Parents were left outraged after an errant effort toward promoting body positivity fell flat for young English girls prohibited from using bathroom mirrors.
The controversy occurred at Christopher Whitehead Language College in Worcester, England, where students ages 11- to 19 years old are enrolled, when a decision was made to take down the bathroom mirrors. However, rather than leave the space bare as had been in the boys’ bathroom, multiple outlets reported that in the girls’ bathroom motivational posters were placed in their stead.
“Beauty is nothing without brains,” one message read as another asserted, “If all girls started wearing no makeup and comfortable clothes, guys would have no choice but to fall for girls because of natural beauty.”
Yet another went as far as to liken cosmetics use to drug addiction and implored, “Dear girls, Makeup is a harmful drug. Once you start using it, you’ll feel ugly without it.”
When parents got word of the initiative they voiced their concern over the messages being sent, with one telling the Daily Mail, “Is the school really telling girls that putting lipstick on is as bad as injecting heroin or taking crack cocaine?”
“Yes, girls need to be taught about inner beauty, but this approach is plain wrong,” they added.
Another spoke with the local Worcester News and reported, “The school has removed all mirrors from the toilets (including the boys), however in the girls’ toilets they’ve covered the wall in place of the mirror with ‘inspirational quotes’, however they are far from that.”
“The quotes are degrading. This is not the message we want to be sending to extremely impressionable girls as young as 11,” the parent said.
The debate was even picked up on the British program “This Morning” where some recounted their experience attending school where makeup was not permitted and journalist Ateh Jewel attacked the slogans as “medieval.”
“I think what needs to change is misogyny, is the male gaze, is the objectification of women,” she said. “Makeup is about expressing yourself, being joyful…those slogans are very medieval about attracting a mate. Makeup and beauty and wellness is about the inside out.”
A secondary school in Worcester has replaced mirrors in the girl's toilets with anti-makeup posters, which describe make-up as a 'harmful drug' that makes women 'feel ugly'.
@atehjewel argues the issue is not makeup, but the objectification of women. pic.twitter.com/IEtTAaDcLa
— This Morning (@thismorning) March 3, 2023
In response to the backlash, headmaster Neil Morris explained to Birmingham Live that the intent had not been to shame anyone as the posters were part of a writing assignment and not related to the decision to remove the mirrors.
“Mirrors have been removed temporarily after a period of misuse where the toilets became a congregational social area with older students blocking the path to toilets, whilst thy socialized, often late to lessons,” he said. “All students have been written to.”
“The English department had used this as an opportunity to provide some argumentative discursive letter writing. They put some provocative posters up in the one toilet area in their corridor before the lesson,” Morris detailed. “This has produced some frenzied powerful writing and debate. With hindsight, the posters should have been placed in their classroom area, not in one toilet.”
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