Home > Musings, Off-Topic > Once more, with feeling…

Once more, with feeling…

February 17, 2014

After my little foray into activism a few days ago, I am pleased to say that I received a reply from Customer Relations at WH Smith. I am less pleased to say that the reply was pretty much a boiler plate “sorry you aren’t happy, we’ll bear your views in mind” which didn’t really fill me with confidence that they are taking the matter seriously.


Image sliced from a strip at MimiAndEunice.com (CC-BY-SA Nina Paley)

You don’t have to take my word for it, here is what I received:

Many thanks for your email.

I am very sorry that you are unhappy with the display of toys in store. We stock a wide range of toys and try to meet the needs of all of our customers and make products easy to locate.

I’ve passed your feedback on to our Buyer and I can assure you that it will be taken into consideration during our next range review.

If I can help further please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards

[Name deleted]

Customer Service Co-ordinator

Now, I wasn’t expecting the earth to shake and a thousand WH Smith employees to be instantly mobilised in order to appease me and my radical opinions, but I was hoping to receive a reply that made me think that somebody had actually thought about the issue. Can I actually be the only person that has written to them about this?

I guess I just have to write to them again as I don’t think they have this filed in the correct pigeonhole…

Thankyou for replying to my email.

I understand that WH Smith must decide how best to present stock to customers in order to ensure your customers find what they are looking for and can make their purchase. However, I am trying to point out that you can achieve this aim in different — and potentially more effective — ways than simply presenting a selection of toys for either boys or girls, ways that do not reinforce unhelpful gender stereotypes that can cause problems for girls and boys alike.

This is not an issue of reviewing your range.  The range of toys in your stores is completely unrelated to how they are presented to your customers.  This is all about what message you are sending to boys and girls as well as the adults who buy toys for them. From what I can see in the Wantage store, you are suggesting that craft toys are for girls and space toys are for boys.

It is a small thing, but this detail is insidious and in a world where we are trying to encourage women into technical fields, which have been traditionally male-dominated, the small details can add up to work against all the efforts of schools, governments and these fields themselves.  Similarly, when the images of, say,  craft and childcare are reinforced as being something for girls, this discourages boys from leading rewarding lives in these areas.  The whole of society is made less because of this.

WH Smith must, of course, make its own business decisions, but please, please take this issue seriously.  It may seem a small and irrelevant thing to some, but there are a lot of people out there who would just love to promote businesses who help to move this cause forward.  Campaign groups like Let Toys Be Toys and Pink Stinks (who, despite the name, are not wanting to ban the colour pink!) are genuinely looking for leadership in making this form of casual discrimination a thing of the past and, I’m sure, would be more than happy to spread the word of any improvements you can make.

Thank you again for your attention.  Please give this some real thought.

So, that’s off into the ether. I’m hoping that I receive a reply that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve been summarily dismissed. I will report again as and when I hear something. Hopefully I can then get back to writing about playing games as usual. 🙂

Categories: Musings, Off-Topic Tags: , ,
  1. February 18, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    I remember reading a really good article a few months ago by genderising (is that a word) toys.
    Can’t think where I saw it or how to find it again

    • Rob
      February 18, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Gender has definitely become a verb lately. Don’t know if the OED has picked up on it yet.

      There’s definitely an increasing number of articles, etc. about all this turning up lately. There was even a representative of Pink Stinks on Radio 4 yesterday morning. It’s a hot topic alright…

  1. March 17, 2014 at 6:44 pm
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