Student guide attacked for sexist messaging

A guide published by Endsleigh and promoted by UCAS has come under fire for negative gender stereotyping

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The Independent Online

An advice article for students published by insurers Endsleigh has come under heavy criticism for negative gender stereotyping.

Published on its student section, The Hub, the article is a guide to 13 kinds of friend students should make at university. Categories included ‘the mess’, and ‘the geek’, however, two categories - ‘the mum figure’ and ‘the dad figure’ - have drawn stinging criticism online.

‘Mum’ is characterised as ‘ensuring your house will never run out of boring things like cling film’ and will ‘always have the kettle on for tea and chats’. In comparison, the ‘dad figure’ is said to ‘take control’ as someone who would ‘sort out the house bills’.

The article was also sent in an email by UCAS to its online mailing list on behalf of Endsleigh.

The stereotypes have drawn widespread condemnation on social media. The Everyday Sexism project tweeted UCAS, asking: 'Are you really promoting tired sexist gender stereotypes to future uni students?'

The post was also attacked in the comments, with one commenter saying: 'So it’s mums who do the household shopping make the tea and dads who pay the bills? Welcome to the 1950s.' The comment had 159 upvotes as of this morning.

Laura Bates of Everyday Sexism told The Independent that 'it's a real shame in 2013 to see UCAS of all people directing students to tired, outdated gender stereotypes'.

"Suggesting that the 'Mum' figure is solely responsible for kitchen chores while a 'Dad' figure 'takes control' of bills. It might not be the end of the world, but it's not helpful and it's immersing young people in sexist stereotypes about their role and what will be expected of them before they even set foot in halls."

Although publicised by UCAS, the original content was written by insurers Endsleigh. A spokesperson for the company said: “Endsleigh’s piece on The Hub was based on feedback from students about living together in shared accommodation at university and 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.”

Speaking to the Times Higher Education, a spokesperson for UCAS 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.”

Although the post has now been amended to read ‘the homemaker’ and ‘the financier’, comments on the website have expressed their dissatisfaction with the post.

Another comment, with 222 upvotes, stated: “What a stupid article. Lets take the generation of young people about to go uni and stuff them into 13 pigeon holes. As well as continuing the stereo type of noodle eating, lecture dodging, pissed up students... Helpful UCAS... thanks for that.”

The NUS has also voiced concerns over the content of the article. A spokesperson said that although the article was posted by Endsliegh and not shared with the NUS before, ‘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.’