This isn't just any children's sticker book…this is a sexist M&S sticker book

My daughter, aged 15 months, likes stickers. She likes to unpeel them from a sheet with tiny curious fingers, then lift them off and find a new place for them – on a sheet of paper, her tummy, my face, wherever – patting them into place with a purposeful “stick-stick!” (actually, she mostly says “dick-dick!” at the moment. A bit awkward in public. But I digress.)

We discovered that she liked stickers when changing her nappy one day in her bedroom. She caught sight of a tiny lifted edge of a wall sticker, next to the change mat, and proceeded to methodically remove it, with a triumphant beam on her face.

She then progressed to price labels or special offer stickers in the supermarket, before eventually we decided to overrule the “3 years plus” advice on the front of most sticker books and packets and got her a sheet of smiley faces, with which she has played (under supervision) quite happily for a couple of months.

When she went into hospital a couple of months ago for an operation, we got a copy of Cbeebies magazine because it came with a sheet of stickers from her favourite cartoon, Sarah & Duck, and she enjoyed peeling them off the sheet and sticking them methodically onto her spica cast, the doctors, her observation chart and so on.

So yesterday, while in good old Marks and Spencers, I noticed they had a special offer on children’s activity books and thought I’d see if there were any stickers to be had.

Disappointingly, M&S have decided that something as innocent and simple as stickers need to be rammed into gender-stereotyped pigeonholes.

The “stickers for girls” selection included:

  • Princesses
  • Fairies
  • Disney princesses
  • Rainbows
  • Kittens
  • Butterflies
  • Clothing

You can see one of the books (and peek inside its contents) here. NB, I’m only referring here to activity books specifically with the words “for girls” on them.

Meanwhile, in the 2000 stickers for boys book, here is a selection of sticky images depicting things which my daughter is apparently not supposed to like or play with:

Oh M&S - you can do better than this

  • Stars, explorers, musicians, robbers and astronauts
  • Spiders, snails, slugs, beetles, bees (no butterflies to be seen, of course)
  • Funny facial parts including eyes, noses, mouths
  • Lions, tigers, birds
  • Circus tents, trees, people
  • People swimming, sailing, kayaking, diving, camp fires, tents
  • Pirate imagery including cats, desert islands, treasure, skulls, crossbones
  • Dinosaurs, rocks, shrubbery
  • Robots, flying cars, spaceships, stars, planets
  • Fish, flying saucers, pumpkins
  • Trees, umbrellas, water
  • Heaven forbid.

    Well, bugger that. I bought it anyway.

    And if it’s still in the house when Erin learns to read, and she asks why all those brilliant, imaginative, exciting stickers are for boys, I shall tell her that Marks and Spencers were short-sighted, small-minded and silly because they thought girls should only like fashion and princesses and flowers while boys were allowed to create worlds and play with dinosaurs, astronauts and lions. How very silly of them!

    [Related: Let Toys Be Toys is asking retailers to stop limiting children’s interests by promoting some toys as only suitable for girls, and others only for boys. Join their campaign and sign the petition if you think that girls should be allowed encouraged to play with robots, too.]

2 thoughts on “This isn't just any children's sticker book…this is a sexist M&S sticker book

  1. You’re right, of course. Very little has changed. Still, I console myself by remembering the daughter of crofting friends who, like every nice little girl, had a dolls house. Let’s call her K. She made all her own furniture for it. She even made lovely wee rugs to go in the rooms. She did this by training the family dog to catch mice and kill them with minimum damage. She then skinned them and cured their tiny hides, which she made into lovely wee rugs.

    K is grown up now and runs a successful felting business with her mother.

  2. Sarah and Duck is brilliant, isn’t it?

    Be careful of stickers printed on less flexible plastic, particularly ones with corners. At about E’s age Florence peeled one off somewhere and put one in her mouth, it got caught in the back of her throat, and we had to call an ambulance and spent in A&E for three hours with her vomiting. The age warning is there for a reason. But the paper ones seem to be fine for the littles.

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