£34,000-a-year school says aspirations are ‘personal’ to the students
Co-ed private boarding school, Ardingly College in Sussex, has been defending itself against claims of sexism and gender stereotyping following an advertisement showing a male pupil with aspirations to be a lawyer, politician or swimmer alongside a female pupil whose aspirations are to be an actor, vocalist or writer.
The ad, which is part of a series for the Harry Potter-esque establishment, has appeared on buses in the local area recently.
Martin Harris, managing director of Brighton & Hove bus operator, the bus company where the ads have appeared, told the media that he was “mortified” and would be pulling the ads from its buses.
Reactions on social media have also been strong with one tweet calling it: “entry level sexism”:
saw this on a bus the other day advertising Ardingly College except the guys had 'Lawyer' instead of 'Debater' is this not like entry level sexism? ITS 2018 GUYZ. MIX IT UP. GIRLS HAVE BRAINS TOO. pic.twitter.com/2N1OY0G8UC
— Rachel Brown (@hai_rachel) 27 March 2018
A local reporter was equally outraged:
Sorry… what’s going on here, @ArdinglyCollege? Boys can be lawyers and politicians but the most academically rigorous pursuit you’re getting girls ready for is “writer”??
Not “engineer”? Not “doctor”? Not “entrepreneur”?
Are you KIDDING ME WITH THIS? pic.twitter.com/CPbi4pL4o9
— Joel Adams (@Argus_JoelA) April 11, 2018
A female local Labour councillor, who studied law, also had something to say on the subject:
I am sure not intentional but as a politician with a law degree I do find it a little cliche
— Emma Daniel (@huxley06) April 11, 2018
Ardingly’s head teacher, Ben Figgis, has had to defend the ads and the school explaining that it was a misunderstanding; the labels were “the personal ambitions” of the students who featured in the billboards: “As a school we have not put words into their mouths, nor would we want to.”
This mishap is unfortunate, particularly given that in the posh mag Tatler‘s review of the school (featured on the school’s website), Figgis is quoted as saying:
“Leave your stereotypes at the door… Girls play football and take A-level physics; boys give talks at the feminist society and do jazzercise. Modern co-education at its best.”