. To search inside their fashionista self, and to release the real-girl … the free, alive, loud, challenging, funny, quirky true and wonderful **_________ girl inside.

I’ll end with a link to this fantastic performance by Katie Makkai on the dreaded “prettiness” epidemic.

*their words not mine

**insert your own adjective

***the film contains strong language

We’ll be back soon with more on the ELC …

Back to school – but in which decade?

“Back to school” has been and gone, and while we’ve been away this summer we’ve had friends and supporters on our Facebook page letting us know of the back to school horrors they’ve encountered, and indeed complained about in some of our high street stationery outlets.

Paperchase. You may have seen the internet ‘stink’ around this one, including quite possibly the rudest head of marketing on the face of the earth – well – one of them anyway. But really – is it such hilarious irony making the pink side of the back to school range “bake to school” complete with images of cakes and baking and 70s girls in pinafore dresses – whilst the blue side get sharks and adventure. Are our six year olds able to laugh hysterically at the so-called irony? Well, we think not. Whilst the original complainant found herself locked in a war of words with the aforementioned rudest head of marketing on the face of the earth, we actually felt the need to support her, and reiterate to Paperchase the importance of her original complaint. Which is what we did in this letter – as yet, with no response.

But it gets worse.

Scribbler. Words totally fail us on this alleged (once again) “ironic” humour – where quite unbelievably, in a shop which sells back to school stationery and products for children, we have badges, presumably for girls / women, with the words “cum queen”, “slag”, “fancy a tit wank” on them.  The list goes on, ready to be worn with pride for the benefit of who? Teenage boys? Grown men? The mind boggles. When Vicky Wharton wrote to complain, she was told that they wouldn’t be taken off the shelves because “they were humorous”. Again we are rolling around with the hilarity of it all, I can’t imagine for a moment that racist or homophobic language on badges would be considered humorous. Or that any parent finding their daughter wearing one would think it was funny? Can you?

Badges by Scribbler

We spoke to a journalist recently, who told us that she had heard a 13 year old boy refer to his girlfriend as “his gash”. But now retailers are “empowering” our young women to label themselves, all in the name of having a good laugh, as objects in the most offensive and derogatory manner, and quite frankly, that stinks. As this sort of language slips unnoticed into our everyday vocabulary, as even Stephen Fry ‘bitch-slaps’ his iphone, or Jim Jeffries thinks rape jokes are ‘not a problem’, but racist ones are, and as M&S sub lets part of its property to Hooters, as boys refer to their girfriends as ‘their gash’, and where anyone that dares speak up about it is accused of not having a sense of humour (at best) – well why not come at it from the other angle?  I defy any parent of a teenager to tell us that they would like to see their daughters walking around in a badge that says “cum queen”.

So Scribbler – don’t use that old chestnut “we only give people what they want to buy” – take some god-damned responsibility, and think hard about the impact this vileness might have on our young people and get it off the shelves.

Or don’t you care?

Off-side rule for girls…

Kim Little is top goal scorer of the year

Hooray, England are out of the world cup. Well, not really hooray, as I love a bit of football, love supporting England and was really looking forward to it, like many of us. But now we’re out, and in such spectacularly disappointing style, the press are full swing into the autopsy and it’s been interesting to compare and contrast the achievements of our men to that of our women’s team.

Yesterday those achievements were celebrated at the 12th FA Women’s Football Awards. Kim Little received most honours for being top goal scorer as well as many others including Natasha Dowie, Katie Chapman and Jordan Nobbs (seen below) who was young player of the year.

We’d like to add our congratulations to these women and to shout from the roof-tops about their successes as well as to the inspirational Hope Powell, Lewisham born,  for receiving her CBE in this years Queen’s honours list. So great to have so many role models for our girls to aspire to be… a bit more of this and a little less of the ‘Future WAG’ or ‘WAG in training’ t.shirts wouldn’t go amiss, how about Future Football Manager, or Future Young player of the year instead?

Hilarious.... isn't it?

Ironic, or just plain sad really, that our highstreets are plastered in the *hilarious WKD ads. (Dare I mention them in case I get the usual onslaught  accusing me of not having a sense of humour…yawn yawn (see Guardian piece today, including string of vitriol below),

Well, I do dare, because the plain fact of the matter is, is that whilst we’re busily being told how stupid we all are in the ads… Sport England’s Active People survey in 2008 tells us that 260,000 women and 1.1 million girls play some form of football in England and that there are 26 million females playing across the world, of which 4.1 million are playing affiliated football – this is a 54% growth since the year 2000 (FIFA Big Count 2006) and I’d wager that those numbers have risen since then too.

Young Player of the Year - Jordan Nobbs

So, whilst you ‘ad lads’ are all having a laugh at the expense of the girls (offside rule blue ad) and even the WAGS (the orange ad) whilst supping your neon alcopops… there are loads of us ‘girls’ who know exactly what off-side is thanks…. and it’s our job to remind you that we exist. So before you have a go at me for daring to speak up about how pathetic, the ads are…

I’d focus on reminding our ‘lads’ where the back of the net was first…. no?

More than we bargain for on our highstreets

I think I did a walk around the high street blog about two years ago. Today, after being faced with Mary, Abby and Jane, I thought I’d do one again.  As we recover from the Danny Dyer ‘scandal’ – in case you missed it, this is where that lovable cad Danny, in his agony column in Zoo magazine, advised a correspondent to ‘cut the face’ of his girlfriend, I mean ex-girlfriend, in order that no-one else will want to have her’ – the prevalence of this sort of image of women seems ever more ubiquitous and it’s not just the Zoos or Nuts of this world that love to exploit it.

So – who are Mary, Abby and Jane? I have no idea, but rest assured, once you’ve had a shower with new Lynx ‘Rise’, they could be yours. There is a distinct aura of Zoo about them. And by the looks of things, they’re available. Aren’t all women supposed to be? But of course … it’s all a bit of harmless fun. Isn’t it?

What bothers me about this image (it’s HUGE by the way), is how symptomatic it is of the current and growing acceptability of plastering the majority of our public spaces – spaces inhabited by me, my kids, their mates, with suggestive images which objectify women in order to sell products. And no, this is not about giving the consumer ‘what they want’. No consumer ever asked for this. It was created, in order to shock, titillate and sell more shower gel.

When I walk through quaint little Blackheath village, there’s a fashion shop, which sells only men’s clothing, but which currently sports a huge image of a woman in Calvin Kline underwear all over the front window. I didn’t ask for that either and it’s certainly not advertising anything that is available inside the shop because they don’t sell women’s underwear. So tell me, why is it there?

Diesel recently plastered huge, neon ‘ironic’ Sex Sells signs, all over their shop windows. It’s our cue to laugh when we read the small print ‘but unfortunately we only sell jeans’. Well I didn’t ask for that either Diesel. I’d rather just see the jeans and I’d also rather my seven-year-old son wasn’t confronted with these images, compounding the likelihood that he’ll be desensitised to what he sees around him and conditioned to think that the objectification of women is not only acceptable, but it’s normal.

Manufacturers, publishers and retailers are fond of arguing that they only sell what people want – supply and demand – but that’s rubbish. I just don’t buy it. Because I know that behind the scenes is a sophisticated mob of marketers, advertisers and profit hunters. They create and shape the market. However, we believe they REALLY DO have a responsibility to ensure they don’t promote images which are damaging and offensive – either to me or, most importantly of all, to my children. Why is my public space for sale to the highest bidder?

And it seems, we’re not the only ones who take issue. Yesterday, a top United Nations

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official encouraged advertisers to join efforts to stamp out violence against women, calling on the industry to help defy destructive gender stereotypes. Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Kiyo Akasaka, pointed to studies which have shown that negative stereotyping, including the depiction of women as sex objects, exacerbates gender discrimination. Women have been portrayed in demeaning or damaging ways on billboards, magazines, television and magazines, he added. “We need to put an end to persistent negative assumptions about the role of men and women in society. And we need to turn away from limited and one-dimensional gender portrayals in mass media.”

Zoo might only give the punters what they want, but it’s been recently proven, and not before time, by the hideous Danny Dyer incident, that that doesn’t make it right or acceptable, or just a bit of saucy innocent fun. Says Kiyo Akasaka to the advertising industry, “Imagine what you could do by combining your ideas, technology and entrepreneurship to the mission of eliminating violence against women.” Just try.

So next time I walk past the men’s shop in Blackheath, I might just pop my face through the door and challenge it, because until we do, that tired old argument that we’re only giving people what they want will get pulled out again and again. And eventually we’ll hear it so many times, that we’ll start to bloody well believe it ourselves.

Four Women in Space

Pinkstinks recently had great success in persuading Sainsbury’s to stop the gender stereotyping of its dressing-up clothes. We’re really proud of this and while I was putting together our next newsletter I was brooding on why something seemingly so trivial is really so important.

Did you know that there are four women in space right now? More women simultaneously than ever before. I find this so exciting. When Emma and I were kids we met Valentina Tereshkova, the first ever woman in space. We were 12 years old at the time and I remember shaking her hand and her telling us (through an interpreter) that we had nice names! It really stuck with me. She became real and her achievement all the more impressive as she stood there before us – a seemingly normal woman who had achieved unimaginable things.

As we now live in a world where four women are ‘up there’ at one time, in a world where women have commanded space shuttles, where they fly with the Red Arrows, where they win Oscars for directing movies, where they save lives in hospitals every day, how similarly unimaginable does it seem that we live in a world where doctors’ dressing-up clothes can still be labelled only for boys? And for that matter, why can’t boys be nurses? As someone who had a male midwife present at the birth of her first child, I can vouch for the second-to-none care I received from a man in what is almost exclusively thought of as a woman’s role.

So, trivial to some but not to us. Let’s open up the possibilities of all things to all children and not pigeon-hole them from the moment they’re born. Let’s encourage them to make believe that they can be anything they want to be. Let’s certainly not let big business tell them what they can and can’t be.

Someone who works ‘on the front line’, as they themselves put it, in a large toy store in the US emailed me recently. He said it so succinctly: “I just wish it wasn’t such a battle to provide kids with opportunities.”

St Tropez, Kelly Osbourne, self-esteem & the Prince’s Trust

I was sitting in the dentist’s this morning with a wide range of ‘women’s’ reading material in front of me and a quick flick through the latest copy of Heat magazine revealed to me that Kelly Osbourne is the new ‘Self-esteem ambassador’ for St Tropez tanning products. What is that sound that happens when a needle scratches across a record? Well imagine it please, as that’s what I felt!

This is wrong on so many levels. Let me spell them out in case it’s not blindingly obvious: that this is a marketing con of the highest and most damaging order.

Firstly, Kelly Osbourne is almost unrecognisable. Apart from being clearly airbrushed to within an inch of her life, in the accompanying promotional photo, with the word ‘self-esteem’ ironically written across her top half, she has also lost about half her body weight.

Secondly, St Tropez makes products which feed on our insecurities and low self-esteem, in order to a) get us buying them in the first place, and b) to become addicted to buying them. This then goes on to secure their giant profits that they make every year.

Thirdly, if you spend £45 on tanning products they will generously give 10 quid to The Prince’s Trust, with whom they are partnering on this self-esteem building mission! I don’t even know where to begin on this, but clearly partnering with a respected organisation, somehow gives them credibility, and takes our attention away from the fact that it’s low self-esteem that makes them profit. Big organisations such as The Prince’s Trust who do such amazing work really need to choose their sponsors more carefully.

Kelly is quoted on the St Tropez website:

“‘Dancing with the Stars’ and having my first ever St Tropez spray tan was a huge confidence booster for me – it helped me to get fit and allowed me to look and feel beautiful from the outside, in. Moreover it also helped me to see that I can achieve anything if I put my mind to it, which was a huge accomplishment for me – I’ve never really been able to finish something I’ve started, and to do so feels amazing.” Finish the reality show or finish the tanning I wonder?

Is it me, or does this statement take us all for fools? It seems to me that the big message here is to get yourself on a reality show, and then get a fake tan, and Bob’s your uncle, everything will be just fine. It’s so misleading, it’s so unrealistic, it is so loaded with messaging and suggestion and it’s targeting young people, in particular women: the very young people that it alleges to be helping.

Please, let us know what you think of it and let’s stop this nonsense in its tracks and challenge it. Self-esteem doesn’t come from tanning, it comes from what is inside. Our confidence to be exactly who we are, no matter how thin or fat or black or white or old or young. It does not come from modelling ourselves on, and striving for, a fantasy femininity which is sold to us through mass marketing and tabloid news stories which reach us unimaginable numbers and in a totally ubiquitous way. But when tackling issues of low self-esteem is sponsored by those that profit from its very existence, then we need to stand up and say that we are not fooled, that we do object to it and that we will fight it.

Wow – what a month!

It’s hard to know where to begin really. After a year and a half of thinking, developing and working on our ideas, last December Pinkstinks decided to trial run a ‘campaign-within-a-campaign’ to see whether there was an appetite for the issues we raise. The ‘Early Learning Emergency’ was born. Four weeks later we have had coverage in more than 40 countries around the world and spoken on national TV and radio as well as in print interviews. We’ve had 50,000 hits on the website, thousands of emails from around the globe, we have nearly 10,000 members on Facebook and 1,400 followers on Twitter. In short, it has been amazing.

It’s been a very steep learning curve but ultimately a really positive journey. Yes there’s been criticism, when you challenge something so ubiquitous and normalised there is bound to be. But on a positive note, we’ve had support from some great writers and commentators on the ‘childhood experience’, including Ed Mayo (Consumer Kids – How big business is grooming our children for profit) and Sue Palmer (Toxic Childhood), as well as most importantly, the support from all of you.

What this campaign has made crystal clear is the enormous need to discuss these issues. Every day we read more on related subjects and issues. This week is no exception, with a piece in the Guardian ‘Backlash over plan to extend TV advertising’ with ministers, teachers and medical groups attacking new proposals to allow product placement on our TV screens. John Bangs from the NUT is quoted as saying: “It’s very sad that having previously resisted product placement the government has now done a U-turn. There are enough commercial pressures on children and young people without TV adding to that.”

And a couple of weeks ago, just after the launch of the ‘Early Learning Emergency’, we learned that companies now spend an astonishing £100bn on advertising to children compared to £14bn a decade ago. That’s nearly £10bn more every single year. This shocking figure, I hasten to add, is NOT a worldwide one, this is in the UK alone. If you doubt the power of advertising, and assume your children make all their own choices, then think again. The money wouldn’t be spent if advertising didn’t work.

So where does Pinkstinks fit into all this? Well put simply, we want to question these influences. We are not scientists, we can’t give hard figures and facts. But what we can do is to talk with parents, grandparents, concerned citizens and of course children, about the messages that are being perpetuated and peddled and the stereotypes that are being reinforced and strengthened. Beauty tables for three year olds, pink globes, high heels for babies and perfume for toddlers? Where will it end? And what are our children learning from these products and their messages? We can also talk to our children, read up on the issues and put pressure on the retailers and manufacturers. We know that there is concern, we’ve heard from so many of you, so we must put it into action.

We have always wanted to offer girls an alternative to all this ‘princess-sparkle- make-up-body-image-pop-star-fantasy-world’ and we will be working hard on our cooltobe.me project in the coming year. This will be our site for children, where they can access content about ‘real role models’ – women who have achieved great things, small triumphs and new discoveries, sporting heroes or the dinner lady next door. All these women will look different, have different notions of fulfilment and be diverse in all ways, except one – that they can inspire and enthuse our children. Our first film is almost ready, featuring Isa Guha from the triumphant World Cup-winning England Women’s cricket team, and using money raised this Christmas we will be soon be making the next one.

So, I suppose Pinkstinks is about standing up for what we believe in, collaborating as much as we can with others, getting practical in making and publicising the solutions and of course, convincing the haters we are right! Our role models will be held up for girls and boys to celebrate and learn from – after all, boys are just as much in need of these role models as girls. When my sons watch the England women’s team play football on TV, they haven’t yet learned the derision and disparagement so commonly aimed at our female sports stars. Pinkstinks wants a world where they will never learn it – a world where their achievements are seen as equal to that of the men. And where boys and men will respect them for it.

This next month or two will be important for us. We know we have to clarify some of our messaging and capitalise on and harness the support you have given us and which we are so grateful for. And we will be asking for all your help again soon. By the end of January we will have come up with some easy ways for you all to spread the word and take action. Watch this space.

It’s going to be a great year.

Abi