This week we take a look at the Pinkstinks Movement that targets the products, media and marketing that prescribe heavily stereotyped and limiting roles to young girls. Pinkstinks believe that all children – girls and boys – are affected by the ‘pinkification’ of girlhood. For more ideas on Uprising and movements, cultural movements and movement marketing, follow Uprising!!! on Facebook. We’ll continue to publish brand-new columns on a regular basis. Hey, do us a favor and please give Uprising!!! a review on iTunes. Scott Goodson is the author of best-selling book ‘Uprising: how to build a brand and change the world by sparking cultural movements,’ available on Amazon.com. Scott has helped create and build some of the world’s most iconic brands. He is founder of StrawberryFrog the world’s first movement marketing agency.
Uprising Interview transcript
Abi: Why is that, the reason for our big and bad and powerful, and little people like us can do, must do something to stand up to the big powerful voices that are creating self-esteem issues and all the other issues that girls have, and boys have for that matter, to make money.
Welcome to Uprising. Each episode looks into what it takes to lead the most dynamic and successful cultural movements; some of them in the business world, some in the social realm, some in politics, and some in-between, to see why people start uprisings. What gives that initial momentum, what keeps them going and most important, what lessons you can learn from these movements, and how to apply them to your business, and even personal life? Let’s explore the secret to sparking movements that move people into action.
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Scott: Welcome to another edition to Uprising, our second show in 2017, and this weekend there is a great march on Washington, thousands of women are going to march on Washington. I want to take a moment and talk a little bit about what role women, well more importantly gender. Today I have a very interesting guest all the way from London, who’s joining us. Do you want to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Abi: Well hi there, my name is Abi Moore, and I’m a twin, which is relevant because myself and my twin are the founders of the campaign here in London which is called Pink Stinks. We started our campaign roughly about 9 years ago now I believe; I can’t believe how time has flown. Pink stinks is a campaign which focuses on the, what we call, the pinkification of what girlhood, and really is focusing on the stereotyping of little girls and how it affects them as girls, and how it’s internalized in them as they grow up. And the reason why we’re focusing on the color pink is about focusing on the way the color pink is used to denote what is and therefore isn’t for girls.
Scott: So girls as in overly feminine, therefore pink as a color stinks.
Abi: Yeah, and its passive, and it tends to be about pretty.
Scott: So what do you do? Did you decide to write a manifesto, what did you do?
Abi: Well I used to work for CNN…
Scott: The president-elect called it the fake news network. Sorry, keep going.
Abi: Doing some films about visionaries and one of them was filmed in this state actually with a woman who was a nano-technologist. It was a really complicated story about a new technique for curing cancer, and it was a really complicated but fascinating story, this woman was incredible. And the big news story when I arrived home was about Paris Hilton. I can’t remember what the story, it was a ridiculous story, but it was everywhere. Not only was it everywhere, but it was also in the press at work, and this was driving me crazy, especially trying to get people interested in this incredible story on how we can cure cancer. I stood on the platform in my station going to work one morning and I rang Emma on the phone and I said we’ve got to do something about this.
Scott: So fair to say you were pretty pissed. Is that the right word?
Abi: Pissed off. We were pissed off. Pissed means drunk.
Scott: Oh, right. I’m sorry. You were pissed off. Well behind every great movement there’s a catalyst, there’s instigation, something that creates this sort of passionate anger.
Abi: It’s funny thinking back on it actually; it seems like a lifetime ago. I guess it would’ve been 10 years ago; it took us awhile to come up with what we were going to do. One of the great things is I mean I work in the media, and my sister works for charities, and the combination of the two things were actually quite useful because we had a lot of contacts and friends who have the skills which we were able to utilize. Whether that was a journalists who had a little black book that could help us do a press release, but also Emma had a friend who had a run campaigns before, and she sat down with us, and talked us though how to think about a campaign.
Scott: And what did she say? What were some things you remember exactly, what were some of the key things she said?
Abi: Well firstly there are millions of campaigns, people are always campaigning, you have to figure out what you’re asking for, and you have to make that achievable. If you can’t make that achievable, and let’s face it, I want equality for all is probably too much to ask in one campaign, but break it down into smaller more achievable parts, because you want to have results, and you want to reach something you’re aiming for. So we decided to target one particular retailer, for our first campaign. So Pink Stinks was there, and we had a campaign in it. So that was our first one. We had it called Mother Care, I don’t know if you have it in the States.
Scott: Similar, similar brand.
Abi: Yeah so it was about just really the pinkification in Mother Care, I can’t remember now. So that was the first thing she said you know if you think about campaigns that have worked, if you think about the smoking campaign, it was incredibly successful in this country. More recently the plastic bags in shops have been so successful it’s absolutely changed, it made enormous change very quickly. People don’t like change, but they get used to it. When there was a ban on smoking people hated the idea of it, but give it six months and nobody can imagine anybody being able to smoke in a restaurant or in a pub or whatever. So the campaign was brilliantly run and it had a clear message. So that was really her main thing. Now having said that of course you could argue that Pink Stinks is not really appeasing but the success of Pink Stinks, which you have already sort of alluded to and I have kind of agreed with, is if we called ourselves like The Campaign of Equality for Children or whatever, honestly nobody would care. It’s boring, it’s not going to make headlines, and it certainly isn’t going to get you in the press. When you start being a little more edgy about things, and say yeah its disgusting and start thinking about the color pink and well my God we got some incredible headlines actually. We got called all sorts of things for saying it but we’re still here and it has I think the combination of the two things has worked out quite well for us.
Scott: So you launched this campaign, by targeting a store that represented everything you were trying to fight against. I guess people started immediately to get behind you? You said there was a lot of controversy in the beginning, were more people against you or were more people with you, or was it a bit of both?
Abi: It was very mixed, and it was quite extreme in some respects. We were very naïve really at the beginning, we thought we would be lucky for example if we got a piece in the local newspaper; it’s called (The Englishmen Shopper) or something, in London where we live. But we thought that would be a start and we very naively sent a press release out to some friends of ours who were journalists to come out with a decent press release, and in about 3 weeks we’d been on the main national news, on all the tabloid papers, I mean everywhere. We were on the Breakfast Sofa, on the TV across the pond on ABC news, they came and filmed us. It was a complete shock. Something in what we were saying had resonated obviously, but it wasn’t all positive in fact some of it was very negative to me. It was really difficult to deal with because we were not ready for it. I think the press, the first place we got press in wasn’t the (Englishmen Shopper) but was actually in The Daily Telegraph.
Scott: Major name, very serious newspaper. What was the headline they put on your story?
Abi: It was in marketing consumer pages. It was (Henry Wolup), the name of the journalists, he wrote a piece about us and our campaign with Mother Care, and it was just before Christmas by the way, and we timed it so we were just coming in to peak consumer time of year if you like. It wasn’t really anything outrageous, it was a good piece and we were quiet happy with it, but once you get one of those pages all the other journalists are meeting you, and the phone did not stop ringing. And then we ended up in tabloid newspapers and we got some pretty horrendous ones of those here.
Scott: Give me an example of that tabloid.
Abi: The Daily Mail, we were in The Sun, all of them.
Scott: What were kind of the headlines?
Abi: The headlines were we want to ban the color pink. We wanted to ban the color pink was their sort of spin on the story.
Scott: But that must have helped a bit I mean the storyline is your two women that are trying to change something about the world that they think is wrong, they’re trying to right a wrong. You make your statement that pink shouldn’t be used as it has, and a lot of people start to say that sound stupid, and the other people say hold on a second that sound really smart. So that tabloids do a great job adding oxygen to the fire.
Abi: I think in hindsight of course absolutely it was a great thing. It was really good for us. We had to get some pretty thick skin very quickly.
Scott: When it first came out did you immediately feel embarrassed or anxious?
Abi: I felt very anxious and quiet sick actually a lot of the time. I felt that we were being misrepresented. I went to every emotion really, we both did.
Scott: And you’re a media expert, you work in the media.
Abi: Well yeah, but I certainly wasn’t used to being the one who was answering the questions. I was always behind the camera answering questions and pulling the strings if you like. When you work in many respects it was quiet difficult to really gauge how we were being perceived at the beginning. We did start to get a lot of emails, we weren’t very active on Twitter in those days, or if it even existed I can’t remember now. We’re much more into it these days. We weren’t getting abused on Twitter but we were getting some very abusive emails, which were quite horrendous. At the time we had a couple of organizations that we were working with; one was called the (Sheila McKenzie Foundation). We won an award with them quiet early on for a campaign, women making change campaign. They are an organization that supports campaigners, they’re brilliant. We you need it, what we really have to call them and say we need some help and advice with this because we can’t deal, we were basically working full time, I was in amnesty, I had left CNN by this time, in amnesty international. I remember having to leave and having to get to this Chinese truck, it was pouring rain and I had to do a live interview with this dreadful woman who writes the Daily Mail, so she’s like the opposition incarnate, she was dressed in pink from head to toe, and sitting in a warm studio while I was outside in a rain, holding onto an umbrella, doing the live interview which is quiet a difficult thing to do, imagine the first time I’d done it. She said to me, live on air, women like you want all other women to wear tweed and have mustaches (laughs).
Scott: Controversy sells newspapers, so clearly that was here objective. Society continues to change and shift as it pertains to gender, sexuality, it’s evolved a great deal. Especially here in the US and I’m sure also the UK. So do you think this issue, the Pink Stinks movement, the issue you’re fighting for, do you think it’s changed a lot form when you started?
Abi: Yeah I think it has. I’d love to sit here and tell you that we’re on top of that change if you catch my meaning, but I’m not entirely convinced we are to be honest. But yeah things have changed and not all for the better. I do think they have changed for the better in some ways though.
Scott: Can you give e an example that it changed for the better and for the worst?
Abi: Funnily I’ve actually been having a conversation with someone on Twitter about this. Here’s one of the ways I think things have changed for the better. I think there’s been a shift in female protectiveness in movies, and in films. I think that we’ve seen some better ones recently; we’ve seen a lot better ones recently. That’s not to say there not an awful long way to go, but representation of women as sort of lead characters in films I think has got better, but also hand in hand with that it’s become easier to talk about it without feeling embarrassed to do so. One of the big successes of our campaign, certainly in our country, is we were one of the first to talk about these issues, and we enabled other people to start talking about it. We went through a lot of pain in the beginning, but we came out the other end capable of having a serious discussion about what we were feeling. Because eat the beginning we couldn’t, people were calling us ugly lesbians, you need to shut up and you need to whatever, and it was that bad you know? It was that ridiculous, the way people felt. But we weren’t able to get into a situation where we were given the chance to really talk about what we wanted to talk about. I think that has changed, and after a lot of pain, we are able to have that conversation, and a lot of people are able to have it, and that’s what we want. We don’t want to be doing all the work, we don’t want to be. Lead characters, whether it’s in kids programs, or in blockbuster movies, or in books or wherever, we have seen a bit of a change. It’s not enough, and the argument I’ve been having online was actually about Rogue One, that has a female lead, but hardly any other female character in the film. To me that’s not god enough. There more work to be done. Where I think things have got worse is how really with the rise of social media and the way that young kids and young people are consuming their media has become so difficult to monitor and to keep abreast of if you like, to even know what they’re looking at. Really it’s a wash with quiet damaging messages about body image and about girls and not just girls, and just you bodies in general, and I think that feels like a new animal, a new east for us to know how to get a grip of. I’ve got a 14 year old son so, my oldest son, so he spends all of his time looking at social media. He doesn’t watch TV, he watches YouTube, and I have no idea what he’s watching.
Scott: Ultimately the values that you instilled in him have surely helped guide him through the forest of imagery and all these other things in a sense. That’s all we parent have, our tools we have to help guide kids. We don’t know all the levels and depths of social media, it seems like dungeons and dragons, every time you peal a layer off it goes deeper. But you can give them the right and the wrong and the values and it feels like Pink Stinks was a values based on philosophy in order to be a better society we really need to stop putting girls on pedestals and treating them as if they’re fragile creatures because they’re really intelligent and they can go off and become great technologists and doctors and change the world. So I mean that’s a great value. Do you remember the first email you got?
Abi: Yeah, I’m so pleased that you asked this question, and I will say it wasn’t the first, but it was one of the first, and it was an email in probably our darkest times, where Emma and I were thinking oh my God, what have we unleashed. I mean we lost weight with the stress of it. I honestly felt sick most of the time, for a good 6 months of this enormous media brush. The email came at that time and it was from a little girl, and she said Pink Stinks is my voice. And to this day really it makes me feel quite emotionally because she felt she was a bit different, and she didn’t want to do a lot of the things that a lot of the other girls wanted to do, I think she was about 9 or 10 years old, and for her our campaign really did sort of encapsulate something for her, that meant enough to her that she could say something like that. I’ll never ever, to the day I die, I’ll never forget it. It was just a fabulous thing it was just fantastic.
Scott: This show is all about movements and Uprisings and people who instigate them and come up with the ideas and passion behind them. For those people listening, and there are probably a lot of people out there planning a movement, talk about your ambitions to make every women wear tweed (laughs) with a mustache. I think it’s totally understandable that you would start to feel a certain anxiety and stress in your stomach, you talked about losing weight. I guess if you had more experience you’d be able to handle that differently but seen it as an energy a positive force rather than something to be anxious about. If you look back on it now do you think you would’ve controlled yourself, that you would’ve felt differently?
Abi: Yeah I would and I do feel more positive today, definitely. What doesn’t kill you makes you stringer, I think is the saying. And it does, and I think Emma and I both feel much more resilient and we don’t get harassed like we used to get anymore anyway, so it’s not really important. But I do feel differently about it and I’d love to be able to whisper in my ear to myself back then and say don’t worry, this is going to be a great thing.
Scott: If there’s someone listening today, a student or a young person, or youthful person, it doesn’t matter how old they are, that are planning to do a movement, what advice would you have for them?
Abi: Well I was just going to mention that the (Sheila McKenzie) foundation, the people we called and said we need help getting through this, one of the things they said to us, and again I never got this, was that you need to you know, you’ve got a delete key on your computer, and you need to use it. They were right, we felt I think obliged to react to everything that was thrown at us, and actually what we learned was that we don’t need to do that at all. We’ve got the publicity, people know who we are, and therefore wee can start to control and to choose what we want. Now that’s not to say that it’s a perfect situation, but we did start to press delete just to ignore. And once we started doing that, it’s funny I still have the folders today, I saved a lot of emails from the time just to look back on, some of them are hilarious, and I saved one into good ones and bad ones folders. The bad ones folder is like a comedy really. So once you begin to laugh at it, I don’t know somehow have to almost be given the permission to go, you know what, delete. I don’t really care what you think. I come from a place where I know what I’m doing is right, certainly right for me, it feels like the right thing to be doing and saying, we had to almost find someone to give us permission to press delete, it was almost sort of magic guidance actually, because we were much freer after that, we weren’t bogged down by this dark voice, this big dark noise that felt so damaging and so nasty. It went, it disappeared and then we had the freedom, and then the other thing is we stopped doing, if a radio station in Glasgow rang us up at 6 o’clock in the morning and said would you mind coming in in 2 hours to talk about blah blah, we started saying I’m sorry I can’t, I’m not ready, you haven’t given me enough time, and who am I going to be talking with? In the beginning we were always put on the sofa with a ridiculous Daily Mail type, almost dreadful tabloids.
Scott: The dreadful woman in pink again.
Abi: The dreadful woman, it would be another incarnation of her plus us. We got annoyed with that, we’re not here for your entertainment. We know what the producers are trying to do, they want an argument, and they want entertainment. What we need to do is be more in control of what we’re talking about here. So we stopped doing it, and that was just a huge relief. So we pick and choose now, we do still do press, but anything less I don’t know I want to have a sensible conversation and yeah, that would be, you really do have to sort of jump off a cliff in the beginning, to put your toe in the water is a better way to see how things are going to go, but you can try and control it. Likewise the same goes on social media, so on twitter do not engage with people who are talking nonsense, just ignore them.
Scott: So now its 2017, what challenges and opportunities you think exist in the current environment?
Abi: I think when, social media is one of the big ones and I’ll keep talking about it, its hugely worrying, it’s odd though isn’t it, and it’s a bit of a dumper. Social media is brilliant, social media is the only way a campaign like ours was able to exist. We had a tiny bit of money from a couple of grants that we won, a minute bit of money, but we weren’t able to employ people or pay ourselves, or sustain ourselves in that way. We had to find other ways of doing that sat alongside having full time jobs and children. Of course the flip side of that is as loud as you raise your voice the opposite, the diametrically opposed voices, are raising theirs even louder. I think you mentioned at the beginning the march which is happening in Washington and there’s a sister march happening in London, the general feeling in this country is maybe not quite as desperate as you feel over there, but it’s not far behind that we feel like there are changes afoot and we’re not quite sure how things are going to go and women’s issues and things that affect us, feeling that they might be under attack. Where our campaign fits into all of that may be a bit tenuous, but I think there is a big opportunity in a way for us to start to speak out a little bit louder to understand the importance of what we do and how it sits with other campaigns and other issues that affect not just women but everybody. I guess that’s another thing I wanted to say about our campaign, that everything I’ve ever done, and my sister has ever done, with the campaign has always been for me I’ve always had my sons in mind. So whilst it’s about girls and marketing towards girls, it has everything to do with my sons, always because I think equality benefits us all and it will benefit them. So I think that we, what’s great is that we can talk, in a sensible way now about these issues, and there’s still people that go oh, haven’t you got better things to do, and who cares. My daughter she chooses what she wants, it’s up to her, and of course we’re not attacking a child for what she chooses, but we’re asking why is she making the choices that she is making.
Scott: Well Abi this has been thoroughly enlightening. The Pink Stinks movement is something I think has global relevance. This show is listened to all over the place, actually I want to do a show, funnily enough I have a pretty big following in Scotland, and I want to do a shout out to my friends in Scotland, hi Scotland. If people wanted to find out more about Pink Stinks, where would they go?
Abi: Well we do have a website; it’s slightly out of date. The best place to contact us or to find out what we’re talking about is on twitter actually. @PinkStinksUK is our twitter handle. We’re on there every day and its quite lively because people are always sending us stuff and are always linking us to things and we call our followers our stinkers, which is a terrible promise, and yeah so if you want to send us anything you’ve seen that is pretty awful, send of something you’ve seen that is fantastic and the way forward. Most of the things we really want to be shouting about, the big companies that I was just talking about, that are selling this stuff, one of the things about the internet, and about Twitter especially, is that they’ve got people, its someone’s job to check what Mother Care, to check what’s happening to Mother Care on Twitter. So recently we had some trouble in Tesco, some dreadful pajamas that they’ve just put out, something like from the 1950’s, so their eyeballs are on Twitter and they want to know what people are saying about their product. So it’s very important, if something is out of order or doesn’t seem right tell them. This is the year 2017 and we expect better, and we’ve had results doing that, it’s a really effective way to get them to listen, so get in touch with us, we love to hear from people all over the world, and we do hear from people all over the world and it’s great.
Scott: Well thank you Abi Moore for your time, and for your passion in telling us your story, how fascinating. I wish you all the best, keep on trucking as they say.
Abi: We will.
Scott: I’ll be sporting my pink sweater on Saturday during the march on Washington.