Daisy Edmonds. This name might not mean anything to you, but search for her on Google and be prepared to be amazed by what you can learn from her and her mum. Whilst shopping in Tesco, this mother-daughter dream team stopped to compare some of the t-shirts aimed at boys and girls, and the resulting video soon went viral. It’s the same old message: Girls; please look ‘fabulous’ and boys; explore, have fun and live your dreams. That was 2016, so you’d think after the backlash that the video caused, supermarkets would’ve learned their lesson. Apparently not. Morrisons are the latest offenders, with their t-shirts stating ‘Little Man, Big Ideas’ and ‘Little Girl, Big Smiles’. I am not disputing that throughout history, men have had big ideas. But is anyone really naïve enough to think that whilst men were off concocting ingenious plans for telephones and worrying about falling off the edge of the earth, that women were just sat around praying that one day, someone from the opposite sex would invent them a kitchen sink and a non-stick frying pan?
I don’t think the Suffragettes were hoping that expert contouring would get them the vote, or that Rosa Parks tried batting her eyelashes at the bus driver in order to keep her seat. Have the one-stop-shop giants forgotten women who had their own big ideas: Jane Austen paving the way for female writers, modern nursing’s founder, Florence Nightingale, and the charity work of Princess Diana? I’m sure it’s unintentional that the designers of these clothes are contributing to conditioning young girls to be obsessed about their looks, after all, it is the world we live in; surrounded by bum implants, Instagram filters and on-fleek eyebrows. I’m guilty of it too (not so much the implants), but I know that my husband only allows one take of a joint selfie, whereas I like a selection so that I can choose which one makes me look the thinnest. It’s completely absurd- what talent is there to being thin? Isn’t it more impressive that I can rap every word to Nicki Minaj’s songs? Or that I once delivered 5 pug puppies? Or that I climbed/moaned my way up to the summit of Ben Nevis? Probably, but I’m still scrolling along those filters, seeing which one draws the least attention to the wrinkles around my eyes that I’m developing at an alarming rate.
Despite what you’re thinking, this isn’t a way of me coming out as a feminazi. But I’ve started paying more attention to children’s clothes since I had my daughter, and I don’t want her to think that she’s going to get ahead in life by being pretty (although she is). The qualities I admire most about my friends are that they are funny, interesting, thoughtful, brave, knowledgeable, ambitious and they don’t judge me even though I’m a Nicki Minaj-obsessed crackpot. It’s a coincidence they’re all beautiful on the outside too. I wouldn’t prioritise their ability to wing their eyeliner over their ability to make me cry laughing. Good thing really, because none of them have the winging knack. These are women that started a business in a male dominated industry, have been travelling around the world, saved people’s lives at work, run marathons, did a rope swing over piranha infested waters (so we told her, but I’m not sure Chorley streams are their natural habitat), moved to the other side of the planet for love, graduated, became fluent in another language, have bungee jumped and given birth (not at the same time). If I didn’t know that my family were reading this, I could add a few more interesting activities; things that I wasn’t involved in at all, and definitely did not instigate.
All that though, from a few girls from small towns in Lancashire. Yes, some of the time when we were growing up, we were little girls with big smiles (although, thankfully, I had a brace to correct the ridiculous size of mine). But we were all more than that! We had the big ideas too. Some were, admittedly, better than others, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. And that is what we told our dear friend after she went out wearing a Jodi Marsh-inspired scarf as a top. But scarf-bra aside, I can’t help but think that the attributes that the ladies in my life have, before you even start on their professional skill set, are something special. They’re equipped with bags of personality, and is that not the most important thing that comes across at interviews? They’re all experienced in their field of work, whether it be recruitment, nursing or teaching. So why is it that there’s nowhere more prevalent to see the gap in gender equality than in the workforce? Actresses, athletes, bankers, IT specialists (to name a few) all see a significant difference in pay for men and women, with men often occupying the most lucrative and powerful top jobs.
The pay gap is probably an article in itself. Everyone from Jennifer Lawrence to The Queen is talking about it. The bottom line there is that if two people do exactly the same job, should they not be paid exactly the same wage? No facts and figures needed, that’s just common sense. Is there any point in blinding everyone with statistics at this late stage, when you’re all still reeling from the revelation that there’s no piranhas in the North-West? I’m not an expert, and I don’t pretend to be; I’m just a mother with an aptitude for rapping and a fondness for the Skyline Instagram filter. But the idea that men are somehow much more capable than women has been drilled into us with subliminal messages our whole lives, we are even unwittingly dressing our babies in support of it! Yes, it must be great to be aesthetically pleasing, whether you’re male or female. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good about yourself and make an effort- I am still going to be giving my husband’s razor a workout over my legs before I wear a skirt, and I’m not going to burn my bra in protest to inequality, because breastfeeding has ensured I now require one permanently. My outward appearance is important to me- despite what everyone who saw me doing my food shop on Monday probably thought (just know that I was unaware of the bean juice on my shoulder until I got home). However, women are capable of much more than being pretty, let’s not forget that.
Disturbingly, I am seeing an increase in the amount of people willing to take their toddlers (all female) to ‘beauty pageants’. What pleasure anyone could possibly derive from sitting in a Con-Club on a Saturday afternoon, watching a room full of three-year-olds pout around with makeup on, all in order to win a crown that wouldn’t look out of place in Poundland, is beyond me. Bad enough if you actually win the plastic piece of crap and have to place it on your daughter’s insanely backcombed hairstyle, but if three people you’ve never met before don’t deem your baby to be the prettiest, the mothers have a full-on Facebook meltdown. Isn’t it sad that at three, these children, who will soon be impressionable young women, are competing against each other over something they can’t even change? How do you become better looking as an infant? A quick look back at my childhood photos tells me that if you didn’t have frizzy hair, a fringe your mum had cut to an inch with the kitchen scissors and odd socks on, you weren’t normal. Go and get your Playdough out, because you’ll have much more fun grinding that into your mum’s new carpet than you will having your flippers fitted. “What are flippers?” I hear you say. Flippers, are false teeth. For children. Exactly what we needed for the next generation. Teeth…to go over your perfectly normal, healthy, existing teeth. Leave the poor buggers to grow up normally, feed them some sweets and they’ll be getting a set of flippers in due course, stop propelling them into old age.
It’s great that women are now much more respected than they once were for their achievements and talents, rather than just being easy on the eye. But are they as respected as men? I wouldn’t say so. We haven’t progressed enough. Child beauty pageants serve only as a creepy time machine, ready to catapult us back to an era where women were objects, judged on their physical attributes. We need to be moving forwards, so that women can be respected for their personality traits, skills, intelligence and talents. I for one, do not want to see one more child popping up on my timeline with a set of dentures that would rival Mary Berry’s. That same child could grow up to find the cure to cancer, to win gold medals in the Olympic Games, be the next Prime Minister, or write a novel J.K Rowling would be proud of. Don’t put your daughters in a box labelled ‘cute’. Let them find their own box and they’ll turn out to be much more interesting human beings with some substance.
To the employers: women have great ideas, they are as innovative, resourceful and driven as men. As an employee: don’t put up with treatment you know you wouldn’t receive if you had the y chromosome in your corner. To parents: nurture an extraordinary mind, not a selfie fanatic. And to women in general: make the big ideas that you had as a small person happen, and remember that well behaved women seldom make history.
P.S. You won’t be disappointed if you look up children wearing flippers.