Earlier this week I had the very rare chance to go into town by myself. This was approximately twice as exciting as Christmas Day, as I didn’t have to scour the streets for dropped kerbs for the buggy, steel myself for getting the buggy wheels caught on every narrow aisle, or deal with a meltdown from the children when it was time to stay/leave/breathe in/breathe out.
I found myself in Home Sense, wondering what my house might look like if it wasn’t festooned with Fisher-Price rejects, every single member of Paw Patrol in triplicate, and sticky fingerprints. (Answer: probably still shit – my interior decor skills stretch to wiping the countertops down for crumbs.) I wandered up and down the store, looking at all the bijou knick-knacks which my children would destroy and/or eat within twelve minutes. As often happens when I finally get some time to myself, I found myself in the children’s section, looking at books and toys for my tiny monsters.
And that’s where I saw this. Your eyes are not deceiving you. This is the most vomit-worthy marketing I have seen this year. And yet, and yet, some people say we don’t need feminism. So if you happen to be one of them, looking at this and thinking you’d buy it, here are my thoughts:
- I wonder if Homesense’s corporate values reflect that they judge female colleagues on their looks and male colleagues on their ability. I tweeted them to ask them this, but they didn’t reply. Do you want your female children to be paid less than your male children because of their vagina? If not, why would you value their looks over their intelligence (or kindness, or empathy, or whatever skills they might be able to develop other than looking nice)?
- If girls are “pretty like mommy”, what happens if “mommy” is just average looking? Or ugly? Of course it doesn’t matter, you argue. Children always think their mothers are beautiful. Great. So why are we pointing out the relative attractiveness of a (female) child?
I pointed out on our local community group, and was honestly surprised (and disappointed) at how many people leapt to his defence, saying it was just a joke, that they were a woman and they didn’t find it the least bit sexist, that I need to lighten up… despite the fact that it:
a) assumes that women staying at home with the children is the default position
b) that looking after the children is a bit of a jolly
c) men resent paying for their children and
d) shows zero awareness of one-parent families.
If this had been on a friend’s timeline, I’d have rolled my eyes, thought them an idiot and moved on. But this wasn’t a friend’s timeline – this was a publicly elected official, who presumably works with female colleagues and represents a constituency with 50% women. It highlights his attitudes towards them – in my opinion. This was a public post on his page – he is either hopelessly politically naive (and a massive sexist) or just a really massive sexist. Once I had pointed it out, the post was swiftly hidden or removed from public view.
And when the shops are selling bibs for judgement to be passed on your child based on its sex before they are even fully weaned, it’s easy to see how these behaviours are ingrained by the time you’re old enough to represent the public on your local county council, and that women become – well, a bit of a joke.
So when you, a woman, try and point out kindly and with understanding that it’s not really appropriate that EldestGirl’s brand new (not even opened yet, so plenty of time to flex arrangements) school has a house system with four houses all named after men, you become that woman, that parent. And who would I escalate it to – the local councillor?! And in the meantime, a whole new female generation gets to learn that what’s most important about themselves is they are “pretty like mommy” and “little princesses”. And the boys get to learn, “Don’t worry, guys. We don’t need to try. We’ve got this. We’re smarty pants. Boys are always leaders. We rule.”
And so they do.