Army accused of sexism over 'housewife kits'

Term is 'outdated', Ministry of Defence acknowledges 

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Thursday 22 August 2019 20:35 BST
Army personnel are not issued with sewing kits but are instead either buy or assemble their own
Army personnel are not issued with sewing kits but are instead either buy or assemble their own

The army has been accused sexism after regiments referred to sewing sets carried by soldiers as “housewife kits”.

Acknowledging the term was “outdated”, the Ministry of Defence said that it no longer has a place in the armed forces.

Sewing kits are not issued to Army personnel who are expected to assembled their own.

“While it's easy to dismiss what may seem to some as an innocuous phrase, the armed forces and society in general must take a gendered lens to all its institutions," said Jacqui Hunt, a director at Equality Now, a non government organisation which aims to promote the rights of women and girls.

"In order to identify and eliminate casual sexism, which negatively impacts both organisational culture and individual careers. Unless we challenge gender bias in all its guises, policies and initiatives aimed at promoting gender equality and inclusivity are not going to deliver the change that is needed.

"Institutions such as the armed forces need to prioritise eradicating casual sexism in order to create a welcoming environment that all members of society can participate and thrive in.”

Joe Levenson, of the Young Women’s Trust, said he was pleased the Ministry of Defence conceded such language was problematic.

“Sexism continues to be found in too many workplaces, with outdated stereotypes sadly all too prevalent. Women have just as much to offer as men, and need to feel that they will be supported and valued as employees," he said.

He added that the organisation which helps young women on low or no pay was "pleased that the Ministry of Defence has recognised this language is unacceptable, and hope they step up their efforts to ensure anyone who is competent is welcomed, regardless of their sex.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said: “While the term is not unique to the military, this type of terminology is outdated and no longer has a place in the armed forces. The military is an open and modern employer and welcomes people from all backgrounds.”

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