Putting together my baby shower registry was eye-opening—and a bit disturbing. Instead of worrying about which bottles were the easiest to clean, I started worrying about how ridiculously gendered much of the merchandise was. Having a girl? Here’s your Disney Princess wardrobe. Having a boy? Try this onesie that says “lock up your daughters.”
What happened to just letting kids expand discover what makes them happy? Why do we keep projecting our twisted ideas of gender onto them?
That’s the question Paula Espener asked when she shared an image of two coffee mugs on Twitter. One mug, lined pink on the inside, reads “DAUGHTER, PRINCESS, BABE” while the other, lined blue, reads “SON, FRIEND, HERO.”
“What a delightful message to spread to our children. Please do better,” Espener tweeted at Clintons, the popular UK stationery and gift store that carries the mugs. She also included the hashtag #everydaysexism.
Espener’s tweet went viral, with users commenting on how the mugs promoted outdated notions about gender, especially for women.
@ClintonsTweet are you saying that I can only be a Princess and not a hero?
Because that isn’t in my job description.#firefighter
— Antonia (@Flaminhaystack) July 8, 2019
“Are you saying that I can only be a Princess and not a hero? Because that isn’t my job description. #firefighter” wrote one Twitter user calling attention to the skewed message.
My daughter is smart and strong and fierce. She’s a good friend and a natural leader and absolutely my hero. Those mugs are #sexistbullshit
— Karen Cattler (@KCattler) July 8, 2019
Ah shit, here I was thinking I deserved a friend title too…
— Samantha Gizbo (@SamanthaGizbo) July 8, 2019
Others noticed the inherent creepiness of sexualizing young girls by referring to them as “babe.”
Is it me or are the words daughter and babe together just a bit creepy
— Hannah the Runner (@hannahtherunner) July 8, 2019
Babe? Beyond the sexism, that’s some creepy ick right there.
— Pandipants (@Pandipants1) July 8, 2019
Some users offered suggestions on how the mugs could be fixed by adding different descriptions that focus on achievement and intellect.
Hi @ClintonsTweet, presumably your marketing people spent a while coming up with the exact 3 words that you wanted to put on the mug? Maybe you could canvas Twitter for alternatives? Here’s one:
I bet you could get loads of suggestions.
— Iain Kings (@iaink85) July 8, 2019
Clintons responded to Espener apologizing for offending her.
Dear Paula, We are very sorry that this design has caused offence. That’s never the intention when we select our gifts. Your comments have been passed to our buying team for review today. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this further. Kind regards.
— Clintons (@ClintonsTweet) July 8, 2019
However, saying sorry for offending someone is not the same as owning up and taking responsibility—something Twitter users were quick to point out.
Instead of issuing lame apologies, Clintons needs to do better when selecting merchandise—because being a “hero” isn’t just for boys.
It’s not about causing offence. We’re offended. We think that it’s part of a damaging culture, and is open to criticism on that basis.
We don’t have to be offended. Our moral vocabulary is wider than that.
— Iain Brassington 🇪🇺 (@IBrasso) July 9, 2019
It’s not “offence”. It’s perpetuating a stereotype that subconsciously represses girls. As a society we must do better. Anyone can be a hero 🦸🏼♀️
— voldepork-6 (@voldepork1) July 8, 2019