I had a number of constituents opposing gay marriage at my surgeries this Friday. They were all thoroughly decent folk of faith and it’s never nice to have to tell people you understand their strength of feeling but have to disappoint them, which I did. They had different lines of argument but one, who has written a very well-researched paper for a well-known institution, produced an image which astonished me for reasons quite different from those she’d intended.
The image illustrated a central strand of her argument; that ‘degenderification’ in popular media illustrated a confusion about equalities. She argued that a secular ‘equalities’ agenda was steadily reducing the space for the legitimate public expression of faith. ‘Equality’, she said, was being used as a battering ram against certain values rooted in semitic traditions, but without any serious examination of what arguments underpinned the desirability of some equalities and the undesirablity of others. Equality per se, she said, cannot be regarded as automatially a Good. She produced an image of a girl in an advert, photographed to look boyish and holding a toy normally associated with boys. I googled the issue and indeed came up with a Swedish advertising authority ruling from 2009 which deprecated linking particular genders to particular toys – this has led to boys being used in adverts for dolls normally associated with girls (as opposed to, say, action-man dolls). I also found a CIF article which lauded how girls were, by the same token, being used to advertise toys traditionally associated with boys. The article, from a couple of months ago, applauds the breakthrough in equalities and is accompanied by the very image my constituent brought to me.