W H Smith’s: Enforcing gender stereotypes for generations; Or, actually some girls really don’t like pink.

I went for a trip to town at the weekend; I needed some canvases and to look for a job. All very boring, but something I saw while in the shopping centre irritated me.

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The poster that fills the window of W H Smiths, Freshney Place Shopping Centre, Grimsby.

Do I really have to explain why I find that irritating?
As a woman who can’t stand insipid pink, and a girl (fifteen or more years ago) who preferred orange, black, red or blue to pink, I would be more likely to buy the stationary aimed at, and according to this poster, for, males, than that aimed at females. I find it more aesthetically pleasing. The idea that girls need a pink glue stick, or a boy must only have a blue calculator is as ridiculous as the idea that women couldn’t possibly write using a pen not designed specifically for them (thanks Bic, I’ve no idea how I managed for almost thirty years).

Apart from the blandness of this poster – it’s a really obvious design and the models are characterless ‘standard middle class white boy and girl‘- the colour schemes reinforce ridiculous gender/sex stereotypes. That’s great if you happen to be a girl who likes pink or a boy who loves blue, but if you aren’t it’s really not. We’re bombarded daily with biological sex stereotypes (gender and biological sex, as assigned at birth, are two separate things); it’s background noise for most people. We automatically see something like this poster and our social conditioning tells us that the pink stationary is for girls and the blue is for the boys; the fakely smiling children used as illustration are unnecessary.

Social conditioning is a load of nonsense; what’s normal now was outrageous a hundred years ago and will be hopelessly old fashioned in twenty years. This idea of deciding what colour a person should like based on what is currently considered ‘normal’ is insidious discrimination. People make assumptions based on how close to the social norms another person seems; stray even a little from your assigned colour, clothing, toys etc., and you’re a freak who deserves to be bullied.

Clothes are just clothes, stationary is just stationary; each of us can wear, use etc whatever appeals to us as individuals, and a person shouldn’t be discriminated against just because what appeals isn’t in line with social norms. Advertising aimed specifically at young people should reflect the diversity of humanity. Teenage-dom is horrible enough without commercial organisations telling you what you should and shouldn’t like based on what’s in your undies.

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