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T-shirts change lives

Lynn McKenzieLynn McKenzie
Chief Executive
National Council of Women of New Zealand

Social media has a way of igniting conversations and providing access into a diverse array of ideas and points of view instantly and globally. On September 24 a conversation about gender equality was started and has been viewed to date over 2+million times.

This spokesperson for gender equality wasn’t anyone famous, not a recognised academic or commentator. Rather it was 8 year old Daisy Edmonds from the UK.

Daisy’s mother recorded Daisy’s reaction to a display of girls and boys T-shirts they spotted during a shopping trip. The boys T-shirts were emblazoned with words like “hero”, “think outside the box” and “desert adventure awaits”. The girl’s with phrases like “hey!”, “beautiful” and “I feel fabulous”. Daisy who does gymnastics, martial arts and theatre proceeds to explain on the video that while thinking outside the box inspires people to be adventurous and follow their dreams, one that says “hey!” isn’t very inspiring.  “What is that even supposed to mean she asks?” and then starts to move T-shirts around putting the boy’s shirts in the girls section. “Why should boys and girls clothing even be separated? Because we’re as good as each other” Daisy says in the video shared on their family Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/lollyanddoodlepage/videos/1053292641459040/

Daisy’s mother Becky Edmonds in an interview with the Huffington Post says the issue of sexism and stereotyping is something they often talk about within the family.

“We have three girls, and we are much more aware of casual sexism than we ever were before we had children. I didn’t really notice but now I have my own kids I think ‘they’re amazing, my kids can change the world’ and I can’t stand the idea that just because they’re girls they might not have the same opportunities”.

Everyday conversations like the ones the Edmonds’ family have contribute to building a greater understanding of gender equality. Fostering understanding is important. The issues are complex and different stakeholders have differing views. Finding solutions relies on a shared understanding of the dimensions of the problem. Without understanding how gender produces inequalities it becomes extremely difficult to make headway on a solution. Developing a shared understanding will take time but it will ensure much greater success of policies and programmes.

Everyday sexism and attitudes towards women as a result of unconscious bias largely go without comment in our society. Which is why Daisy’s video and its 2+million view is remarkable. Points of view like Daisy’s disrupt our thinking. They shine a light on where limiting stereotypes exist. They help challenge our views. Hopefully for many they encourage a rethink or spur an action. Luckily many brands are working to end stereotypes in children’s clothing.

Achieving a shared understanding of gender equality needs constructive discussion at the national and community level, within sectors, industries, workplaces, communities, families and friends. It matters.

A great example of a gender equality discussion is one that was undertaken recently at Massey’s School of Design. Second year students were asked to look at equality in NZ and create a poster. You can see the work and the conversations their work prompted on our Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/ncwnz.org.nz/

We need more New Zealanders to speak up against sexism and limiting gender stereotypes. We need you and I to become aware of harmful and limiting stereotypes and take action. We need to celebrate improvement in equality. We all have an influence on those around us. Daisy shows us how powerful a conversation between a mother and an 8 year old daughter on gender equality can be. So too does the work of the Massey students. Imagine if more conversations like these took place in our homes, schools, offices, sports clubs and institutions across New Zealand. Don’t just imagine, join with Daisy and us and make it happen. Gender equality matters!