In the run up to Christmas feminists have been busy campaigning against Marks and Spencer, forcing them to make all toys gender neutral rather than aimed at boys and girls. Labour MP Mary Creagh has gone even further and even attacked Thomas the Tank engine for not having enough female trains. I realise that plenty of our MPs are rather out of touch and have their priorities completely wrong, but surely Creagh tops the lot in describing the lack of female train drivers as a “national scandal”. They’re certainly fairing far better than male nursery workers. Thanks to the toxic policies and ideology of Creagh’s party, so many young children lack male figures and role models in their lives, thus in that context a tv programme reflecting masculinity in a positive light for a change can only be a good thing (even if the males are only allowed to be shown as trains rather than actual human beings).
At HEqual we too take issue with certain gendered products aimed at children, with Todd Goldman’s “Boys are stupid, thrown rocks at them” range coming to mind far above anything else. The contrast between the “problems” with Thomas the Tank engine and Goldman’s range couldn’t be more pronounced. Creagh complains about books from a time when the railway industry was male dominated, which at that time was largely out of necessity. The “Boys are Stupid, throw rocks at them” book was published some 59 years later yet is infinitely more sexist. The following are excerpts from descriptions of the book:
Trendy Wendy knows. She knows that boys are stupid. And smelly. Trendy Wendy, whose motto is “Buy me stuff,” knows all about boys. Now she shares her urgent message – “Throw rocks at them!” – with girlfriends everywhere.
Irreverent, hilarious, and outrageous are mild words to describe this 96-page, full-colour, sad but true testament to the pathetic flaws that are ever so apparent in boys. Narrated by Trendy Wendy, the feisty stick figure with big blue eyes, Boys Are Stupid articulates exactly what girls wish they could do to boys – well, sometimes – while shining a light on the terrific attributes of girls. Along the way, she even reveals where boys come from – the stupid factory.
To suggest that stupidity is somehow intrinsic to male children is clearly sexist and probably going to widen already troubling gender education gaps and contribute to the problem of our schools failing boys on a mass scale, ruling boys out of huge numbers of careers rather than just discouraging them from maybe considering driving trains. Furthermore, the product exacerbates such a situation by telling girls how super they are to the opposite sex. Finally, it takes these slurs and uses them to excuse and even promote serious gender-based violence towards male children.
A decade ago ago, Glenn Sacks gained and huge amount of support and attention for his campaign against Goldman’s hateful products, with thousand of outlets withdrawing clothing and other items. Today, it’s currently harder to get hold of the range, but the book in particular seems to have managed to remain on sale, and so many sellers have been happily pushing this hateful message and promoting violence against boys. Those guilty of selling the product include some of the largest retailers in the world.
HEqual made contact with various UK business profiting from this hateful book, explaining why this publication is so problematic and asked them to stop profiting from promoting gender-based violence against boys. Our campaign has already proven to be a major success, a number of smaller retailers shared our concerns about this product and stopped selling it when alerted to its content. Our thanks to Bookshop ISBN, Pozor Books, Bangzo, Jazmin Books and OOdals for taking a responsible position on this issue.
For the second stage of the project we contacted UK book wholesalers, and we’re delighted to announce that the UK’s two biggest companies in this field, Gardners and Bertrams and have now withdrawn this product, both at wholesale level and in their retail arms (Hive.co.uk and Wordery). Our thanks in particular to Gardners, who have taken the time to share our concerns and the news of the withdrawal with the publisher of the book, and to Wordery, who have also withdrawn the calendar in the same range.
I should of course add a note that we’re all for freedom of speech at HEqual. Although distasteful, it’s true that in a free society companies should be able to chose to profit from hate speech informing girls how stupid the male gender is (though we expect most people would draw the line at their freedom to incite violence against male children). The other side of this coin is that we’re equally free to expose what these companies are doing, and so any firms insisting on selling new copies of this publication to children after being contacted by us will be listed in a future post.
Ultimately, the sale of this SCUM Manifesto for girls should be limited to the vilest feminist bookstores and murky corners of the internet rather than being marketed to our children by supposedly reputable retailers. Thanks to our work, things are headed in that direction already. Readers should feel free to join in our campaign and contact any remaining sellers still profiting from this item.