Dear eight year old girl. I saw you in Typo.

By Ruth Limkin

Dear eight year old girl,

I saw you three days ago but never got to meet you. We were both in Typo. I was there to talk to the store manager. I imagine you were there to buy stationery. After all, Typo had been advertising a back to school range.

I ended up pointing you out to the store manager. You see, he was trying to defend the pornographic notebooks that Typo are currently selling. I’m sure you saw them. They were exactly at your eye height, and being A4 size, the photo of the naked woman, emblazoned with “Dirty” really stood out.

I’m really sorry.

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get through to the store manager why it was so inappropriate to label women ‘dirty’.

I’m so sorry that you live in a world where calling women ‘entertainment for men’ is defended by retailers.

I’m really sorry that you probably saw that notebook.

And so, dearest eight year old girl, here are a few things I want you to know.

You don’t ever have to let someone make you feel worthless, or dirty, or trivialised because you are a female.

You should never be defined as ‘entertainment for men’. You are a person of substance, of purpose, and significance.

You don’t have to feel that your body is dirty. Your body is a beautiful, complex creation.

You should never, ever be sexually exploited for profit. I hope that you’ll meet men who will respect you and speak out against oppression.

Lastly, one day you’ll get a job. And if you ever see anything like the front of that notebook cover in your workplace, it’s called sexual harassment. Speak out.

Kind regards

Ruth

PS – It’s not all bad. There are so many wonderful men and women willing to speak out against the objectification of women. One day, you’ll be really glad to know the world is full of amazing people like them.

***************

ruth@ruthlimkin.com

Typo’s parent company is Cotton On. Feel free to send them an email at customerenquiries@cottonon.com.au

Or you can write on the Typo Facebook Page

Or sign a petition here

Ruth Limkin is currently the CEO of The Banyans, working in mental health and recovery.

98 thoughts on “Dear eight year old girl. I saw you in Typo.

  1. Interesting timing! I had decided just today, that I wasn’t going to ever shop in that store because of its generally unpleasant vibe compared with its competitors such as Kikki K (and the rest).

  2. You make an excellent point, and I totally agree with you in this case – but just remember that the store manager won’t have any control over what does and does not appear on the shelves in their store. Having worked in part time in retail during uni (including as a weekend manager of a store similar to Typo), I’ve endured many rants and complaints from customers, which – warranted or not – I’ve had absolutely no power to do anything about. Managers of stores like Typo have to stock what they’re told to stock by Head Office. You can’t just take stock off the shelves without authorisation. You’re much better off calling Head Office in the future and taking up your issue with them – it’s in their power to sort it out for you.

    1. Thanks Jess. I’ve made contact with Typo but so far received no response.

      If Typo decide to stock controversial products, you’d think they would provide some training for their staff about how to respond to customer complaints, so they can manage their public relations effectively. It seems a strange way to build customer relations. I wonder what would happen if a store manager expressed their concerns about the inappropriateness of a product line?

      1. I’m sure the staff have received training for dealing with customer complaints – I’d be shocked if they hadn’t! – but it can honestly be extremely difficult for managers to have a decent say in what stock is on display. I’ve worked in a variety of retail settings, the first being in a clothing store when I was in my final year of high school and first year of uni. When my own store manager at the time called Head Office to complain about a certain childrenswear tshirt which she felt was inappropriate (and it WAS), she was told that she was to display what they told her to display and that they would respond to customer complaints, not comments from staff members. It can put you quite firmly between a rock and a hard place – in the end whenever a customer mentioned the tshirt, we’d immediately direct them to call Head Office.

        I’d just like to make clear that I’m not in disagreement with you at all over the issue at hand, simply pointing out that the manager of the store may have been relatively powerless to help you. As someone mentioned below, it would be different if it were a franchise, but as far as I’m aware Typo aren’t franchise stores. It sucks being the person in retail getting blamed for something that isn’t your fault and you can’t do anything about while Head Office sit quietly and hardly have to deal with any of the consequences of their decisions!

        Just my two cents. 🙂

    2. That depends on the specific company. I am certainly aware of some stores where managers can have a say in what they stock, particularly in the case of franchises where the manager is an owner/manager. Some franchisees are even allowed to set their own prices, within a pre-determined price range (like McDonalds). And managers are there for a reason – to manage the shop. Fielding complaints is part of that.

    3. Jess – Couldn’t agree with you more and store people will continue to face this kind of dressing down because enough people don’t think about it.

  3. “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”
    I’m glad that I’m in the company of people doing something, will support you in starting the crap for sure…

  4. ..wish that fabulous letter would be front page of the National papers! ..and would make a great Ad Campaign!!! Brilliantly Brilliant!! and yes, Thank you.

  5. No need to wait for the workplace. Call the teachers in over sexual harrassment in your school. That will get everybody’s attention.

  6. Here in the US, we have a store that has decided to place white plastic covers over the images. The mag. Title can be seen but that is all.

    I wonder how quick they would be to respond if they had a woman scantily clad loitering around the registers.

  7. Im sure that even if the store manager doesnt have a say in what is stocked, he could put it somewhere out of reach of innocent eyes if he chose to.

    1. My thoughts exactly. Put it up high where the kids can’t see. Frankly where i can’t see. Make those who want the smutt work hard to get it, not make the rest of us endure the sight of it. I always go to the Head Office because I am aware that the average worker has not alot of say, but don’t defend that sort of smutt. God bless you Ruth for your courage.

  8. Excellent! Well written and well said! We need to use social media to highlight these issues and spread the word so that retailers think before they “buy”. We have the power to make a difference.

  9. Man, when I was 8 years old, I was getting my stationery from Kmart and a year’s supply cost about $50. Kids these days have too much money to spend on paper. How times have changed.

  10. Hi Jess
    I agree that it’s terrible that this kind of thing should be on public display, although I’ll draw your attention to male fireman calendars. Surely you oppose this, too?
    Maybe it’s best that we agree sexual objectification is wrong, and not too-hastily throw gender into the mix.

    1. I believe gender differentiation is suitable in this post as it’s saying to our young girls that they don’t need to be the next generation of women who feel they need to use their bodies to be valued rather than to value themselves as precious and unique.

      I agree, those calenders are ridiculous.

    2. I don’t like the calenders either, but the difference I see between the two is that the book is giving the impression the the girl is DIRTY. The calenders don’t have demeaning word smeared across them. Again I don’t like either.

  11. Fantastic post!!!

    It’s so sad that in this world there is so much stuff that is demoralising to children. Thank you for blogging about this and bringing it once again to the forefront.

  12. My letter to customerenquiries@cottonon.com.au

    To whom it may concern,

    It seems clear that you have someone, or several people, in decision-making levels, who are immoral and corrupt.

    You’re marketing porn to teenagers through Cotton On.

    You’re now marketing porn to children through Typo.

    Is is clear that personalities within the company who have objected to these decisions and tried to be a voice of reason, have been blocked and their views dismissed.

    Marketing porn is not cool or edgy or ironic. You are normalising pornography, which is a hate crime. It’s not “entertainment for men”. It’s abuse for women. You are helping to indoctrinate a new generation of young people in misogyny.

    It is degrading for the girls who wander through your store and see the t-shirts. It’s degrading for the girls who see the pencil case sitting on a class-mate’s desk.

    How dare you unscrupulously make money from marketing porn to impressionable children.

    You have some warped, jaded individuals at high levels in your company, who seem determined to twist the minds of children so that they’ll become warped like them.

    You have a responsibility to society. You cannot justify your corruption with “Well, there’s a market for it.”

    What you are doing is offensive.

    I want to hear in writing what you intend to do to ensure your objectionable products are no longer marketed or produced.

  13. Certainly upsetting that a child was in the store. I would have hoped her parents were more responsible than that.
    As for the notebook, I’ve seen them and feel pornographic may be far to strong a term.
    Though this level of erotic art is certainly inappropriate for children, I would like to note that the store is marketed toward adult customers (we go to school too!)

    1. Hi Kitty, I don’t think it matters what age they are marketing at when they are marketing women as ‘dirty’ and ‘entertainment for men’. Such material is considered sexual harassment in an adult workplace. The latest revelations today about inappropriate behaviour in the Defence Forces include men filming women in the shower as well as other sexual harassment situations where women have been treated as ‘entertainment for men’. It’s not ok, and merchandise that contributes to that mindset is not ok.

      1. Sexual harrassment and the kind of behaviour seen in the defense force is absolutely not acceptable.
        However, there is a place in society for erotic art and expression.
        In cases like this we do need to take into account women as individuals and their personal attitudes towards sex and eroticism.
        We are not all offended by this form of expression and some of us even enjoy it.

    2. I was a little offended at the comment directed at the resposibility of the parents u made. I am an extremely responsible parent and I’ve let my daughter go in there before now by herself. I was not aware that it was an adults only store. It is directly and openly connected, literally, to cotton and u can just wonder between the two stores. Cotton on it for young teens up! I love art, being arty myself, I don’t find that art on any sophisticated level. It is just smutt.

  14. Wow, yes very true. I sure cringe a lot when I take my 9 yr old daughter out shopping etc. We seem to have “created” a very adult world in a all too “accessible” environment.

  15. We are continually bombarded by this!
    Parents talk to your children,honor them, we should be mindful of the exploitation of our sons as well
    “Typo”means mistake, you have made a mistake Typo FIX it!

  16. Thank you. Beautifully written and well expressed. From Typo to whomever else puts stupid, facile and downright denigrating phrases on t-shirts, books, billboards etc – I hope that people say something. I’ve got a four year old boy and I want him to love himself and his friends properly, without being impeded by stereotypes that makes unnatural demands on him. Self esteem is a good thing to fight for.

  17. Well done Ruth! Good on you for speaking up! I felt sickened when I saw some of the things that they are selling there. My daughter will be starting school in a few years, and I don’t want her to see things like that! My son is behind her in age, but I want him to grow up to respect women and treat them well.

  18. TYPO have admitted in the past that they have pulled other items from stock due to complaints such as afro products so why should this be any different?

  19. Thanks, love this post. With 10yo and 7yo daughters I need to be so guarded about what finds its way into their minds and thoughts. I had my daughter ask me a last year what it means when a boy says he ‘wants to sleep with me’!! She was 9yo! wow what an eye opener. Shows that no matter how much you try and protect your children from over sexualisation of our children in society you can never let down your guard. Maybe if parents could get their heads around what these products are saying to their children and influencing society (with so many other things) they might boycott these products. If they’re not selling they won’t be stocked.

  20. One way to get your point across is to not shop at that store. I refuse to shop at a certain French/English clothing store purely because I take offense at its name.

    I have encouraged all my children that if they find something offensive in a store to certainly make a fuss about it. When children make a fuss about things being disgusting, gross, we don’t need to see that,.eeeeewwwww, it certainly makes people think.

    Especially the words “Mum, that shop is wrong for people our age” as they walk out the door certainly sparks attention.

    Children have a very find sense of justice and what is and isn’t appropriate. Sometimes words from the mouths of babes works just as well as comjplaints from parents.

  21. great piece..will share…thanks so much….In my work as a school psychologist I will use this piece as we are doing class work on sexualisation /objectification of women.trying to help increase awareness and I also help those who have been so burned by buying the lie and the rubbish about what makes them matter and how to conduct relationships. So thank you!!

  22. Here is the notebook:
    http://shop.cottonon.com/shop/product/-2334/

    If this were a notebook in a University bookstore I would be less offended, however it was on a shelf at the eye level of a small, impressionable child.

    Secondly, the photo itself would not bother me if displayed in a University bookstore – it’s the text “Dirty – Entertainment for Men” in the right hand corner that generates gender stereotypes.

  23. tertia, this would NEVER be on sale in a university bookshop. never ever ever, because the outrage would and should be enormous.

  24. I don’t know if I’m sadder about little girls who will grow up in a world that thinks this way of them (or worse, will think this of themselves!), or little boys who are being misshaped to think this way about women.

  25. After reading the both the letter and the resulting comments I too feel very strongly about this issue. Firstly that stores such as Typo that target the ‘tween’ market feel as though it is appropriate to stock this merchansie is concerning. I also agree with an earlier comment that managers in many situations do not have any control over what is stocked in their store. With that being said, managers do have discretion over how they merchandise these products on the shop floor. I strongly believe that this type of offensive material if it is indeed necessary to stock at all should be in a discrete place on the shop floor. It is only common sense. They have lost me as a customer and I am sure many others – food for thought for all retailers.

  26. The photo itself doesn’t bother me at all. it’s just a pretty naked lady; you can see her back, legs, arms and a bit of side boob.

    I do take great offence to the words on the page though. “Dirty?” Gives the impression that wearing no clothes is dirty, that women are dirty, that women should be dirty… all sorts of bad things…

    But honestly, if it wasn’t for the text, I’d probably even buy something like that.

    However, it shouldn’t be where kids could get their hands on it (place it on a slightly higher shelf!) and the text is quite offensive.

  27. Dear Sir

    I’m concerned by the use of the naked female image entitled “DIRTY” in
    your range. I feel it inappropriate in a stationary store, the image
    and text marginalise and devalue females and is offensive. Given the
    back to school season and likelihood of children and teenage students
    entering your store, the message that the female body is
    ‘entertainment for men’ is not one which should be promoted to these
    age groups as they form their identities and values. I hope that their
    generation will see the end of such misogyny.

    As a mother of two young girls, I had regularly used Cotton On Kids
    but will no longer.

  28. Well said! I was in a Typo store last week with my 8 year old daughter and then quickly made a bee line for the door when I saw these terrible products. It’s a sad sad day when you have to shield your kids eyes in what was once your favourite stationary store to shop at together 😦

  29. After reading your well worded post I am now very curious to see for myself what is on display at Typo. If I find material that is demeaning to women and offensive in plain view of children I will take it up with the Manager. Maybe a photograph or two would be appropriate too, to let them know that this sort of thing will go public….and not in a favourable way for them.

  30. Good on you Ruth! You should contact your TV,local paper & radio stations & protest outside their stores with some GF’s

    That really would get some coverage at this time of year & spread the word further.

    Gr8 job

    1. Thanks Steve. There’s been some suggestion that they are now withdrawing these products so I have emailed them for clarification, and offered to publish a follow up piece to this if indeed they are doing the right thing. Waiting to hear…….

  31. Thank you for posting this! As a young woman, I have to say that it is absolutely disgusting that women are treated by some as sub-human objects.
    I’m so sorry that that little girl had to see that…
    It’s disgusting.
    The young people should be taught to love and respect themselves and realise that they are more than the way that we are treated.
    How about respecting ourselves and eachother?

  32. Ruth, I was planning on buying some of my school stationery at Typo, but after reading about this, I think I would much rather just stick to Bic pens from Woolies!

  33. Thank you Ruth for bringing this to my attention. I knew that Typo had some “different” styles of stationary but have never actually shopped in their store – and although my 10 yr old daughter would like too – that won’t be happening now! I cannot understand how they can imagine that there is a market out there for this type of product. Fantastic letter and hopefully their marketing committee will take on board that protecting our children of all ages, is so very important – more important than money in their pockets.

  34. Awesome! It’s like the “Cotton On” brand don’t get how inappropriate they can be, remember their trouble not long ago with the kids t-shirts?? They must be pretty blind to not see that it’s not what people want!!

  35. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.
    I will be avoiding Typo in future, and there is no way I am taking my ten year old in there! I am bringing her up to think that women are equal to men. Smart. Capable of anything. Why would I want to bring her into contact with that slime?

  36. I feel the need to direct the attention the fact an 8 year old girl was in Typo. She would be too young to be shopping on her own. Where was the responsible adult looking after this child? If I didn’t wannt my child exposed to something, I would not walk into a shop that exploits the very matter I am trying to protect them from.
    Furthermore to this, if this childs parents feel that this shop is appropriate for their child, who are we to judge on how she is raised?

  37. My daughter turns eight soon. I was in Typo a few days ago, looking for notebooks for her (she wasn’t with me at the time). I also saw that notebook and was really cranky about it. Labelling a beautiful, naked woman as “Dirty” is not ironic or cool, especially in the context of a shop marketing to teenagers. Thanks for speaking up when you saw it, I wish I had. And I’ll stick to Smiggle in future when I’m shopping for my daughter.

  38. Well said! I only found out about this all tonight and it’s the 3rd I’ve read about in a month. First was diva and the playboy products, then city beach and now typo! It’s disgusting! I’m offended as a lady that they would use the word dirty above the woman and don’t get me started about it being in the back to school section! I’m also ad a Christian offended by the porn us my saviour slogan too! What a message !!!
    What I don’t get is why someone, just one person in these companies doesn’t have the foresight to see that its wrong before it hits the market! Surely it would only take one person or are they so removed from society and children that they don’t care!

  39. Until recently our Typo is in the Cotton On store which also had the children’s clothing in it too (we just got a kids cotton on) so how am I meant to avert my children’s eyes when it is all in one store? Great post.

  40. why was I not surprised to see this company comes under cotton on where I won’t buy clothing from because of the inappropriate slogans on their children clothing

  41. so grieved someone could even think this up, not to mention all the people it had to be passed by to get to stores. Something is very very wrong with this picture…

  42. We do not have a Cotton On or a Typo where we live but when we visit the big city my girls all like to shop there, my youngest is 14 now. I have not noticed inappropriate slogans on the clothing in Cotton On and have never been into a Typo store, however from now on I will be discouraging my girls from going into a Cotton On store and definetly a Typo store. It is a disgrace how this world has become so desensitised to anything and everything sexual and the powers that be wonder why there are so many unwed mothers, so many unwanted babies, so many sexually transmitted diseases,so many rapes and assaults, it really is no wonder at all. As it has been said if this image was displayed in a workplace it would be classed as sexual harrassment, even telling someone you like their hair style can be sexual harrassment if they take umbrance at your comment, so time to wake up and smell the roses. Get sex off the shelves and put it back in the bedroom where it belongs, privately, and STOP portraying women as ‘entertainment for men’ how disgusting. A few more teen suicides because they don’t think they are ‘sexy’ enough or ‘entertaining’ enough…oo I really am getting angry now. I have signed the petition what else can I do…

  43. I can see objections taken against the sexist wording on these items, but they are not targeted to children. Typo is not a children’s store. If you don’t want your children to see these images, then don’t go in.

    Maybe you were surprised this store stocked items like this, but they do, and some adults will choose to buy them. We can’t remove everything that might potentially be viewed by someone too young to understand it. Hopefully parents are responsible enough to explain to any child who sees something like this that it’s for adults, and the context in which it’s made.

    1. Hi ALice. While Typo are now claiming they don’t market to children, they overtly market to school children (i.e. a back to school promotion). Further, it’s never ok to label a woman ‘entertainment for men’. Not only would this material would be considered sexual harassment in an adult workplace, but the mindset of women being entertainment for men contributes to sexual trafficking. A far-reaching statement you think? Why not read this superb piece by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof…

    2. Alice if you take a look at the typo website, you can see that several of the campaign images make references to schools and enrolling. Clearly they are marketing to school students.

      I tend to like a few of typo’s products, though I find them a real mass-market label trying to be edgy rather than truly being innovative and quirky. If I had kids, I would’ve been happy for them to shop there to have stationery that wasn’t the same as the barbie and disney stuff that overflows the shelves in many stationery stores but given that typo have stocked so many trashy items lately, and this one is just degrading, then there’s no chance that i’d take kids there nor would i spend my own money there.

      The problem is that kids are dying to be taken seriously as ‘grown ups’ so will be attracted to products that use imagery of grown up things, often not understanding the subtext or the comment that the piece is making, Typo knows this and are exploiting this age group to make profit, which is unconscionable.

    3. Again, Cotton is connected by a large arch where i live, Cotton on is for teens! If it is for adults put it in an adults only store! Don’t have Cotton on and Cotton on Kids in with that adult stuff!
      If some people are into that fine, it is their right. But at the same time my rights are being abused by the fact that I had no choice to see it when I didn’t want to!

  44. I just wrote to them on the email address you provided (customerenquiries@cottonon.com.au) and advise everyone to do the same.

    My finishing line in the email was “It really doesn’t inspire me to spend my hard earned at such stores when there’s so many other decent options out there.”

  45. After reading this piece I felt compelled to look at their stock online. I completely agree, that it sends girls the wrong message about their bodies. Another notebook that I found in their stock was one emblazoned “believe in poledancing”, containing a highly sexualised image. I refuse to believe that customer demand is behind these products. KikkiK and Smiggle don’t stock products such as these. I for one will not be purchasing products from this store.

  46. I have a child, and I won’t ever step foot in that shop now. I think the store manager should be ashamed, and I hope he loses so much business that he lives to regret selling smut in his store.

  47. I’d be very happy to send an email to the parent company, because I deplore the objectification of women like that, but it wouldn’t be quite right to send a complaint not having seen the product I’m complaining about. Is there any reference material?

  48. Beautifully written Ruth, and I could not agree more. I am a 23 year old woman and whilst I have not seen this product in store, a quick search of the Typo website brought me face to face with this product line and I must admit, I am disgusted.

    This product line is sending the wrong message to young girls, teaching them that their body is a dirty thing, which seems to conflict was the other clear message: sex sells! Regardless of whether Typo caters for the primary school aged, high school aged or older, it should not matter because I strongly believe that sending out such a message is damaging to a woman’s psyche.

    We already live in a world where women are reduce to sex objects in many ways, and to think that Typo management can see no problem is adding to this is disturbing. A woman should believe that her body is a sacred thing, and a beautiful thing, but seeing images such as those featured in this product line just sitting their on the shelves, waiting to be snapped up, reduces a woman’s body to anything but sacred.

    I can honestly say that I will be sticking to shopping in Smiggle for now on. I refuse to support Typo; Smiggle offers a wide variety of products much more appropriate for all age groups and let’s be totally honest: if a girl walked into a classroom with a notebook emblazoned ‘dirty’ and the image of a naked woman, what does that say of her?

    Here’s one young woman who doesn’t believe you’re ever too old to shop in Smiggle – they’d never reduce themselves to such a means in a bid to sell products.

  49. Wow! We don’t do a lot of retail/commercial shopping. This is disgusting and I am so glad there are people like you who are bringing it to the attention of such companies. How dare they place such derogatory products right under the noses of our children! I will not be shopping at Typo stores in the future.

    1. sadly not so. They did email some people saying they were removing the ‘porn is my saviour’ mug and other items. However, I went into their shop today and they still have the products for sale which label women ‘dirty’ and ‘entertainment for men’. I hope they are not being deliberately misleading but given the absence of a media release from them, it makes them look like they are trying to cloud the issue.

  50. Evil will triumph when good men do nothing! Good will previal when good men repuniate that which is evil, and justice will triumph when we all stand up for what we collectively believe. Women are not objects of gratification. My wife is my equal in each and every way.

  51. To build a better society you have to grow better people, and how they grow depends on how you feed them. We have to do better than this where money and not values decide how we go about this.
    Well done for pointing this out so we can respond

  52. excellent…i went into Typo just yesterday and was appalled at other things in the store. What is the world coming to? Seriously!

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