Tag Archives: Sexualisation

Dear Parents and Carers- re. Ann Summers


Dear Parents and Carers*,
So Ann Summers has caused a furore by their really grim “I-scream” campaign.  Already lots of blog posts on it here, here, here, here, here and here. Rather than replicate the other fine posts on it, I was having musings of a slightly different angle.
When I was about 7ish I saw some people with bald heads giving away free papers. Knowing how much my dad loved free papers to make spills for our fire, I pulled his arm and drew attention to the men with the free papers, “Daddy daddy, free papers- let’s get some!”.  My dad pulled me away and explained that those skinheaded men were actually neo-nazi’s or the BNP (if it existed back then) and the free papers they were handing out were going to be horribly racist and he would never take them, not even to burn on our fire.**   When my dad explained what the newspapers were I distinctly remember claiming I wanted to go and get one and burn it in front of them (yes I was a 7 year old political activist, I was a member of the Woodcraft Folk- we kept trying trying to free Nelson Mandela- I knew that racist shit was wrong.) Yes, my dad did pull me away in case my 7year old head got kicked in- or his for having such a bolshy daughter!
But my point is this- yes kids are going to see unpleasant things on the high street. It’s unfortunate but true. The very existence of Ann Summers on the high street may need explaining at some point. As it happens I live very near a sex toy warehouse (as you do!), the sign outside makes it fairly clear what the company is.  We walk past it most days and at some point the kids will ask what the sign means, and I will tell them, an age appropriate version of the truth, “they sell toys for grownups” or something.  What I am trying to say is that yes Ann Summers is wrong and grim for this particular campaign but we can’t let such things abdicate  our responsibility as parents to explain controversial things they may question us about.   If anything it highlights the increasing need for parents to be prepared and equip themselves for such difficult conversations.
Don’t get me wrong I do think Ann Summers are disgustingly cynical for running this particular grim campaign, but I think we are all falling into exactly the publicity trap they want by getting so hysterical about it.  It’s the Daily Mail Technique all over again. Ann Summer’s couldn’t give a stuff that “the mums” are up in arms about it- we are not really their core target audience- they really want the bright young things, the 18-30-somethings yet to settle down the ones still actually having sex because they haven’t got kids, the ones who don’t want to be “the stuffy prudish mummy types”, so by alienating us, they increase their core rating with their chosen demographic. Or am I being cynical?
When pondering how to write this post, I was talking to @Itsmotherswork about the Ann Summers I Scream Advertising campaign as she is a mum and activist whose opinions I deeply respect.  She wrote the following which basically sums up exactly how I feel in a far better way than I could ever write, so I paste it below (reproduced with permission).

I think it’s deliberately provocative in a deeply unpleasant way. I think it draws together themes/images of sexuality and childhood in order to provoke a reaction; it does so knowingly having seen other similarly questionable campaigns raise the profile of other brands without taking a reputational hit to their brand value, and it’s because basically the people who buy into the Ann Summers brand aren’t the same demographic as those who get apoplectic over children’s exposure to sexualised images. For that reason I think that hysterical ‘anti’ campaigning only feeds the publicity machine in a way that they will be quite happy with. I’d prefer a subdued shrug of the shoulders and a “what a pity they’re prepared to walk that line just to court publicity” stance. (There’s no other possible reason for the theme of the campaign.) I do think that parents need to be ready to explain all sorts of images and ideas to their offspring, perhaps earlier in their lives than they imagined, and I do consider that a responsibility that they should take seriously. But I absolutely don’t think that it’s a responsibility that parents should shoulder alone. In a way that means that other adults who aren’t raising children can out whatever images they like into the world and leave parents having to deal with the explanations. What I’d really like to see is the Ann Summers team who commissioned the campaign and the agency that developed it, sitting down with children and answering the questions that the children have, which the campaign provokes. I think they should be required to confront the consequences of their provocation and deal with them honestly, and ideally while the parents of the children asking the questions watch them do it, and see how they manage. 🙂

Her final point is SHEER GENIUS!  Let’s call them to account in that way. Let’s ask them to sit down with the children and answer their questions about the campaign. Let’s confront them with the reality of their advertising.  In fact maybe we should call upon the ASA to set up just such a group for all advertising, it might just help to reign in this runaway “sex sells” technique, for I personally can’t see a advertising executive being very comfortable explaining what lubricant is to a 6year old. Can you?

Yours Sincerely

LadyAsking&AnsweringDifficultQuestionsCurd

P.S. *”Dear Parents and Carers” reads like a letter home from school- not sure they would ever send one like this home! but maybe schools should send letters home with tips and advice on where to get help and support to deal with difficult conversations like this?
P.P.S ** Although I distinctly remember a cheeky double standard re. not taking nasty things to burn. My dad used to put up Labour Posters everywhere during run ups to the election- and he “kindly” offered to help the Tory campaigner doing the same with his Conservative posters, by claiming he just did it as a dayjob he wasn’t affiliated to any party. The stupid arse believed him and our fire burned happily with Conservative posters for a while! HAHAH!)
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Dear Makeup


Dear Makeup,

Firstly I need to start by saying I virtually never wear you. I think the last time was when 7months preggers and I was on the telly (I mean you probably should then right? I mean millions* of people might have been watching) . I probably literally only wear you once or twice a year. I just find putting you on too much of a faff and can totally cope with my bare face being seen in public. This is mainly because I’m too much of a lazy fucker to spend the required time making my face up of a morning, only to realise by midday my efforts have assumed a rather panda like look and no-body has told me, and I never look in mirrors unless washing my hands after going to the loo, so it will have often been like that for hours until I will notice. Sigh. I can’t even be bothered to wear contacts so I wear huge heavy rimmed glasses – (the bonus being they hide the dark shadows under my eyes quite nicely- who needs Touche Éclat?) Brushing my hair and teeth everyday is about as far as my beauty regime goes.

Anyhow my mum was and is exactly the same- virtually never ever wears you, but still as a kid I remember playing about with her makeup kit loads and then between 12-19 I probably wore you most days (I was a Goth so it could take a while!) until I reached my twenties and was less bothered by it all. So I was interested to read this article where PinkStinks are calling for a ban on the sale of makeup toys to the under 8’s, as I am genuinely not sure how I feel about it.

Firstly kids (boys or girls) mucking about with make-up is just something kids do. I may not have older kids but I know toddlers love it. I know Oddler was enthralled when a friend of ours came round to ours to get ready for a wedding and she got to play a bit with the make-up. TBH I felt a little bit weird about it as the friend was more putting make-up on her than anything else (but then again you wouldn’t let a 2 year old completely loose on your Chanel and other uber expensive brand make-up!) and I didn’t want my daughter “made up” as I feel that is wrong- I don’t want my girls to ever feel like they need to wear make-up in order to be attractive, because I want them to feel beautiful without it, and I worried slightly this might sow some seeds into Oddlers mind about that. But the flipside is -Is Oddler missing out by having a mummy who doesn’t have a makeup bag to cause carnage in? Well I do, but I keep it ontop of the wardrobe (shows how often I use it!) and TBH I am pondering whether I do let her play with it at some point? To me my rather redundant makeup bag is no different than buying her a set of face paints (but without the effort of buying the face paints- see I told you I was lazy). I know she will end up looking like a complete makeup monstrosity and it would be hilarious.

There is NOTHING “sexualised” about a kid of either gender daubing their face in coloured substances. Oddler adores to draw all over herself in felt tip pen! The thing is its the fucked up adults in society who are projecting onto the kids. Some women wear make up, some wear a lot of make up and little girls want to be like their mummies, and they want to do what their mummies do, they aren’t doing it to be perceived as attractive or sexy like their mothers might be, they are just doing it because its what their idol does. So it’s a bit fucked up to freak out so much about kids playing with makeup, when actually what we should maybe be freaking out about is why so many adult women are so not comfortable in their own skins that they have to cover themselves in these make up masks in order to be perceived as beautiful, and then pass on those insecurities to their kids? (As an aside it amuses me how in many bird species it is the male who is expected to be the beautiful one putting on the displays, for the dowdy brown female one to choose the best of the bunch- just look at Peacocks and Peahens for the classic example!).

Don’t get me wrong I do think kids being properly made up to look like adults is wrong (Toddler beauty queens make me shudder), and I dislike the notion of “toy makeup” so personally I wouldn’t ever buy it for the girls, but might buy them proper makeup for secondary school. I think that is the responsibility of the parents bringing up the children to be aware of some of the issues about allowing or even forcing a kid to grow up too soon, and discussing with the children what some of these issues are, and to try to bring their children up as best they can in this very strange world we now live in. I don’t think banning make up kit sales in under 8’s is really going to make much difference in the grand scheme of things, but supporting parents to develop resilience and good self esteem in their children especially the girls might?

I expect (and hope) Oddler and Omble will ultimately end up rather like me. Go a bit mad with experimenting with you as a teen and then ultimately not be that faffed because they realise you are mostly unnecessary but can be nice for the odd special occasion. If they do, I reckon I’ve done my job as a mother ok.

Lots of madeup love

Lady I Do Own Touche Éclat But I Got It In Duty Free For My Wedding Day And It’s Gone Off And Stinks Curd

P.S In case you were wondering, yes I am a total minger without makeup, but I can live with that. 😉

*by millions I probably mean my mum. Hi mum!