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.