Early Learning Centre – Early Learning Emergency by May Carolan


“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:

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

Definitely NOT in fashion on MTV – Clothes!

Just had to comment really, after a Saturday night in with the husband. I’m a bit out of touch it must be said, but we flicked through the MTV channels, plus their many cousins.  These days, there are a lot of them. I’m speechless. To put it mildly.

It seems that for women these days, particularly those anywhere near a dance record of any description, it really is not acceptable to be wearing clothes. Video after video, followed video and along came another one, yep and another one gyrating, legs akimbo, writhing and getting all excited. Practically ALL the women were behaving as if they were in some sort of sex-show. But really they’re pop stars, and some of the music really was pretty good. But my god! Where, oh where has everyone’s clothes gone? And what’s worse, is that time and time again, the men in the videos are sitting back, like kings on thrones, whilst women perform for them. They look down their noses, picking and choosing which one is going to be tonight’s lucky woman.

Ok. Examples:

Sugababes‘ new one: lyrics something along the lines of ‘look at me… oooh, I’m sexy’. The three of them dancing around in next to nothing in a cage.

Dizzee Rascal: really funky tune, lots of girls in a club, dancing around him, him choosing which one he’s going to take home (he’s no oil painting, believe me).

Shakira: wearing a 50% covered up catsuit (is that what they’re called?), dancing again, in a cage! Being a she-wolf. Then in another catsuit that’s skin coloured, so she looks naked, legs – spread wide.

Justin Timberlake: with some female soul singer from the states, she is wearing next to nothing, he is seated, whilst she rubs against him, up and down and turns him on.

David Guetta: DJ type, surrounded by women in tiny bikinis, all totally falling all over him.

And I can go on and on and on. I love house music, I love dancing, I love being in a crowd of people all loving the same thing. But tell me: what’s wrong with being in a t-shirt, jeans and trainers and really, really enjoying the tunes? Because by all accounts, in MTV’s world at least, you’re nobody, if you’re not getting the man, competing with other women and getting your body out for everyone else to judge you by. That is not what house music means to me. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

A trip to Number 10

We were thrilled to visit Number 10 today, with the other winners of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation awards. It’s an amazing building, steeped in history, which you can almost smell while you’re inside. We knocked on the imposing front door – the World’s most famous door! We walked up the famous staircase, with the portraits of every Prime Minister staring down at us. Still only one woman amongst the ranks, so there’s work to be done on this! It’s easy to imagine the subjects of the pictures moving and talking as in Harry Potter.

We visited the Cabinet room, and saw the table set and ready for tomorrow’s meeting. To think back on all the decisions which have been made in that room was pretty awe inspiring.We had a very decent cup of tea too in the state function rooms. All incredible in their own way and full of stories and details from every PM. It seems that every one of them leaves something behind. Harold Wilson – a clock, Margaret Thatcher – the ceiling decorations, Tony Blair – the trampoline in the garden!

We were invited to go because Gordon Brown was a lifelong friend of Sheila McKechnie and he continues to support the Foundation. And as we have become more familiar with the Foundation, it’s very evident that many people knew her, thought incredibly highly of her, and miss her now. But she lives on through the Foundation, which nurtures campaigners from all walks of life.  She was an inspiration and a formidable campaigner herself. “I am a fully paid up member of the awkward squad”, she famously said. She was Director of both Shelter and the Consumers’ Association and she left an indelible mark on both organisations.

I sincerely hope we can live up to her name. And she’ll be listed on our website as a role model from now on.

Photos to follow shortly …

Come on England, by Helen Donohoe

We all know that England play Germany in the Euro 2009 final later today (BBC2 / BBC sport online and BBC Five Live extra , 5pm kick off )

The media coverage of this tournament started off as almost non-existent but over the last week it has been excellent.  This is a fantastic opportunity to remind the media that we want to see, hear and watch coverage of women’s sport at all times and not just in these exceptional circumstances.

Here are some actions you can take today

1. Click through the web links about tonight’s game – do it as many times as you can.  The stats on number of hits will be analysed and do make a difference

Go here BBC coverage
Go here for The Times
Go here for The Guardian

2. Watch/listen to the game and at half time use as much electricity as you can. Surges (even small increases) in electricity use at intervals during broadcasts are used as indicators of number of viewers/listeners.

3. Email or text your support for the coverage

For example – thank you for your coverage of the England women’s team – it’s been great being able to watch it with my daughter / it’s been great to be able to see both England teams doing so well

BBC feedback page is here
Text Five Live on 85058

And finally if any of you watched the England men on ITV last night and were just as incensed as me at their jurassically dated commentary then you might want to email them too. I just sent this:


Dear ITV

I’ve been meaning to email you for some time with regard to your football coverage.

I am a life long Arsenal season ticket holder, I travel home and away to watch them and I have watched England on a number of occasions. I am also a woman.  Could you please brief your commentators that women follow and (as the BBC will be showing later) play football. Women have always watched and played football but I find it particularly astonishing that in 2009 I have to listen to Clive Tyldesley talking about 20,000 Englishmen travelling to South Africa. It’s outdated and factually incorrect. I’ve also had to explain to my daughter why Andy Townsend in a recent interview suggested that only if Coleen had a boy would Wayne Rooney need to worry about his offspring’s football affiliation.

If you want your football coverage to look half decent and relevant you might want a more sophisticated approach to your audience.

Best regards

Helen Donohoe