Some of you may have seen this picture of my youngest daughter, Maggie recently. Much to our surprise it seems to have gone viral. I haven't actually tweeted much about it and only answered a few questions from Buzzfeed so have decided to write this blog to explain how the picture came about and to answer a few points raised.
On Saturday I was with Maggie in the Tower Park Tesco store, it's a branch I'm not that familiar with and so we were wandering up and down the aisles trying to find things. She was talking to me about The Flash and said it would be really cool if he was in the shop. I agreed and suggested I could give him my shopping list and he could get the stuff far more quickly than we were managing, "Don't be silly Mummy, The Flash is too fast for shopping!"
Soon after that she spotted the sign. I was distracted looking for something and wouldn't have noticed it if she hadn't pointed it out. Last year she started coming home from school saying some of her friends were suggesting some toys were for girls and some for boys. I explained that they were wrong, if the toy looks fun to play with then anybody should be able to play with it. She could play with knights and dragons (her thing at the time) and boys could play with dolls and kitchens if they wanted to. We agreed that "everybody can like what they want to like." So when she noticed the sign in Tesco I was pleased she'd remembered our conversation and impressed by her indignation (and a little amused by her cross face). I suggested taking a photo mostly because I thought she looked cute and I thought I'd show some friends on Facebook who share my feelings on toys. Shortly after that she went back to the car with her dad while I finished the shopping and we didn't think much more about it. Later that day I posted it on Facebook and a friend suggested I share it with Tesco and Let Toys Be Toys. I tweeted it not really expecting much of a reaction, it was a Saturday evening, I supposed social media staff were signed off for the night. I hoped it would be retweeted a few times so that Tesco noticed it and would perhaps respond. If they removed the sign then we'd feel we'd done something positive, if they didn't we would point and roll our eyes at the silliness whenever we spotted it.
Then it went viral. Tesco responded quite quickly with an apology and a promise to remove the sign in the store. They've since confirmed it will be removed from all stores. Buzzfeed asked if they could run a story and I agreed because I wanted to show Maggie that it's worth standing up for what you believe in. It's now Tuesday and her picture is still being retweeted with most people agreeing with her. Some people have disagreed though, as is their right. I am not going to get into arguments over it on Twitter but thought I'd respond to a few points here.
"There are worse things happening in the world." Absolutely right, I never suggested otherwise. It was only a small moment in our day. I'm well aware far more shocking things are happening across the world right now. It's not a huge thing in my life either, my other blog about my brother's suicide should demonstrate I've dealt with far more than an annoying sign.
However, just because there are terrible things happening doesn't mean we can't point out the smaller things. I think part of the reason this has gone viral is because people often feel helpless and yet in a very small way seeing a little girl change something has made people realise now and again you can make a bit of difference.
"You're turning her into a man-hating feminist." Rubbish! My own heroes are my grandfather who passed away in 2012 and my brother who does vital work supporting homeless and vulnerable young people. Why would I want her to hate men? However, I do want her to grow up believing people are equal, regardless of their sex, skin colour, race or sexuality, and I want her to feel empowered to stand up for her beliefs.
"It's just a sign, not an instruction. Buy the toy if you want to." Yes, I'm aware of that but I'm an adult. Small children on the other hand often believe what they're told and if they're constantly seeing signs telling them something is "for boys" or "for girls" they may start to believe it, particularly when their peers are also seeing these labels and parroting them at school. Remember the eleven year old boy who attempted suicide earlier this year because he was bullied for liking My Little Pony? That's why these signs and labels are damaging, not because my daughter was annoyed but because children are being teased and bullied for not conforming to the perceived gender norms. I know most boys like superheroes and most girls like princesses, some though don't - or like both. This is for them.
Yesterday I received a tweet from somebody who said "Your little girl, makes it easier for my little girl to be herself. Thanks."
That's what makes all this worth it.