Category Archives: Uncategorized

Women in politics

I read a tragically funny tweet on the day that the new Cabinet was announced. “Why are there no women or black people in the Cabinet? Of course there are – who do you think’s cleaning the floor and making the tea?” Words to that effect anyway. And while it isn’t entirely true, we’ve hardly come on leaps and bounds this time round.

If you look at the make up of MPs and cabinet positions we’ve seen a tiny increase in representation. But that’s it. It’s tiny. And I was disappointed to hear Theresa May (the new Minister for Women and Equality) give a very unsatisfactory answer to the question: “do you think there should be more women in Parliament and in the cabinet?” on the PM programme on Radio 4. A straight “yes” would have done the trick. And I suspect – or at least hope – it would be her honest answer.  But instead she skirted around the issue (no pun intended) in the style of a true politician and I was left wondering if anything would ever really change.

I was pleased today when Diane Abbott announced that she was throwing her hat into the ring for the leadership of the Labour Party. Until then, we were once again asking: where are all the women? Kira Cochraine in the Guardian wrote a heartfelt plea to those who may be in the running. But then again, on second thoughts, would I? Would any woman in their right mind want to open themselves up to the torrents of abuse they have to deal with day in day out as our high profile women politicians do. Just look at what Harriet Harman has to endure.  Whatever you might think of her policies she has been treated with contempt for standing up and speaking up about what she believes in and that has taken the form of personal comments on her looks, her clothes, her sex life … . With one ‘respected’ commentator asking “well would you? Would you ‘do’ her?”.

Having been subjected to some of this treatment following Pinkstinks’ Early Learning Emergency campaign in December (and believe me it was nothing compared to what she has had to put up with), I don’t think I could ever be so brave and courageous as to do what she, Theresa May, Margaret Beckett, Lynne Featherstone, Caroline Spelman and their colleagues do. And Diane Abbott will no doubt now find her inbox full of vitriol and spite now that she’s in the limelight.

We all love to hate our politicians and often they deserve what they get. But what they do not deserve is to be treated like objects of ridicule because they are women and because they dare to speak out. When your shoes or the size of your arse are the only thing which people are interested in then it really is a sad day for all women. We NEED more women in Parliament. We need more minority ethnic MPs too. But I’m afraid to say that if I were one of the women mentioned in Kira’s article, I’d need more than a stiff drink to make me even consider saying yes. So I congratulate Diane Abbott for having the guts to do it. It shows real courage. I sincerely hope that she is not the only one.

Because they’re pink, and we’re girls, and it’s what we do…

Percy Pig Sweets - FOR CHILDREN

With apologies to thedailymash.co.uk

MARKS AND SPENCER CRISIS AS BOSSES BROUGHT FACE TO FACE WITH REALITY

By Lucy Lawrence

Marks and Spencer is facing its toughest crisis since the recession after it emerged company bosses had been ‘locked’ in 1958 for 52 years.
Some of the firm’s top managers were dragged literally kicking and screaming into the 21st century yesterday before being wrestled into straight-jackets by burly paramedics and sedated with heavy tranquilisers.
Problems began when a customer wrote to the company to complain that its latest advertising campaign was ‘patronising drivel which insults me as a woman and everything I stand for’.
The ad, featuring a well-known television actor who probably can afford to shop at much more expensive shops than M&S, insinuates women in the year 2010 are simpering Stepford wives who have no place in the world except for the kitchen where they all gorge on vile pink sweets before getting the crackling just right for their Very Important husbands.
One paramedic who was at the scene said: “It was terrible to watch. As we rolled them out in their pin-striped suits and bowler hats they couldn’t stop staring at my female colleague and asking why she wasn’t at home looking after her children.”
Sue Bloggs, the complainer who started all the trouble said: “I received a letter back from one of the bosses who said that as I had the time to write to him to complain I was obviously not a traditional 1950s housewife. He went on to presume that with all this spare time on my hands I must be some sort of ‘well-upholstered’ film actress and would I like to meet him at the Dorchester one lunchtime?”
Emma Moore, a lifelong shopper from Lewisham, said: “I have been a shopper all my life but not at M&S. Because I find the clothes really old-fashioned and hideous. Because I find the food very expensive compared to other supermarkets and because my local branch isn’t really any good anyway. BUT MAINLY JUST BECAUSE I HATE THE BLOODY PATRONISING ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS WHICH HAVE NO RELEVANCE TO ME OR MY FAMILY.”

OUTRAGED? I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO WASN’T. By Lucy Lawrence

I was not outraged by the audacity of the clothing chain Primark in selling padded bikini tops to girls aged seven this week. Frankly I was not even mildly surprised. Let’s face it, these pink and sparkly fake breasts were quite mild compared to some of the other vile tat that’s been sold to children as good, harmless fun. Pole dancing kits spring to mind.

Anyway, there was enough outrage coming from all sides to render any I might have drummed up, redundant.

Firstly, I want to stress that I did not, under any circumstances, consider it to be a ‘good thing’ for this product to be in shops. I am glad they have gone. It is a good move for Primark and it is a good move for parents who already have a hard enough job keeping daughters dressed appropriately for their age rather than their preferred future career.

It is not, however, a victory for The Sun newspaper which reported its own ‘outrage’ on Wednesday that these ‘paedo bikinis’ were on sale, encouraging paedophiles everywhere (to do what?). Hours later when, after caving in to all the negative publicity Primark pulled the offending items off its shelves and offered to donate any profits from their sales to charity, this was hailed by the newspaper as ‘The Sun wot won it’ or some other ‘amusing’ headline.

The rank hypocrisy of this tabloid beggars belief. Condemning ‘sexy’ products for the under-10s on one page, while encouraging teenage girls, not even a decade older, to ‘get them out for the lads’ on Page 3. This is a national newspaper that makes its money out of objectifying young women and turning them into sex objects. And yet it never questions that this ‘in yer face’, and on the breakfast table, socially acceptable sexuality might arouse the curiosity of, and a desire to emulate, in pre-pubescent girls.

The Sun makes money by pedalling soft porn and fantasy femininity and then attempts to take the moral high ground against another, equally cynical, business venture which is trying to hook these girls in younger and younger. Who gave The Sun’s editor the moral compass?

I reserve scorn too for the politicians – all of them. As expected, all three major political parties claimed to be outraged by these bikinis. But still, even in the 21st century, all of these politicians are so busy trying to be popular with Britain’s biggest selling tabloid, that they would never dare risk its wrath by condemning Page 3. None are willing to take a stand and demand soft porn mags like Nuts and Zoo be placed on the top shelf, nor are any prepared to admit that there just might be a connection between the images girls and women are exposed to in the media and the ever increasing numbers of breast augmentations et al. being carried out year on year in the UK. It used to be an insult to call somebody plastic. Now our girls aspire to it.

And finally there is the outrage coming from the Left. There seemed to be a backlash against parents for objecting to the sexualisation of children.

One blogger wrote: “The pubescent padded bra has been hijacked by the faux-feminist family values brigade as a symbol of moral decline. There is a distinct class element to this puritan agenda.” She continues by arguing that middle-class mums are ganging-up on Primark because working class mums shop there? Really? Wouldn’t middle class mums gang-up on Sainsbury’s if it were selling sexist clothes for children?  Oh, I did.

So, in a world where, judging by Channel 4 news’s vox pop on this issue, we are becoming immune to these things – most Primark shoppers hadn’t even registered this garment was on sale, let alone judged it inappropriate – in a world where nearly 9,000 British women a year have breast augmentation, in a world where children have internet access to porn before they’ve even reached puberty, in a world where 46% of girls aged 11 to 16 would consider cosmetic surgery and that girls start finding fault with their appearance as early as 10 or 11* and in a world where girls are not encouraged to play dressing-up like their mums but encouraged to play dressing up like highly-sexed pop stars, it’s my argument that we should stand back and take a look at where things are going and then imagine where we want them to be.

Girls don’t want padded bikinis so they’re not teased by the boys at school – for heaven’s sake, they’re hardly going to be wearing them under their polo shirts. They want these bikinis so they look like Hannah Montana, Cheryl Cole and Jordan. Three decent role models? I leave that up to you.

But when I go on holiday with my four-year-old son this summer, the last thing I want is for him to experience a beach  awash with seven-year-old girls playing at being teenagers in push-up bikinis. Girls will always be girls – but they don’t always have to be sex objects.

* A study by the Girl Guides

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.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT? By freelance journalist Saba Salman

Until last week, I was unaware that gender apartheid had extended to processed meat. Until last week, I’d never even heard of Fairy Hearts – “delicious slices of cooked sausage made from reformed turkey and pork” – but now it seems that even my supermarket deli aisle is not immune from pinkification.

My four-year-old daughter spotted the packet, positioned at perfect eye level from the trolley’s toddler seat. When I asked why she wanted it, her eyes twinkled at the wand-toting, bug-eyed meat-fairy on the label and she announced: “Because it’s pretty”.

Her words support the recent comments of Sue Palmer, education writer and broadcaster and author of Toxic Childhood, who warned: “What bothers me about the pink plague infecting three to eight-year-old girls is that they aren’t old enough to make rational choices.” What also bothers me is the fact that, of all the pernicious marketing evils you expect to fend off as a parent, sliced ham is not one of them. I know that a trip to a toy shop or clothes store might result in us being segregated to the pink corner, but I don’t envisage this happening while shopping for a sandwich filler.

Food marketing to children is nothing new, supermarket shelves heave with branded and television character foods. But the pinkification of ham is utterly ridiculous – not least because the meat is pink anyway (I imagine this ironic little gem wasn’t on the minutes of the board meeting at Fairy Heart HQ).

Ed Mayo of Co-operatives UK, former head of the National Consumer Council and co-author of Consumer Kids: How Big Business Is Grooming Our Children for Profit, recently has said: “Today’s marketing assigns simple and very separate roles to boys and girls, and whips up peer pressure to police the difference.”  Just picture the packed lunch scene as one child proudly reveals the Fairy Hearts bursting out of her roll, while her embarrassed and envious dining companion has to make do with plain old cheese and pickle.

The flip side of the debate is that novelty foods can encourage fussy children to eat. Given the choice between your child not eating or going against both your ethical instincts and your taste buds by offering a branded product, many a desperate parent would grab at the Fairy Hearts. But read the ingredients and you realize this is something of a Hobson’s Choice – the meat is 31% turkey, 28% pork with the remaining 41% consisting of water, potato starch, pork fat, salt, pea protein, carrot fibre, pea fibre, pea starch, potassium chloride, vegetable extract, stabiliser spices, anti-oxidant, yeast extract, preservative.

It is almost three years ago that television regulator Ofcom clamped down on the television advertising of junk food to children. At the time, 80% of food advertising spend within children’s airtime was on food high in fat, salt and sugar, like sweets, soft drinks, crisps, snacks, fast food and sugary breakfast cereals.

The UK now has the highest rate of obesity in Europe and one in three children is overweight or obese. Obesity in children under 11 has risen by over 40% in ten years.  Should this trend continue, half of children will be obese or overweight by 2020. It is well documented that junk food deprives children of vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids and children with such diets tend to perform worse at school, lack concentration and are more aggressive.

So the heart-shaped ham is just a wolf in fairy’s clothing. Taken to the extreme, the pinkification of food products risks creating a generation of pink-loving, princessy, angry, obese under-achievers. But at least they’ll eat their tea.

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

Early Learning Centre – Early Learning Emergency by May Carolan

PINKSTINKS’ NEW CHRISTMAS CAMPAIGN

“You can make a difference, even if it seems impossible.”

Those are the words of 13 year old Philip Johansson from Sweden.

Around this time last year Philipe, his classmate Ebba Silvert and a group of school friends decided that the Christmas catalogue of US toy giant Toys ‘R’ Us wasn’t for them. They were so outraged that the boys in the catalogue were portrayed as active and the girls as passive, they formulated a case and reported the store to Sweden’s Advertising Ombudsman.

Agreeing with the children, the authority declared the Toys ‘R’ Us catalogue “discriminates based on gender and counteracts positive social behaviour, lifestyles, and attitudes” and the company was issued with a public reprimand.

Because of those children, this year the catalogue is set to change.

If you’ve taken a look at our ‘Voices’ page, you’ll know we interviewed Philipe and Ebba as a great examples of positive role models. They fought for something they believed in and they made a difference.

Pinkstinks wants to make that kind of difference too. We want to show toy companies that girls don’t have to be prissy in pink, indeed as the Swedish youngsters proved – they don’t always want to be.

This Christmas and every Christmas, we want girls to know they can be whatever they want to be, regardless of what retailers want to sell them. We believe that companies have a responsibility and a duty to encourage girls to use their imaginations and be inspired to explore, as widely as they can, the world of possibilities that is out there for them.

To do this, we need your help …

Early Learning Centre – Early Learning Emergency

At Early Learning Centre, we do all we can to help mums help children grow into happy, self-confident people.

We create fantastic toys – toys that help develop vital skills, toys that help children get off to the best possible start, and toys that are tremendous fun.

All our toys are designed to help children explore the boundaries of their imaginations and creativity, to make learning fun and help children be all they can be.

- Early Learning Centre ‘mission statement’ on their UK website

Mention its name and for many adults the Early Learning Centre will invokes happy memories of wooden toys and educational flash cards. Its ‘mission’ statement supports this ideology, but a quick glance at its catalogue and a walk around its stores tells quite a different story.

Pinkstinks believes the Early Learning Centre is acting irresponsibly.

In our opinion, the pages of passive, beauty-centred products in its catalogue, and a website where the search facility groups toys by gender, seem to suggest that for today’s children ‘the boundaries of their imaginations’ are being sadly limited. It’s too rigid and sorrowfully reminiscent of an era when expectations for girls were restricted to the roles of wife and mother. The Early Learning Centre doesn’t seem to be offering or actively promoting a choice for girls outside of normative gender constructs. In the stores there are no labels explicitly stating that some toys are for ‘boys’ and others for ‘girls’, but walk through the doors and immediately the swathes of pastel pink all along one side clearly signpost to a child what’s for them and what isn’t. Girls go one way, boys another – without even thinking about it. And we’re not convinced having a few pictures of girls playing with construction toys and making an ironing board available in pink and blue is enough. It feels like tokenism and we expect and hope for more from companies like the Early Learning Centre. We don’t believe this is real choice – more an illusion of choice.

The Early Learning Centre is by no means the sole culprit when it comes to gender stereotyping. It is not exclusively to blame and it didn’t cause the problems we now see arising. Pinkstinks does not wish to demonise the Early Learning Centre, it’s just that we anticipate and expect more from it. As a company which specifically promotes itself in relation to ‘learning’ and which so strongly states its good intentions, we want it to openly and publicly recommit to promoting positive learning experiences for children – boys and girls – which are non-gender specific, exciting and stimulating for all.

Join us in showing the Early Learning Centre that as mums and dads, concerned citizens, individuals and importantly as consumers, we want more for our girls and boys. Help us remind the company it has a corporate responsibility to abide by its ‘mission statement’ and help children grow into “happy, self-confident people” unhindered by narrow and damaging messages about what it is to be a girl or a boy.

Pinkstinks has come a long way since its humble beginnings. Born out of the frustration of two sisters and grown into what it is today with a little help from their friends, Pinkstinks is ready to take on a giant and we hope you come along for the ride. But we don’t just want to moan and complain, we want to assist the Early Learning Centre in improving its service to children. We want to help it be the best that it can be.

So come, be a part of something great and maybe this time next year the Early Learning Centre’s Christmas catalogue will have changed too.

Let’s follow the lead of Philipe, Ebba and their friends, because those 13 years olds proved that you can make a difference and sometimes, just sometimes, the underdogs do win!

Visit our website for our call to action – this is what we want you to do to support the campaign.

Dressed for success … WHAT?!

Just a quickie reaction to a piece in tody’s Times. Really you need to read it to believe it so here’s a link.

Fran Halsall is a brilliant and talented swimmer and one of our hopes for the 2012 Olympics. here’s the list of her achievements so far quoted from the Times:

“She won four medals at the 2008 World Short Course Championships in Manchester, including bronze in the 4 x 100 metres freestyle and silver in the 100 metres freestyle. At the Olympics in Beijing, she swam a British record of 53.81sec that helped the British quartet to set a new national record of 3min 38.18sec in the 4 x 100 metres freestyle. She also won silver in the 100 metres freestyle at the 2009 World Championships in Rome in August.”

But guess what? This is only the second best thing about her – or the most interesting anyway – because first we have to listen to the ‘journalist’ drooling all over her and telling us how the first and most important thing about her is that she’s “beautiful”. And she’s dressed in “killer heels”. He’s practically having orgasms over her and he apologises to his ‘lovely’ girlfriend in the same over excited breath.

I don’t even know where to begin really. But clearly it’s her looks which have got her everywhere and indeed helped her get the coverage in the paper under the headline “Dressed for success”. Nothing to do with pure hard work and determination; grit and strength; dedication, blood, sweat and tears? NO. It’s the killer heels and the “blonde hair flowing about her shoulders like a river of gold”.

I feel sick. Sick that this kind of journalism is still ok. I’m too annoyed to go on but I encourage us all to complain and to comment on the piece. Please. Because god help any athlete who isn’t good looking enough to appeal to the men who write about them.

 

I’d rather be pole-dancing

Gymbox: ‘I’d rather be pole-dancing’? You have to be joking? Right???

I saw representatives of this high street gym handing out leaflets in Leicester Square this afternoon, dressed in bright neon yellow jackets, and on the back printed their slogan: ‘I’d rather be pole-dancing’.  So, when I got home I checked out the site and here is what I found:

Pole-Dancing
Want the body of a stripper and any man in town? Then this is the class for you.

Forget ballet, tap and modern, the coolest way to get in the best shape of your life is on a shiny silver pole. How you explain that to your mother however is an entirely different matter. Oh, and here’s why you shouldn’t try it at home.

Yet another example of the mainstreaming of porn culture. It’s too late, and I’ve had too long a day, to go into the vileness of this. Add it to Marge Simpson getting ‘bunnied’ (see previous blog), playboy snowboards, ironic tops for babies with nipple tassles on and any number of other examples of the sexing up of our popular culture, and it becomes ever more obvious how mainstream and acceptable it’s all becoming.

I would like to recommend ‘Female Chauvenist Pigs‘ by Ariel Levy, if you’d like to read more on this raunch culture, as she calls it.

Marge gets ‘bunnied’

Just a quick one this evening but I simply had to say something about the fact that Playboy have a new cover star. And this time it’s Marge – from The Simpsons. Yes – even innocent cartoon characters cannot escape the clutches of Hugh Hefner.

I imagine that for many people, on first glance, it’s all a bit of innocent fun. It’s only a cartoon after all. But start thinking about it and I’m filled with horror on many counts. Firstly, it’s Marge! She’s a hero. She’s funny, intelligent, different – an icon. And she is loved by children all over the world. Secondly, Playboy have said that the reason they want to feature Marge is because they want to attract more 20-somethings as readers. That’s readers of porn – in case we forget. Thirdly – it sanitises and legitimises porn. It makes it something which can creep unnoticed into the realms of popular culture – and into the consciousness of our children.

We don’t yet know what hideousness awaits us inside the magazine, but Playboy’s editorial director promises us “it’s very, very racy,”. He goes on to say: “She is a stunning example of the cartoon form.”

Not amused

Not amused

Innocent fun? I don’t feel like laughing. I feel like Marge has been robbed from us in the name of porn. Whipped away from under our noses. She is a cartoon character who actually inspires many young girls to dare to be different. She’s been given the treatment – she’s been sexed up – and turned into an object to be leared at. Isn’t this the pressure that girls are under from every angle every day of their lives: sex yourself up – it’s the only way to succeed. How on earth do I explain to my daughter what this is all about?

And it’s only a matter of time before they move on … to Lisa perhaps? Not so funny when you start thinking about it like that is it?

More here on Shakira from the Guardian