Sexism may probably be the last thing you would expect to see on the window displays of apparel stores of multinational brands. However, Marks and Spencer has come under fire for a new festive window display that showcases “must-haves” for its customers. While for men the must-haves are formal attires like coats, waistcoats and shirts and for women it is lingerie. One must take a moment to note here that the display is keeping in mind the Christmas season.
To be clear: @marksandspencer believe that the 'MUST HAVES' are:
For MEN: 'outfits to impress'
For WOMEN: 'fancy little knickers'
Imagine for a moment if those window displays were reversed.
Go on M&S …. we are watching.
— FiLiA (@FiLiA_charity) November 18, 2018
The men’s side of the window of the Nottingham store in question is labelled “Must-have outfits to impress”, while the women’s section says, “Must have fancy little knickers”. So ladies, this festive season, with the winter chills upon us, we can all stop shopping for comfy sweaters, jackets, formals, etc, because all we must have is “fancy little knickers”.
This display is upsetting on more levels than one. Firstly, it identifies attire correlated to professionalism or power with men exclusively. It could be because despite all our progress, when it comes to clothes, often it is assumed that it is men who must dress to impress in offices, and seldom women. Secondly, it restricts our choice of must-have garments to the fancy ones. Should a woman only have attractive lingerie in her wardrobe?
And for those who chose comfort and ease over everything else, when they shop for undergarments, this display seems tells you that you are committing some kind of fashion faux pas.
- Marks and Spencer is under fire for putting up a sexist window display in its Nottingham store.
- While the men’s side displays formal clothing, the women’s section of this “must have” display showcases lingerie.
- This display depicts that only men need clothes which we identify with professionalism or power.
- But it also reflects our own ideologies as a society, where women are yet to reclaim their space outside of homes fully.
However, can we blame the brand in question for this error entirely?
It also reflects our own ideologies as a society. While women can buy anything they want, including fancy little knickers, this is about being told what to buy. This can only stop when women and men start asking questions because at the end of the day sexism and gender bias is a social tendency. The pop culture still tells women that you are only sexy when you wear a tiny fancy lingerie. That women must play on their looks and vital stats to attract attention. Our intellect, personality and behaviour, still has lesser merit points than a glass hour figure and stop-in-tracks looks.
Gender-based pay gap, sexism and gender bias at the workplace, are still issues that need our attention. And why just offices, most people carry sexist convictions in their heads in all walks of life. Be it in boardrooms, bedrooms or think tanks. Outlets are thus not doing anything but putting our own general beliefs on display. A little outrage today will force Marks and Spencer to withdraw this campaign and they may consciously take a sensitive approach to the portrayal of genders in their displays in the future. However, it is much more difficult and tedious to change the social mindset. Once it does, we would never have to outrage over sexist billboards, displays or even advertisements.
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.