Last week I read an inspired campaign in my local paper about a group who successfully lobbied Sainsbury’s supermarket to remove sexist labelling from its children’s dressing up clothes. The clothes reinforced the typical gender stereotyping of roles including labelling a nurses outfit as ‘Girl’ and a pilot, soldier and superhero outfit as ‘Boy’.
The last time I checked, female pilots existed. And according to MOD figures 96% of posts are open to women in the RAF, 71% in the Royal Navy and 67% in the Army. Aren’t there also female super heroes? Superwoman, Wonder Woman and the Bionic Woman to name just a few.
This raises a far more profound point about how much work we still have to do before we can achieve the same level of equality which is comparable to other parts of Europe.
The kind of stereotyping by a supermarket giant like Sainsbury’s is especially dangerous because the public trust and recognise what they are told by the brand it is therefore a powerful voice and has the ability to reinforce such messages. In this instance the message sexist labelling sends to children and young women is, that their aspirations will always be limited.
We must challenge this kind of behaviour at every given opportunity and that is the only way we can even begin to achieve the same level of gender equality that are enjoyed by many of our neighbours.