Student advice panned over sexism claims

A blog circulated to students by the commercial arm of the Ucas has been accused of using negative sexist stereotypes.

July 23, 2013

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The controversial post advises new students about the “13 friends you need at uni”, listing characters including “the driver”, whose access to a car will prove useful for shopping trips; “the socialite”, who will take you to all the best clubs; and “the geek”, who can get you access to a printer at the drop of a hat.

However, it was “the mum figure” and “the dad figure” that caused offence. According to the blog, which was published on The Hub – a student section of the Endsleigh Insurance website - the “mum” will ensure your house “will never run out of boring things like cling film that you can’t bear to spend your money on”, and will “always have the kettle on for tea and chats”.

The “dad” figure, on the other hand, will “sort out the house bills”, and ensure that payments come from “a house bank account in their name”. “Keep up with payments and you won’t fall out,” it adds.

A link to the blog was circulated in an email sent on behalf of the insurance company by Ucas Media, the commercial arm of Ucas that provides marketing solutions to organisations wishing to target students.

The Twitter account for the Everyday Sexism project (@EverydaySexism), an online campaign that encourages discussion of sexism, equality and women’s rights, sent a tweet to Ucas (@Ucas_Online) asking: “Are you really promoting tired sexist gender stereotypes to future uni students?”

Jodie Pearce (@JodiePearce_), who describes herself on her Twitter page as 18 and from Cumbria, said she had received the email. “For a moment I thought we were back in the 1950s. Whole article is really unsettling,” she tweeted.

A Ucas spokesman said: “The email linked to a blog post by Endsleigh, which was not shared with Ucas Media in advance. We apologise for any offence caused by this content and have made Endsleigh aware of the concerns.”

Endsleigh has now updated the blog, replacing “mum” with “home maker” and “dad” with “financier”. It also changed the name of a third character. “The mess”, who will make you feel better about your drinking by getting more drunk than you, is now known as “the party animal”.

A spokeswoman for Endsleigh said the post, written in June by blogger Sarah Yeomans, was based on feedback from students about living together in shared accommodation at university.

“It was meant as a light-hearted reflection of views on ‘house dynamics’. It was not meant to cause offence to any particular group, however we are aware that it was not taken in the spirit intended by some. Endsleigh has already acted on this further feedback, amending the piece accordingly,” she said.

A spokesman for the National Union of Students, which is a partner for the Endsleigh “Hub” site, said the content was not shared with the NUS in advance.  

“We have raised our concerns directly with Endsleigh about its content. The use of gender stereotypes in the original blog was quite clearly unacceptable and we understand that this has now been changed by those responsible,” he said.

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