I was in Boots at lunch time and spotted, next to the Children in Need collection tins at the tills, some charity pin badges for sale. At this time of year, I expect to see Pudsey’s smiling face encouraging me to donate money to this worthy cause, but this time he was with someone else. A girl bear.
Two things bugged me about this. Firstly, why does this charity feel the need to spend money on pointless additions to its brand that could no doubt be better spent elsewhere? Secondly, the representation of this new character, Blush. Why does Pudsey need a girl by his side, and why is she so bloody meek! A quick rummage on the BBC Children in Need website revealed that the irritatingly named Blush has girlish pink cheeks and a coy demeanour because, “is quite shy as she’s not used to the attention that Pudsey gets”. Also, Puds thinks his friend is, “caring, helpful and kind”. Want to chuck in any more gender stereotypes while you’re at it?
The question of why they needed a female character in the first place is answered by the briefly mentioned Strictly Come Dancing tie-in and, putting all other annoyances aside, I can see why they did it. Get Pudsey dancing in order to get millions of Strictly viewers donating, which will hopefully greatly increse the amount raised for the charity this year. Fair enough. However, my main problem with this character is the sale of related merchandise and the inevitable ‘Pudsey for the boys’ and ‘Blush for the girls’. OK, it’s for charity, but that still doesn’t excuse the subtle message to kids that boys are allowed to be confident but girls should quiet, and kept in the background.
On the surface it seems that little has changed in the three years since Rosalyn Ball wrote about gender stereotyping of toys for the F-Word. I guess I’ll find out myself when I go looking for Christmas gifts for my 7 and 9-year old nieces soon.