Editor's comment: A moral dilemma

Gareth Jones: A moral dilemma
Gareth Jones: A moral dilemma

Primark's decision last week to withdraw its padded bikini for seven-year-olds was a significant victory for Mumsnet.com.

The influential parenting website has whipped British shoppers into a moral frenzy with its 'Let girls be girls' campaign aimed at stopping retailers selling products that sexualise children.

The initiative has received widespread support from consumers across the UK, as well as the main political parties in the run-up to what is being dubbed the 'Mumsnet Election.'

I'm sure the vast majority of us can agree on the inappropriateness of 'sexy' slogans on children's clothes or products such as the pole-dancing kit that was sold via the toys and games section of the Tesco website a few years ago.

However, the part played by Mumsnet in the social debate is growing increasingly active. As we explain in our cover story, George at Asda has become the first retailer to seek approval from the parenting group before putting a potentially controversial product on its shelves. While this is smart thinking from a retailer understandably keen to avoid the vitriol aimed at Primark, it could set a dangerous example for other brands.

Surely, if retailers need to devolve responsibility for deciding which products may or may not sexualise children, then such moral judgement calls should reside with an independent government body, rather than a commercial organisation?

Calling in Mumsnet to rule on what should and should not be sold to the nation's children not only lets retailers off the hook, but also deprives consumers of their ability to vote with their feet. Ultimately, isn't it up to parents to decide what constitutes appropriate attire for their children?

Mumsnet is a hugely powerful force that brands should seek to harness but, in this case, it seems George at Asda may be going a step too far.

Gareth.Jones@haymarket.com

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