Recently, a customer at Marks and Spencer complained to the supermarket giant that its toilet signs were discriminatory towards women. You would think that surely, the supermarket’s signs follow the national benchmark for toilet symbolism, but there is a slight difference that needs to be considered carefully. The customer pointed out that whilst the men’s toilets featured a typical ‘male’ symbol, the women’s bathrooms had a symbol of a woman and child on its door. The customer has argued that to put a symbol of a child on the door to the women’s toilets in Marks and Spencer has detrimental implications about who we consider to be the carers of children in the family. Indeed, has the supermarket reinforced the gender stereotype that women are, and should be, the primary carers for children? Does this remove the onus of familial responsibility from the father? What does this tell us about social norms that effect our family structures? It is uncertain as of yet whether any direct action will be taken to rectify or discuss the implications of this symbol, but this debate certainly warrants careful thought from any applicants applying to courses that require consideration of social and cultural norms, such as HSPS, History, English Literature, or PPE.

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