Gender-specific cards prompt stereotyping debate
A tweet by politician Sir Peter Luff bemoaning the gender stereotyping of children’s greeting cards sparked fierce debate online. Sir Peter was in his local Waitrose choosing a card for his niece when he sent the tweet: “Dear @waitrose, do you think your children’s cards may be just a bit stereotypical?” and he snapped a pic of the display showing pink cards depicting princesses and ballerinas. It was a question that quite clearly divided Twitter users with heated debate both for and against.
This ignited a tricky issue for publishers and retailers, who both, at the end of the day supply what the customer demands. “We have certainly tried to fight the stereotypes many times over the years but it always comes down to supply and demand,” says Paul Roberts, commercial director of Rachel Ellen Designs, whose cards appeared in Peter Luff’s snap. “The retailer buys what they think will be most popular with its customers and the consumer buys the design it thinks is most suitable for the recipient. Producing a greeting card that depicted a boy ballerina or girls playing football would be well and good but they would appeal to such a small niche that they wouldn’t be commercially viable to produce or for the retailer to dedicate space to.”
Paper Salad finds itself in a similar situation, according to designer Jess Hadfield. “When we have tried to introduce small amounts of pink into a ‘boy’s’ card or blue into a ‘girl’s’ card, we’ve received certain reactions where customers have said they wouldn’t buy them as they are ‘too blue for a girl’ or ‘too pink for a boy’. If we were asked to produce such cards it would be hard to supply the volumes needed for us to put runs in. We do try and accommodate non-gender specific cards by using icons such as presents and balloons, plus of course superheroes are for both sexes!”