Tag Archives: gender

ASA Will Introduce Guidelines for 2018 on Gender Stereotyping in Advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority has reviewed its approach to ads that feature stereotypical gender roles, following the publication of an investigation into gender stereotyping in advertising; the Depictions, Perceptions and Harm report. The report claims that gender stereotyping in advertising causes harm towards individuals, the economy and society.

In 2015, the infamous “Beach Body Ready” advert sparked concerns for the sexualisation and objectification of women in advertising, creating a conversation with ASA about how women are portrayed as desirable based on their bodies:

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ASA conducted a review following the complaints, but now the regulators are receiving complaints about ads that feature sexist stereotypes or mock people who don’t follow traditional roles. The new standards are only guidelines and are not intended to ban all forms of gender stereotypes, e.g. there will not be a ban on ads showing a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks. However, subject to context and content considerations, the evidence suggests the following types of depictions are likely to be problematic:

  • An ad which depicts family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up
  • An ad that suggests a specific activity is inappropriate for boys because it is stereotypically associated with girls, or vice-versa
  • An ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or household tasks

“CAP will report publically on its progress before the end of 2017 and commits, as always, to delivering training and advice on the new standards in good time before they come into force in 2018.”
So, the ‘guidelines’ suggest that agencies, brands and companies should consider whether the stereotypes shown in their campaigns would “reinforce assumptions that adversely limit how people see themselves and how others see them”. Here is a list of what should be avoided:

  • Roles: Occupations or positions usually associated with a specific gender.
  • Characteristics: Attributes or behaviours associated with a specific gender.
  • Mocking people for not conforming to stereotype: Making fun of someone for behaving or looking in a non-stereotypical way.
  • Sexualisation: Portraying individuals in a highly sexualised manner.
  • Objectification: Depicting someone in a way that focuses on their body or body parts.
  • Body Image: Depicting an unhealthy body image.

Ads suggesting specific activities were suitable only for boys or girls are problematic and something ASA advises against. This is a topic I investigated at university for my gender project and for my dissertation exploring masculinity in modern advertising. It’s quite incredible (and worrying) to to dissect the vast range of gendered stereotypes advertising still depicts. There is an enormous list of adverts that have been criticised for depicting masculinity and femininity stereotypically, and here are just a few examples:

Aptamil depicting gendered roles for boys and girls

KFC suggesting anxiety/mental health isn’t manly (the ad has been taken down – sorry for the poor quality!)

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GAP portraying only boys as academics

Whilst a lot of people will claim that these guidelines are “over-sensitive” and “PC”,  the mocking of women and men and the reinforcement of stereotyped views of gender roles are issues that have gained considerable public interest, with the facts to support the claims:

The move follows a major research project from JWT (New York) and The Geena Davies Institute in the Media which analysed 2,000 ads and found that women in advertising are “humourless, mute and in the kitchen’. According to the research, women are 48% more likely to be shown in the kitchen.

JWT’s recent Women’s Index surveyed 9,000 women and found that 85% of them felt advertising and film needed to “catch up with the real world”. Additionally, since concerns were raised about gender portrayal in advertising, brands have taken a conscious decision to change the way men and women are depicted. Unilever recently teamed up with Mars, Facebook, and WPP to form the Unstereotype Alliance – a group dedicated to purging gender bias from ads – followed by an ‘Unstereotype’ pledge. Following this, they created Dove and Lynx ads which aimed to smash traditional gender roles, and consequently saw a 24% increase in consumer ratings.
Lynx ‘Find Your Magic’ is actually one of my favourite male brand ads:

In a time where we need feminism, diverse masculinity and gender diversity more than ever, I think this is a wonderful idea. The fact that they are guidelines rather than rules also helps show people that based off research, this sets a standard that we should all (not just creatives) adhere to when it comes to gender. Sort of like a moral code.
It’s hard to believe that 40+ years after the Sex Discrimination Act we are still seeing gender discrimination on our screens.
Often, I wonder if people are becoming desensitized to feminism because a large majority of people actually believe that women have equal rights just because we won the right to vote or can become a CEO. When it reality, we are far from gender equality – salaries aren’t the same, women and discriminated against and girls are still sexualised.

So if you think this is “over-sensitive”, you need to EDUCATE YO’SELF!

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Pepsi, this is how it’s done. Heineken: Worlds Apart | #OpenYourWorld

Remember the best April Fools joke of all time (aka Pepsi’s car-crash ad featuring Kendall Jeanner)? Well, it seems Heineken has taken on the concept of ‘peacemaking via the sharing a drink’ in their new ad “Worlds Apart”.
The spot features sets of people who have opposing views on feminism, climate change and gender. They are tasked with a team building construction project, then shown their VT tapes (which reveal their opinions) and consequently asked if they wish to stay for a beer or leave. Whilst I have my doubts about the authenticity whenever brands use social and political discussions in ad concepts, I think Heineken pulls this off nicely. Pepsi should take note.

At the end of the ad, I found myself smiling about the fact that the transphobic man used the correct pronouns for the trans* woman: “I’d have to tell my girlfriend that I’ll be texting another girl. She might be a bit upset with that, but I’ll have to get around that one.”

What makes this work 10 million times better than the Pepsi ad? Well, agency Publicis London targeted a post-Brexit UK (like Pepsi tried and failed to do in a post-Trump world) by including discussion and conversation within the ad, rather than attempting to create a satire-style video with white-washing for ‘the resistance’. The suggestion that a beverage can heal a very divided society is a strong and fragile statement, and whilst I have my doubts about the intentions of brands who go down this route, this is the perfect counteragent for our Pepsi wounds.

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Advertising and Gay Men: How the Media Avoids Gay Intimacy in Advertising

One of the most beautiful and important things about working in the creative industry, whether it’s photography; graphic design; music; dance; acting; writing, is that it allows people of any background, gender, race, sexuality, age to express their opinions and beliefs in whatever medium they wish. The creative industry is at the forefront of self expression and freedom, which has always encouraged and inspired me to pursue a career in this field. Advertising in particular is, as we know, incredibly influential – whether you enjoy ads or just stare blankly during the commercial breaks – they can help convey messages to a wider audience.
Although I am part of British advertising, and we have produced some incredible and iconic work that is undoubtedly timeless, ever since I can remember having an interest in the industry I have been unable to shake off one very obvious tactic used by agencies: appearing pro-LGBT, but avoiding gay men. Obviously, showing gay couples in ads is a very recent (and important) thing, but as equality has progressed so rapidly in the last 10 years I have found myself questioning why the media prefers using lesbian characters over gay men.

Last night I watched a bizarre (but fascinating) documentary ‘For The Bible Tells Me So’, which documents the ways in which conservative Christians have exploited religious teachings and scriptures to deny LGBTQ+ rights. Without spoiling too much, one factor which stood out like a sore thumb was the fact that the parents (of gay children) being interviewed all expressed fears of having a “faggot son” (they said those exact words), even if the story ended up focusing around their lesbian daughter. There was a continual theme of obsessing over the fear of a gay son. As we all know, homophobic beliefs all stem from religion, and their target is 9 times out of 10 going to be gay men.
Why?! Well, as the husbands in these documentaries (and in most religious and/or homophobic households) have the final say on what goes, men generally have more discomfort towards gay men than lesbians. It all stems from a fear that gay men will try to have sex with them (don’t flatter yourself) or influence their sons’ ‘sexual behaviour’. It probably also relates to the fact that mentions of sexuality in the Bible only relate to men sleeping with other men. Lesbianism became publicly demonised during the Victorian era.
I have no idea why gay men seem to receive more homophobic abuse (I know, that is a sweeping statement), and this is particularly evident in the homophobic slurs used – I can name only a few related to lesbians, but gay insults based on gay men are endless. There is a fear and disgust surrounding gay sex, whereas lesbians are often used as part of the male sexual fantasy. Funnily enough, I always wonder whether these religious homophobes get off on girl-on-girl fantasies but heaven forbid two men together! Gross!

[Before I get into the advertising part of this blog, I want to say that I am by no means denying or deflecting homophobia against lesbians, nor am I insinuating that gay or queer women receive less discrimination than gay or queer men. These are merely my observations about the representation of gay men in advertising].

So what the hell does this have to do with advertising? I believe it all stems from the same place – whilst companies, agencies and brands are largely trying to be inclusive by introducing LGBT narratives, the avoidance of male couples is remarkably salient in advertising.
In the US (certain states, of course, we couldn’t have two guys in love being aired in Texas now could we) the depiction of a range of LGBT couples has been, overall, fantastic in comparison to what it was like as recently as 5 years ago. This is particularly amazing for gay men who seem to have an equal platform in terms of narrative to lesbian couples or female same-sex families. Certain states in the US are notorious for being openly pro-LGBT and have no qualms when it comes to presenting gay men in their commercials. A lovely example of this is cosmetics company Lush who recently launched a Valentines Day campaign for 2017 featuring non-heteronormative couples in their campaign. Wonderful! A gay couple are featured as a header on the US website, alongside other gay and lesbian and gender-nonconforming couples in the campaign:

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They even released a very sweet statement for the campaign:

At Lush we believe that love transcends gender. We set out to do one thing when creating our Valentine’s Day visuals, we wanted to capture love between two people and we believe that’s what we have done here. The fact that our loyal and loving fans are starting their own conversations using our visuals and #loveislove absolutely warms our hearts.

But, (and this is a big but), why on earth didn’t this transcend to the UK website for Valentines Day?! There is no mention of the LGBT campaign – no photos, no #loveislove hashtags, just a crappy photo of a heart-shaped bathbomb. This kind of contradiction and blatant picking-and-choosing of where to present certain messages makes the campaign and the company come off as inauthentic, consequently using the gay community to publicise a Valentine’s Day sale. Love is a universal experience, so why can’t Lush’s campaign be? My theory is that British ad men and women are too afraid to upset anyone. We are so apologetic and fearful of offending in the UK that it’s affecting how we stand up for what we believe in.
To reiterate, this seems to be a bizarre UK problem – as a country where gay marriage finally opened its doors to lots of British gay couples and proudly abolished Section 28, I struggle to accept that the advertising industry has moved forward in this way too. The only time I ever seem to see gay couples represented correctly in advertising is when Pride in London is being advertised!
Another very sweet Valentine’s Day campaign featuring a man proposing to his boyfriend by Hallmark has done a fantastic job at normalising gay love in a campaign with lots of other couples celebrating international the day of love:

There’s no hashtags about equality, no clickbait, no hint towards inclusivity, just a mix of normal people showing us what love means to them. Of course this was a campaign in the US! This is the third consecutive year that Hallmark features a gay or lesbian couple in their Valentine’s day ad. I’ve never seen any of those campaigns here, despite Hallmark being a retailer in the UK.

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Ok, for a moment I will stop listing the negatives, and actually praise a British brand who has defied the norms when it comes to gay male affection in marketing – Lloyds! It’s been noted that brands are failing to represent LGBT+ people in mainstream marketing campaigns, but Lloyds Bank have been praised for advancing LGBT diversity both internally and through its brand communications. Perhaps Lloyds being no.2 in Stonewall’s Top 100 LGBT Employers 2016 rankings influenced the fantastic campaign for ‘He Said Yes’, a same-sex proposal featuring two men.

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Here’s what Joey Hambidge (client account manager at Stonewall) had to say about the importance of LGBT representation in marketing:

While campaigns around Pride season are encouraging and to be applauded, consistent year-round communication with the LGBT community and featuring LGBT people within mainstream campaigns sends a strong message of inclusion and support.
Lloyds Bank springs to mind due to its recent mainstream commercial featuring a male same-sex couple’s proposal. Many young people entering the industry have grown up with an inclusive mentality. Their social circles can be mixed and varied so they are looking for companies that reflect these values. So even if someone may not identify as being LGBT themselves, finding an LGBT-inclusive employer is often important to them.

Lloyds Bank could have so easily used women in the ‘For Your Next Step’ ad, but I absolutely believe they did the right thing by using two men. Not only were they featured in the ad below, they have also been used on huge underground billboards and posters:

Lloyds Bank have actually featured same-sex couples in its advertising since 2010, and Marketing Week have written exactly why this is so important in an article here. I feel honoured to have worked with such an inclusive brand during my time at adam&eveDDB.

Unfortunately, Lloyds Bank are the exception in the UK. Whilst doing my research for this blog post I came across one of my favourite websites, Pink News, which had a news section on gay ads – hoorah! Lots of content to prove me wrong! Not quite…….. as wonderful as they all are, they’re all American. Check out the list here.
There has been cataclysmic shift in the portrayal of homosexuality in advertising, particularly when it comes to the likes of fashion brands such as Dolce & Gabbana producing homoerotic ads for years. This is an improvement to be noted – we’re hardly seeing any half naked, muscle bound and oiled up Adonis, instead we’re seeing gay men being portrayed in a mundane, family-orientated way, like the ads mentioned above. This still isn’t good enough – all of these campaigns (including Lynx’s ad featuring a dancing man in heels; Lynx’s “kiss the hottest girl… or the hottest guy” adTylenol’s #HowWeFamily campaign, to name a few) are American and Australian. They aren’t broadcasted on British TV, even if though sell the exact same products or services here.

Whilst we should always praise and encourage the portrayal of lesbians in advertising, as the sexualisation and fetishism of lesbians is still rife in the media, it’s difficult to ignore the blatant use of two women being more comfortable viewing than two men.
Match.com really had the chance to represent the LGBT+ community in a normal way like a lot of the ads above have done. Lots of dating apps and websites are now trying to convey a message of inclusivity – that their services are not just for straight people. As part of their campaign, Match.com decided to dedicate one spot to two girlfriends who supposedly found love through the website. I cannot help rolling my eyes and cringing every time I see the following ad on TV:

‘Messy Girl’ actually was no.3 on the top 10 complained about UK ads, because of kissing women (896 complaints). Despite the ridiculous amount of homophobic complaints, I do not respect Match.com for this campaign, and I cannot support their efforts. I find the entire narrative unnecessary – the “messy” story did not need to include lesbians undressing (with lacy lingerie on underneath… come on, really?!) where all the other spots for the same campaign are not sexualised, and instead portray the innocent, adorable and quirky aspects of dating and falling in love.
The entire ad screams male gaze, and Match have clearly spent no time researching into what it means to the LGBT community to be represented in advertising. ‘Messy Girl’? more like Messy Idea! Who wrote this sh*t?

Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas ad saw an enormous amount of praise not just from creatives surrounding the concept and execution, but also from families in the UK – particularly same sex parents who were thrilled to see female same-sex parents along-side mixed-race families and a single dad:

Whilst successfully reflecting modern British families, I can’t help believing that two women were favoured over two men. Even though they are animated characters, lesbian women are predominantly more accepted over gay men because society still does not feel comfortable with the idea of gay male sex. You might be thinking “calm down, how on earth did you go from innocent animated characters to gay sex?” well, that’s how homophobes’ minds work – they believe the representation of same-sex parenting is damaging and has a gay-agenda. So, ASA (or whatever standards authority board) receive complaints, ads get taken down, and clients/agencies steer clear of pro-LGBT concepts for fear of offending. I can’t tell you why people think this way, but I can tell you it is still a very big and very ridiculous problem. It’s particularly concerning that very few UK brands choose to represent male couples, particularly affectionate or intimate gay couples.
I think the current discrimination epidemic seen during the US election speaks volumes in terms of how far we have to go regarding LGBT rights. From what I have seen on social media, people have (up until the election) remained naive and unaware of how discriminatory certain groups of people can be, and how manipulative they can be when working in numbers. A lot of people in this world genuinely believe gay sex is demonic, and that those showing it on TV are pushing an ‘agenda’ to turn their kids gay. These same people compare gay men (never lesbians) to pedophiles. If it wasn’t so tragic, I’d laugh.

I want to end this blog post on a positive note – the note being Thomas Cook – a UK company who have subtly flown the flag for the LGBT community in this lovely ad called ‘You Want We Do’:

Again, no hidden messages; no hashtags; no trends; no exploitation, just a bunch of different people all wanting a great holiday with the ones they love.
Jamie Queen, marketing director for Thomas Cook Group told Marketing Week:

I think marketers can always do more to represent the needs of the consumer and that’s what we’ve tried to do with the gay kiss. It comes down to the needs of our customers and addressing a modern population.

Aside from the wonderful representation of gay partners (header image) and gay dads (below), the ad itself is actually wonderfully art directed and shot.

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To conclude, what I’d like to say to creatives is, don’t be like Match.com – be like Thomas Cook – be revolutionary, be bold, be authentic. Feature gay love, feature men playing tonsil tennis, and do it with conviction. Don’t worry about the complaints, the Bible bashers and the ratings. You are the voice, and we are living in a time where your compassionate creativity is needed more than ever.

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Gender Stereotypes and Children: Stop Gendering Toys!

It’s like something from my childhood imagination! Created by Proximity BCN with production by Post23 for Christmas last year, this ad for Audi Spain goes way beyond a whimsical animation. At first glimpse, one would assume this is an advert for a toy store in Spain.
The animation is an attempt raise awareness regarding gender-specific toys – an important message that plenty of other kids brands have attempted to explore. The campaign was accompanied the hashtag #CambiemosElJuego (“Let’s change the game”) to start a discussion about the topic online.

Eva Santos, Creative Director at Proximity says:

There is a growing trend for brands to communicate what they are all about and how they intend to improve people’s lives.

So, this is an experiment rather than Proximitie’s beliefs?… Weird statement. Anyway, Audi Spain rep Ignacio Gonzalez sums up the idea more eloquently:

“The Doll That Chose to Drive” is the brand’s way of helping to promote a more egalitarian social model … starting with boys and girls, tomorrow’s drivers.

This topic is something I’ve explored a lot (especially at university) – the gendering of children’s toys being limiting, and frankly archaic. Smyths Toy Superstore followed the genderless toys notion, featuring a cartoon boy in princess fancy dress (although the ad is pretty crappy itself):

Smyths were highly praised for the ‘If I Were A Toy’ advert for breaking gender stereotypes, but this wasn’t the first time a kids’ ad had the support of gender-variant consumers – Barbie released a Moschino Barbie (costing $150…. what-the-f!) in 2015, alongside an advert for Mattel featuring an adorable boy. For the first time ever, a boy was been featured in a Barbie commercial:

The list could go on! More and more, I’m seeing both girls and boys sharing their toys and blurring the gender lines in adverts, ignoring gendered products forced upon them by society’s notion of gender. It’s a very bizarre concept considering consumerism and mass-consumption of gendered products are entirely created by social constructs! The strict divide in gender when it comes to children is something adopted by familiarity – they don’t come out wearing gendered clothes, asking for a pretty pink pony.

Here’s an image by one of my favourites, Barbara Kruger, which is think is very apt for this topic:

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National Geographic: Gender Revolution

National Geographic will devote an entire January 2017 Special Issue to an exploration of gender, featuring cover star Avery Jackson (9-years-old). Avery first made her name earlier his year when Planting Peace painted a house they had bought across the street from the Westboro Baptist Church compound in Topeka (2013) in the LGBT and trans* flags, and declared Equality House a symbol of peace and positive change for the LGBT community. It was Avery (then 8 years-old) who came up with the idea for a trans house, and helped paint it:

I love the transgender flag—it’s beautiful and makes me smile. I’m happy that we will have a house painted like the flag to show that transgender people are beautiful and will make them smile.

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Now, trans voices like Avery’s are being heard more frequently, and her story is being told on 27th December 2016 alongside an in-depth look into gender from different perspectives. The special issue will address gender identity, sexuality, puberty, and the problems those who don’t confirm to traditional gender norms endure physically, mentally and socially. The issue is parallel to ‘Gender Revolution’, a two-hour documentary co-produced and hosted by Katie Couric, premiering on Nat Geo in early February.

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This special issue is being published at a really crucial time in history, as young trans* suicides have risen and transphobic abuse is the norm online. On top of a presidential committee next year who are all anti-LGBT, it’s important that influential media representatives like the National Geographic represent gender in a human, kind and inclusive way. Although the negative connotations surrounding the trans* community seem to be as strong as homophobia was 50 years ago, a lot of progress has been made, and that’s largely thanks to media outlets like the National Geographic, who allow gender-nonconforming and trans* folk to share their unique stories with the world.

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Nike: Da Da Ding

Wieden+Kennedy (Delhi) wanted to tackle the issue that Indian advertising is still dominated by light-skinned women usually depicted in the home, leaving little to no inspiration for women who have no interest in being a housewife, or simply wish to enjoy sports and training. Sportswomen in particular are hugely under-represented in Indian advertising because girls are typically encouraged not to participate in anything that doesn’t benefit marital decisions or their assumed futures as mothers.

Mohamed Rizwan (Creative Director at Wieden+Kennedy, India) said:

Sport in India has a massive image problem, particularly for women. What we set out to do is give it a complete makeover by making it cool, accessible and fun. To that end, we commissioned some of the best image makers and musicians, and got together a crew of women that best represent sport in India right now.

Incorporating fierce sports stars, Indian pop culture and a catchy beat, this fantastic (and clasically Nike) ad was also accompanied by album artwork for the song “Da Da Ding”. W+K co-wrote the lyrics to “Da Da Ding” with Gizzle – at first glance, I assumed the song was a Missy Elliott number, but is in fact by Gener8ion feat. Gizzle. The fast-paced, inspiring song perfectly compliments the stars of the advert. These include national hockey player Rani Rampal, surfer Ishita Malaviya and former national badminton player (and Indian film actress) Deepika Padukone. The campaign is integrated in social media too, publishing the portraits below (by photographer Aman Makkar) of everyday athletes, national athletes and Nike NTC trainers on the popular networks Instagram and Dubsmash.

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The Asian market often depicts sport as too masculine, a waste of time and not a suitable career option. However, all of W+K global offices work on Nike, and after W+K Delhi won Nike in 2015, they haven’t steered away from the celebration of female sports stars despite the culturural differences.

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The ‘T’ in ‘LGBT’: the trans* Community and Why They’ve Been Left Behind

Whilst I try to keep this blog focused on the creative world, it is impossible to ignore and not speak about another big passion of mine – campaigning and awareness. Even if you have no interest in such things, please continue reading, because you should take an interest.
This week marks anti-bullying week and transgender awareness week – two totally different topics being widely spoken about on social media, but more closely connected then ever before. Since the US election, my social media feeds have been filled with concerned LGBT folk and their allies showing support and defiance. The problem goes way beyond this – whilst I generally live in a liberal bubble, we are nowhere near being a prejudice-free society… not even close. Not as close as the average person thinks we are.

[you can get involved by donating to organisations like ‘Ditch the Label’]

Last night Channel 4 aired the first part of their docu-series ‘Kids on the Edge’ with ‘The Gender Clinic’, featuring 2 children and their families. The kids were both completely different, one being autistic and unsure about their gender (Matt/Matilda), the other being confidently ready to transition (Ashley), but both visited the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (a gender identity development service based in London) to explore their genders with their mothers. This kind of groundbreaking documentary has aired at a really important time – the doctors state that referrals increased form 40 to 1400 in just 1 year – and children who speak out about their gender concerns are becoming more and more frequent.
What concerns me (and the parents of trans* kids) are the thousands of people all over the world who criticise these documentaries, claiming that they’re “damaging” and “abusive”, which in turn has created an illogical, ill-educated hysteria by presuming facts about blockers (and other medical procedures available to trans* people) and the concept of gender itself. Hysteria is what created the social construct of gender in the first place… These outcries to “save the children” can only be due to a desperate lack of knowledge – something that Channel 4 has been trying to change for years. Recently, the BBC followed in their groundbreaking footsteps by releasing a CBBC series called ‘Just a Girl’, which follows Amy, a fictional 11-year-old girl:

Amy has a secret and she’s scared that it will come out at her new school. Follow her as she tries to make sense of the world and not lose her friends forever.

That synopsis from the CBBC website is pretty ‘face-palm’ itself, and could do with some less scary, “this child is damaged and her life could be ruined because she’s really a boy” vibes. I’m surprised they didn’t slip in the old “born in the wrong body” line.
Anyway, last month The Mail on Sunday sparked a huge backlash with its front page story using the unbearably offensive and bigoted phrase “sex change” (please don’t ever use that term) to describe how “parents are angry that the show…features a transgender storyline inappropriate for their children”. Tory MP Peter Bone also said the show is “completely inappropriate” and wanted to write to the BBC to demand they remove it.
Co-editor of the ‘Conservative Woman, Laura Perrins, also claimed that these shows “normalise, trivialise and glamourise” transgender issues (because she’s so in-touch with this topic) and even stated that it encourages children to change their gender. Whatever you do, do not allow children to be themselves, god forbid!

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A very poignant comment made by Perrins is that she believes the CBBC programme is an “unbelievable piece of propaganda targeted at children”… do you feel history repeating itself?In 1983 papers like The Mail influenced Section 28’s passing, consequently banning the “promotion of homosexuality” in schools, which in turn scared teachers out of discussing homophobia and therefore doing nothing about bullying. It wasn’t that long ago that the same tabloids mentioned above frequently linked gays with the spread of HIV and paedophilia – a notion that we now see as absurd and archaic. In 1986, Tories even distributed leaflets claiming that “You do not want your child to be educated to be a homosexual or lesbian”, and The Telegraph warned readers about “a deliberate attempt to molest the sexual education of children”. I cannot believe this all happened only a decade before I was born. This was shortly followed by outrage and campaigning, leading to the overall (I say that with a pinch of salt) positive portrayal of gays and lesbians on TV and in the media nowadays. We still have a long way to go, but Section 28 was repealed in 2003.
Now, it has become apparent that trans* folk have been left behind. The parallels between homophobia in journalism and transphobia in journalism is astonishing. LGBT charities and organisations were trashed and attacked, just like The Mail did on Mermaids when they publicly attacked the UK’s only charity for families with kids who are trans*:

Last week it emerged that Mermaids had been supporting a mother who was found to have caused her son ‘significant emotional harm’ by forcing him to live as a girl.
She had the boy removed from her care by a judge after he found there was ‘no independent or supportive evidence’ that the seven-year-old wanted to be a girl.
He said the boy, who now lives with his father, had been ‘pressed into a gender identification that had far more to do with his mother’s needs’ than his own.

Since then, activists (Fox Fisher accumulated over 8k signatures on change.org) have fought back as the ruling was so unjust, and the judge was entirely unacceptable in the use of outdated and inappropriate concepts of gender to justify removing a child from their mother, and demonising the mother consequently. This outcome would never happen now with a gay child, but probably would’ve happened 30 years ago. So why on earth haven’t we “moved with the times” for the trans* community?
Just like parents were accused of polluting gay kids’ minds, parents of trans* kids are facing the same backlash. What is so bizarre is that people out there genuinely believe these children are choosing to feel this way, which is something they certainly wouldn’t claim if they bothered to watch documentaries like ‘The Gender Clinic’.
One of the most upsetting scenes I’ve ever seen on a documentary about trans* kids is by Louis Theroux, which showed a very young (possibly 4-years-old) trans* girl who continuously tried to cut her penis off because she simply knew, undoubtedly, that her body was incorrectly correlating to the sex she was assigned to at birth. No parent (unless they are mentally unstable) would ever want to see their child in that state. Scientists claim that around 4 years of age is when we start to develop the concept of gender, and we are hearing more and more that children are speaking out and telling their parents that something isn’t right with how they feel about their gender.

Susie Green, CEO of Mermaids spoke about the CBBC show:

The writer for this series did a lot of work with Mermaids parents and young people to make sure that he represented the challenges that children and their families face. The horrific headline detracts from a wonderful series that has been well received as educational and empathic.
No parent would choose this path for their child. And teaching children about trans issues is important. Education is key to understanding every aspect of life. It’s not on mainstream television and only accessible through CBBC website, therefore it is not thrust upon those not wishing to see it.
I would like to see more education around trans issues across the board. Maybe then we will see less hatred and prejudice, and can begin to celebrate the fact that everyone is different.

[donate to ‘Mermaids’]

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Education is key. This is particularly critical at a time where suicide and murders of trans* folk are on the rise. This should not be happening, but simply not enough people care. Most people love a good gay pride parade, a cheeky night out to G.A.Y and aren’t shy to call out homophobia, but very few people speak out about transphobia. I don’t know why.
Is it a lack of empathy? A lack of knowledge? Is it fear of the unknown? Are people too busy to care about what doesn’t directly affect them?

transyouthinfographic

Another bizarre claim is that young children are being given irreversible drugs with little studies or tests. This is absolutely untrue – GRS (genital reconstruction surgery) is not offered to trans people below the age of 18 and puberty blockers only delay puberty so that kids have time to think about what they want. Instead of claiming that these “drugs” are dangerous, why don’t papers like The Mail write about suicide, bullying, self-harm and all the awful things trans* kids are subject to in a heteronormative, transphobic society? Why do people assume that young children are incapable of making emotional decisions about themselves?

I don’t have the answer to any of the questions – I don’t think anybody does. All we can do is open our eyes, our minds and our hearts to make those who don’t fit into gender norms feel authentic, comfortable, happy and loved. Change is now.

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Tinder: Introducing More Genders

Everyone is welcome on Tinder.
Introducing more genders on Tinder, an update allowing users to express their gender identity. Tinder asked transgender and GNC (Gender Non-Conforming) activists to share their dating experiences, on and off the app, to help shape the creation of this update.
Be vulnerable. Be open. Be honest.

I can’t say I’m the biggest fan of dating apps – whilst I know lots of people who’ve started successful relationships and friendships by meeting through dating apps, the dating culture of the 21st century appears, to me, seems to be incredibly shallow and sexualised. Whilst the app has been a great way to meet your match, it has also become a haven of hate, abuse and even led to real-life attacks (e.g. the viral gay-bashing videos in Russia). However, I’m impressed with Tinder’s recent update – they have genuinely listened to their consumers (past and present) and have added loads of options for gender non-conforming app users. Whilst they previously had just ‘male’ and ‘female’, CEO Sean Rad realised that gender has a spectrum far greater than just two socially constructed categories.

Sean Rad (CEO of Tinder) said:

About six months ago, we really realised there was a big issue with harassment toward transgender people. Our immediate reaction was this is unacceptable we’re going to squash this. As we went on this journey, we started peeling back the orange and realised it was a complex issue.

After the uproar regarding users reporting (and therefore banning) trans* Tinder users on the app, Rad decided to seek help from a community of influencers, activists and people from organisations like GLAAD to make the app more inclusive and reflective of society today.

I approve!

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Airbnb: Post-Election Ad

What does it mean to accept?
To open your heart and home to a stranger, who looks different than you, thinks differently, has a completely foreign lifestyle, or a birthplace from another part of the globe?
Airbnb is asking everyone on our platform to accept our community commitment.
Which means discrimination on the part of any individual won’t be tolerated.
And that inclusivity is the only way forward.

In a short film, Airbnb (produced in-house) shows numerous faces from all different backgrounds as part of the Community Commitment campaign. Resonating the recent political tragedy that saw a bigot elected as the Leader of the “Free World”, Airbnb have made users sign this nondiscrimination pledge:

I agree to treat everyone in the Airbnb community—regardless of their race, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or age—with respect, and without judgment or bias.

Fun Fact:
As a huge LGBT ally I instantly spotted Nya Cruz from FuseTV’s ‘Transcendent’ – a reality TV show/documentary series that follows the lives on trans* women trying to make it in showbiz, at a club called Asia SF. Interestingly, Nya recently shamed Uber for the highly offensive transphobic abuse she received by drivers during a $6 Uber ride. She bravely posted the e-mail sent to Uber on Instagram, shaming the drivers involved. Perhaps this is Nya’s “f*ck you” to Uber, and a not-so-subtly hint at how customers should be treated.

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Grayson Perry: Born Risky

All4 describes the series of shorts as Grayson Perry meeting “people who take great risks to be themselves“. Channel 4’s ‘Born Risky’ follows the story of Grayson himself and 3 others – transgender model Tschan; Geoff, a transvestite truck driver; and EJ, a trans* fashion historian. The shorts are very natural and don’t contain any invasive, pushy questions that a lot of interviewers tend to ask those who are gender diverse or trans*.

Grayson previously explored gender identity in a documentary for Channel 4 called ‘All Man’ in an investigation into the heteronormative, ultra-male society we live in. That series is a must watch if you’re interested in how we translate different types of masculinity in Britain. It is incredibly eye-opening.

Grayson explores his own gender in ‘Born Risky‘, which adds an interesting insight alongside the other interviewees:

I am very proud to be part of Born Risky – it was fascinating, fun and a privilege to meet and work with three such brave, tender souls. If just one viewer feels more confident enough to live the gender they feel driven to live then we would have done our job, but I’m sure these lovely films will do much better than that.

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