Images of the Bell Amigo Bike Helmet in pink and blue were posted online, with a heavily-gendered blurb alongside each one.
The description of the blue helmet said it was made for "boys ready for action" and focused on the product's safety features, such as air vents and a visor. On the other hand, the pink helmet promised to make "lovely little girls" look "really pretty." It went on: "[The helmet] protects those lovely little heads and can be fitted to feel perfectly cozy (sic) and cool to wear."
It wasn't long before the company was bombarded with #HalfordsSexism tweets as parents vented against the blatant gender stereotyping.
"I cannot believe @Halfords could write something so horribly patronising that sounds like it's from another century" posted one user, while another mocked the tone of the advert with "PUT THIS WIDDLE HELMET ON YOUR PRETTY WIDDLE HEADS YOU PRETTY WIDDLE LADIES, OH YES, WHO IS A GOOD GIRL."
As word spread online the backlash continued, with consumers accusing Halfords of treating girls like "vacuous little airheads" and parents of young girls pointing out just how off the mark the company is with tweets like: "my girl just wants to be safe and fast, and couldn't care less about looking pretty."
However some Twitter users defended Halfords. "Oh give them a break," one posted. "It's a pink hat? How are they supposed to sell a pink hat?"
But this is about more than a pink hat. It's perfectly possible for the company to sell a pink hat the same way it would sell any other colour of hat. This isn't just about the old "pink for girls, blue for boys" argument (although it's a valid one). It's about associating a helmet aimed at girls with certain qualities. It's about suggesting that young female cyclists are more concerned about looking pretty than about doing badass tricks on their bike.
It was my daughter's birthday recently and she got a new bike from her grandparents. We went shopping to find one that was suitable and she was completely unimpressed by the pink, flowery, glittery choice in the "girls" section. She did fall for a super cool Spiderman bike but they didn't have it in her size.
She ended up choosing a fluorescent green bike online, with a helmet to match for her lovely little head…
Halfords have now changed the wording on their ads for the Bell Amigo Bike Helmets, which is great. They released a statement saying: "We offer a range of helmets with different characters and colours for all age ranges and the different needs of cyclists big and small. We listen to our customers and reflect their needs, aiming to break down any barriers for children to cycle (sic). The descriptions for two helmets have been changed on our website to better reflect what our customers want and we apologise for any offence caused."
Here's hoping other companies selling children's products have paid attention because we really, really don't live in a world where all boys are ready for action and all girls are ready to watch from the sidelines looking pretty. I have all the proof I need of this right in my own home.
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