So it would appear, despite the best Christmas ad ever, that John Lewis has come into the firing line because, wait for it... they've been stocking pink pencils.
Yup, women are bouncing up and down in a fury because of the gender-specific pencils that they are stocking, the hot pink 'For Her' collection, made by Abigail Warner. In fact, one journalist, Hannah Dunleavy was SO angry that she published an open, and incredibly sarcastic, letter to John Lewis in Standard Issue Magazine on Monday.
"Thanks so much for the new range of pencils designed especially for women on sale in your Cambridge branch. I haven't had the opportunity to purchase any as I feel I should seek my husband's approval first and unfortunately I've yet to meet him. I only hope that there are some left when I do, as their wonderful pinkness is bound to attract every single female who comes into your store.
Consequently, I'm having to type this letter on a mannish keyboard, which I find quite tiresome. I've already broken three nails and started a small fire. My previous attempts to use a pen was foiled when words failed to appear and the confounded thing simply scored marks on the paper. I think it may be out of ink, but rest assured I will check with my father when I next see him."
She goes on to say "I cannot tell you the number or times I have struggled with a non-gender specific pencil and thought 'If only this were pink' or 'If only this had something written on the side to remind me of my priorities as a woman'
Of the slogans on the side she says "If you are heading to an important meeting, nothing says 'respect me' more than a pink pencil with words Girl Boss on. I only hope no one makes this mistake of taking the 'but the shoes!' pencil into a meeting and has to leave to go shopping. Can you imagine!"
She finishes by suggesting that the La Vie En Rose pencil ought to be replaced. She says:"Perhaps you might want to consider swapping this with a new slogan. 'Fluffy Kittens' maybe. Or 'Gratefully Oppressed.' I'm sure one of the men in your office can think of something."
Now normally I am not one to disparage girl power but in this instance I just want to shake Hannah and tell her to SHUT UP.
This is the most ridiculous letter that I have EVER seen. They are just pencils! Sure if they were mandatory in schools and all female pupils had to have these whilst the boys got a blue set of 'I'm going to be a surgeon and my wife will wait at home with a pasta bake for me' pencils, there would probably be a problem.
But as it stands, there are a collection of pink pencils in a shop and THIS is the reaction? This woman has decided to inject all of her passion into THIS massive problem? This HUGE issue affecting millions of women?
I cannot believe that someone THIS passionate about women's rights can't see how insubstantial this is. Buy the pencil, don't buy the pencil. It doesn't matter.
There will ALWAYS be gender-specific options out there. Little girls, for the foreseeable future, want to wear dresses and try on their mum's heels, little boys want to eat mud and play with action man, it's the way it works. And that doesn't make me sexist for saying it, and it doesn't mean that it isn't going to change, but right now that's how it is and I am alright with that.
Some women like to dress as men, some visa versa. Not every child is the same and that is why we are incredibly lucky to live in a free country where the child and the parent can make that decision together. Some girls like pink, some don't and that is a-ok.
The ones that like pink, can buy the pink pencils.
The creators of the pencils are NOT implying that women need to wait for their husband's permission for anything, they are not sending us back to the early 1900s, and they are not ridiculously sexist.
I admit, the "Buy The Shoes" one, I don't love, because I hate shoe shopping, but can we please just take this with a pinch of salt, some women will really like these products and there is absolutely no shame in that at all.
To those that don't like them, please take into consideration the bigger picture here.
Little girls are thankfully, finally, growing up in a world where they can be anything, they can be doctors, CEOs, MPs, lawyers, vets, you name it, they are NOT however going to be prevented from doing this by a pencil that states: Girl Boss.
Sure, they may not be earning as much as their male colleagues, they might have to fight a little harder for the job, hell they might even be overlooked for being a girl, but ultimately we need to keep girls fighting the great fight so that our daughters will not have to go through what we have. When you think about it, a pencil that says: Girl Boss might not be so bad after all.
Hannah, if a male colleague had given you these pencils with a box of Tampax and some tissues after a busy day I MIGHT begin to understand your frustration but as it stands I think there is a problem being made out of nothing.
Buy the pencils, don't buy the pencils but whatever you do please try and remember that that is all they are: pencils, not the deep-rooted-sexist-devil-products that you've made them out to be.