This new website, developed and funded by the European Commission, came to my attention this week:

The site aims to teach children about farming in the Europe. Sadly it completely ruins any good work it does by using an image of an unhealthily thin and provocatively dressed young girl to guide users through the site.

I find it both shocking and depressing that the Commission’s Department for Health and Consumer Protection finds it acceptable to promote their work by using this image. Not only is it a horrific gender stereotype but it is also an extremely unhealthy image to promote to children. In the recent gender stereotyping report passed by Parliament, my colleagues and I noted that children are particularly impressionable audiences and that promoting unhealthy and unrealistic body images can negatively affect young viewers’ self-perception.

The DG Health evidently was not listening.

I have written a priority question to the Commission asking them what they were thinking of when they made this site and how much it cost to develop. I am also currently rallying support in the Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee to take further action.


Yesterday I heard back from the British Advertising Standards Authority regarding the complaint I lodged against Ryanair’s latest bout of sexist advertising. Because Ryanair’s publicity emails were sent out from the company’s headquarters, it is the Irish ASA that I need to contact with my complaint.

What is exciting is that the Irish ASA has a clause in its code of advertising standards stating:

‘Marketing communications should respect the principle of the equality of men and women. They should avoid sex stereotyping and any exploitation or demeaning of men and women. ‘

The UK code does not have this, despite the calls earlier this year from the parliamentary Gender Equality committee for all European advertising monitors to address gender stereotyping. In fact, the British ASA contacted me in July to say that a clause on gender stereotyping would not be necessary. They argued the ASA code already provides sufficient regulation to ensure that advertising is not discriminatory or harmful to women.

Ryanair’s recent advertising proves the British ASA wrong. Adverts containing harmful stereotypes persist. I have written to the Irish ASA to complain against the adverts. But I shall also find out whether Ryanair used the same publicity in Ireland as in the UK. I want to know why Irish women are protected from this advertising, but not British women.

If you would like to see the text of my letter to the ASAI, please join the facebook group below:


business, Gender
Yesterday the Parliament hosted a conference on breaking gender stereotypes in small and medium-sized businesses. It brought together female and male entrepreneurs from across Europe to debate and share best practice on how to overcome sexist stereotypes in business.

Such discussions are vital for several reasons. They aim to make the work place fairer for all employees, encouraging people to be recognised for the skills they bring to a business rather than just for their gender. But this conference was also organised in order to help SMEs increase their productivity. It is essential that, especially during an economic downturn, the EU supports its smaller businesses. And smaller businesses can only truly maximise their resources if they allow their staff to flourish with supportive work-life measures for women and men and with equal opportunities for all.

For me, this conference is what Europe is all about: bringing together different national experiences to forge progress across the continent. Notions of ‘intercultural dialogue’ and other EU projects can sometimes seem unconnected with the everyday life of Europe’s citizens. But here is an example of exactly that dialogue in action. It will have a dramatic impact on citizens if it means that work places become fairer and more flexible for both men and women.

Of course, I can never understand why the Tories are so dogmatically eurosceptic. Perhaps if they had attended this excellent meeting they would have seen just how much Britain stands to lose if the Tories take us further away from Europe.

You can find out more about this EU programme here:


Body Image, Gender, Sexual Equality

A report on how marketing and advertising affect equality between women and men has just been passed by the European Parliament Women’ Rights Committee.

It is an important document, highlighting how advertising fuels and highlights inequalities based on gender. Since advertising is designed to influence us, its impact on sexual equality cannot be underestimated. The report drew heavily on research conducted in Germany by the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Ministry of Labour in Poland. which showed that gender stereotypes consolidate narrow gender roles, thus restricting life opportunities.

I put down amendments to the report on body image, drawing attention to a publication by the British Medical Association entitled “Eating Disorders, Body Image and the Media” which states that media portrayals of the ideal body image can adversely affect the self esteem of women, particularly teenagers and those susceptible to eating disorders. One of my amendments called on advertisers to consider their use of extremely thin women more carefully while another pointed out that advertising could be a strong tool in challenging and tackling stereotypes.

I also submitted an amendment expressing extreme concern at the advertising of sexual services in local newspapers and other publications, something I know Harriet Harman, Barbara Follett, Fiona Mactaggart and other sisters in the House of Commons are taking up.

All my amendments were passed by the Women’s Committee and will now be voted on by the whole European Parliament.