Category Archives: Uncategorized

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?

Back to school

The new school year has arrived with a bump and I’ve had a dose of writer’s block. So here goes with some brief updates and a hint of what’s to come from Pinkstinks.

Over the summer we’ve been following a few stories in the press which have been shining examples of how our celebrity culture outcasts anyone who dares to be different. I was chuffed to hear Angelina Jolie‘s response to some of the press’s savage reporting on the clothes that her daughter Shiloh wears and her hair cut. The girl is 4 years old. Jolie was forced into making a public statement about it in fact, which seems absurd, but the reporting was so horrendous I suspect she felt she had little choice. In doing so I think that she made a valuable and even brave public statement which will have touched many more people than I expect she thought it might. So in case you’re reading this Angelina – if you could get in touch we’d love to work with you.

While my sister and I were away over the summer we were excited to meet up with the founder of Princess Free Zone – one of the many organisations across the World which we’ve come across whilst working on the campaign. Michele came to Rochester, NY, where we were visiting family, from her home in Atlanta, Georgia. We spent a wonderful three hours (under some evergreens in a campsite) sharing our stories so far and talking over our plans for the future. She’s determined and she’s great fun so please offer all the support you can to her project. It’s going to be big. Most importantly we want, and need, to build these alliances across the world if we are ever going to be able to make a meaningful dent in all this nonsense going on around us. So, Michele – look forward to working with you in the future and that trip to London.

This week GirlGuidingUK launched their 2010 research into girls’ attitudes towards to a range of topics such Health and Well-being, Society, Culture and Community. There are some interesting findings in there both positive and negative – many of the negatives having been reported widely in the press. Girls worry about the pressure to look sexy springs to mind. The reports are well worth a read.

Girlguiding UK continue to do excellent work on reporting the experience of girls today but an article in the Guardian’s Comment is Free section highlighted a very valid point. Considering how girls react to, and are affected by, the pressures around them, in isolation of boys’ feelings towards to the same pressures leaves a gaping hole. That’s not to say that girls don’t face some particularly extreme pressures. But it’s foolish to think that it’s only girls who are affected by what they see around them.

We’ve often been asked why we focus mainly on products which are aimed at girls and have had many parents asking us to broaden our work into marketing messages which are aimed at boys. We made a conscious decision to remain firmly where we currently are, not least because we don’t have the resources to do more at the moment. But it’s important, I think, to point out that while we do focus on the ‘culture of pink’, the impact of it is felt by both girls and boys. What does it say to boys about what girls are like is a crucial question and one that we aim to address.

We are cranking up our activity following the summer break so please keep in touch and watch this space for more news to come.

Coming soon – The Paperchase Saga. Ah yes … it’s a goodie …

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.

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


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.”


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.