Pink bunting. Cupcakes. “Girls getting together”. Bras.
Should these be the symbols of a progressive movement of women working to overcome poverty and address the real struggle for women’s rights? The symbols and language used to empower women?
A prominent international charity, in the space of only a few months, has done three things which make me think we are taking a giant leap backwards for women.
One. Launched the Big Bra Hunt where women were asked to donate their worn out and rejected bras.
Two. Encouraged women, sorry, girls, to have ‘Get Togethers’, to bake cakes and have tea parties. How quaint, let us bake our way out of poverty.
Three. Had Joanna Lumley wear a t-shirt which said that by shopping and swapping we could shop our way out of poverty and suffering. Obviously that’s all women are good at right? So why not just embrace it and shwop?
In no way is it wrong to put on events and develop initiatives that raise money to help charities do life-saving work in developing countries. That is not my issue. My issue is with the unintended consequences of these events and initiatives which reinforce gender stereotypes, infantalise women as ‘girls’ and turn a very serious agenda – of women’s rights – into little more than a shopping spree and cooking bonanza. This is no way to end inequality.
My request is for organisations to stop patronising women by suggesting we can overcome poverty by having fun little ‘girls nights in’, to stop reinforcing stereotypes, and to start taking inequality seriously. We can rise to the challenge of global inequality and poverty – so let us do it with dignity and self-respect, without talk of bras, and with our hands around a microphone, not a cupcake.