Photo by Marvel
How’s this for girl power? U.K. retailer Tesco recently removed signs from its stores after a 7-year-old girl called them “stupid,” and after a photo of her disdainful face circulated on social media.
The young activist, Maggie, loves superheroes, so when she and her mother Karen Cole spotted a Marvel alarm clock advertised as a “fun gift for boys,” in the Poole, England store, she wasn’t pleased. She reportedly said to her mom that Tesco was “being stupid, aren’t they?” To prove her point, Maggie posed for a photo while holding up the clock and making a sour face. Cole tweeted the shot on Nov. 22 along with the caption, “My superhero loving 7yo daughter not impressed when she spotted this sign in @Tesco today @Lettoysbetoys.”
The photo quickly went viral, prompting Tesco to remove the sign on Monday. “This alarm clock would make a great gift for both girls and boys,” a store spokesperson told Buzzfeed. “The sign has been removed and we’re sorry if it caused any confusion.” Go, Maggie!
It’s not the first time a little kid has pushed back on gender discrimination, inspiring big corporations to make bigger changes. In October, a 12-year-old girl named McKenna Peterson, a basketball lover from Arizona, wrote to DICK’S Sporting Goods to address the lack of girls featured in the company catalog. “Women are only mentioned once in the catalogue on page 5 for some shoes,” she wrote. “Girls buy stuff from your store…maybe my dad will take me to some other store that supports girls to actually PLAY basketball and follow their dreams and not sit on the sidelines…” McKenna signed the letter, “The Fabulous Basketball Player.” Her father posted the letter on Twitter, resulting in DICK’S calling the father-daughter pair and vowing to “re-evaluate their catalog.”
And in August, a 7-year-old named Charlotte Benjamin wrote a handwritten letter to LEGO, scolding them for selling only a few female characters and noting that the ones it did offer, frankly, bored her. All the girls did, she noted, was “sit at home, go to the beach, and shop.” Meanwhile, the male toys “saved people, had jobs, even swam with sharks!” Her father snapped a photo of her letter and posted it online where it was retweeted thousands of times, prompting LEGO to respond one week later with this statement: “We have been very focused on including more female characters and themes that invite even more girls to build.” And, true to its word, LEGO released a play set called “The Research Institute," featuring female characters including a paleontologist and an astronomer.
Back in 2012, meanwhile, McKenna Pope, a 13-year-old girl, petitioned toy maker Hasbro after discovering that the Easy Bake Oven that her 4-year-old brother Gavin wanted, only came in a purple-and-pink floral design. Pope launched a petition on Change.org asking the company to not only create the oven in gender-neutral colors but to feature boys in its commercials. Her persistence paid off — the petition garnered more than 45,000 signatures (including from Top Chef star Manuel Trevino) and Hasbro took notice. The company invited McKenna and Gavin to its headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island and unveiled a shiny prototype for a black-and-silver oven, currently available in stores. Oh, and McKenna even gave a TED talk on the experience.
That same year, a 6-year-old Irish girl known online as “R,” along with her mother, wrote to Hasbro U.K. asking why there were only five female characters out of 24 in the board game Guess Who?” R astutely pointed out that players who select female characters are more likely to lose because the question “Is your person a girl?” narrowed down a player’s options, unlike it does if one selected a male character. “My mum typed this message but I told her what to say,” R said in her letter. A company rep replied, assuring R that the game did not favor one gender over the other, however that wasn’t good enough. R and her mother reiterated that they were no closer to understanding why there were only five female characters. Hasbro wrote again, saying that the letter prompted them to consider adding more female characters to the game.
These children are undoubtedly pioneers. But is it really so wrong to depict boys and girls having dissimilar interests? Twenty years ago, Hasbro tested a gender-neutral playhouse that yielded interesting results: Girls dressed the dolls and played house; boys shoved the baby carriage from the roof of the house. And some experts feel little would change today. “Children, with few exceptions, are powerfully drawn to sex-stereotyped play,” writes Christina Hoff Sommers in The Atlantic. “David Geary, a developmental psychologist at the University of Missouri, told Yahoo Parenting in an email this week, “One of the largest and most persistent differences between the sexes are children’s play preferences.” The female preference for nurturing play and the male propensity for rough-and-tumble hold cross-culturally and even cross-species.”
Regardless, striving for gender equality is always a good thing. So here’s to these kids for changing the world.