Thursday, 6 July 2017

15. The “for her” section of Marks and Spencer’s birthday card range

For the benefit of my legions of international readers (ha ha), M&S is a sort of middle-class mecca, selling everything from quality food stuffs to multi-pack knickers and everything in between. And let me tell you, nothing hammers home the fact that gender stereotypes are thriving more clearly than the “for her” birthday cards I discovered there the other day.

I was forced to go to M&S when my boss, forgetting my vital role and mistaking me for some sort of errand-boy, sent me to buy a birthday card for one of our colleagues. I wondered around in a daze (for no real reason, that’s my general demeaner during the working day) until finally I stumbled upon an absolute nightmare of butterflies, flowers and pinkness. The generic pastel-coloured prints brought on instant fatigue. I closed my eyes, stuck out a hand and grabbed at random (I got pink butterflies). A quick poke of the head around the corner revealed the boys’ section - all in blue.

Surely we are better than this? Surely we don’t really believe that girls only like pink and boys only like blue. Perhaps it says something about the average age of M&S shoppers. I don’t want to generalise, but older people are more likely to uphold this traditional colour designation, right?

I was on a train the other day and an older lady asked to borrow a pen in order to write out a birthday card. I told her I only had a red pen (because I did) and she said, “Oh I better not, it’s for a boy”.

See, I told you. Even red is under fire for spawning pink.

I could have taken my custom to a hip card shop, like Scribbler or Paperchase. Their “for her” section is less pink and flowery and is based mainly on alcoholism and eating disorders. You can spend your cash on inspiring slogans for the ladies in your life like:

“All We Need is Gossip and Alcohol!”

“There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne”

“Gluten free, dairy free, fat free, Kirsty loves this champagne diet!”

They’re alarming in their own right but at least I’m not bored to tears by the sight of them. Though that fatigue could set in very soon.

The more you think about cards the more you start to doubt their worth and wonder if they’re part of a great conspiracy by corporations to rob us blind - a bit like Father’s Day or marriage or a university education. I’ve started to resent them to a disproportionate degree. This can’t be my great crusade in life – can it?

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