Everyday sexism in Boots

I was discussing the launch of this blog with a group of friends this evening, and one of them offered to show me something he found in Boots recently. He promised I would find it frustrating. He was right:

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This is the backing card f0r a set of hairbands he purchased today for his long ponytail.

First problem: this packaging is gendered in an utterly unnecessary way, given people of all sorts of genders can have long hair and use these products. Boots has already been the subject of various petitions because of their unfair price discrepancies between products marketed “for men” and “for women”.

Second problem: either this packaging is assuming only female children will need hairbands (highly unlikely), or it is grouping female people of all ages under the bracket of ‘girls’, which is patronising and unhelpful. Even assuming only female people use this product, they could use a better term.

There is plenty more to say about unfairly gendered products and marketing issues, but we will tackle these in future posts (or people are welcome to comment with their thoughts!).

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4 thoughts on “Everyday sexism in Boots

  1. Lindsey

    Boots do have a range of non-gendered hairbands, see link.
    Depending on how the store is planned out, the hair bands in your picture would normally be found in the children and babies section so they would be marketed at children only, or rather the parents of children. However, I don’t agreed with the need to gender this product as it makes things harder for parents who try to avoid gender-stereotyping young children, and young boys can have long hair too!
    http://www.boots.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/CategoryDisplay?catalogId=11051&DM_PersistentCookieCreated=true&categoryId=465859&langId=-1&storeId=10052&N=mfName_ntk_cs:%22Boots%22|&page=1

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  2. (for reference, here are the comments from elsewhere – thoughts appreciated)

    Internet person – I’m sure the majority of people purchasing this product are female. There’s nothing wrong with it.

    Me – I can see you haven’t read the post in full…

    Person – No, I have. It just strikes me as a gripe about nothing.

    Me – So, you didn’t address the second point. Additionally, I don’t think you considered the substantial impact these basic assumptions have on people of all genders. Boys with long hair get mistreated all the time for being ‘like girls’ (as if that’s a big thing…). Women get belittled and trivialised by being infantilised by the collective term ‘girls’ where men rarely if ever do by the word ‘boys’. It also consolidates some very fundamental assumptions about binary gender which are really unhelpful for trans*, intersex and non binary people. So I disagree, this stuff matters too.

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  3. Tom Bands

    I have shoulder length hair and mostly present as male (even if this is not always how I would gender myself). I remember turning up to training having forgotten the hair band that I customarily wear, and being told (with a chuckle) that I could always wear hair pins. Unfortunately, the opinion that hairpins are a gendered item was loud and proud when I stated that I used them at home but did not have any in my kit bag.

    This was a real shame, as they are simply a way of keeping hair out of one’s face. However, when I went out to dinner with other teammates wearing said hairpins on a later occasion, I received nothing but compliments… Faith restored somewhat.

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  4. Jen

    I was reminded of this post over the weekend when in tesco – my 9yo son has long hair and has been told by school that he needs to tie it back FOR swimming and PE. I’ve been using my (plain black) hair bands but they are a bit big, and thick, for his hair so I wanted to get some kids ones. Everything was either pink, purple or sparkly, and about half of them came with sparkly/flower/butterfly hairclips as well. This is unfortunately also also the case with the kids ones on the Boots link given above – the only neutral coloured/branded ones are for adults 😦

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