A clothing store in Kent has removed a pink neon "send me nudes" sign after thousands of women signed a petition launched by parents who said it was promoting a "negative and damaging" message to young girls.
Rachel Gardner, a mother of one, launched the petition on Sunday after her friend Rebecca Rumsey and her two teenage daughters spotted the sign in the store while collecting an outfit they ordered online.
"The girls love Missguided clothing," Gardner told BuzzFeed News. "They went into the store to pick up the outfit they'd ordered, and Rebecca just saw the sign and something in her went, ''Hang on a second, I'm not happy with that.'"
Gardner, who has been a youth worker for several years, said that although the message was a play on words about nude lipsticks, the underlying message was grim.
"This is not about gunning for Missguided, but it's about saying 'no, actually a line has been crossed'," she said. "Putting on your wall 'send me nudes' is quite a clever play on the nude colours of lipstick, but actually there's a cynical undertone.
"I work with a lot of girls who feel under immense pressure to share naked images of themselves, and not just naked images, perfect naked images, or perfect bodies, hairless, and massive boobs. It just legitimises the pressure that many teenage girls feel under to be who they're not, and to always be sex-ready.
"I'm incredibly sex-positive, relationship-positive, and fashion-positive, but I think there's something about that message that's pretty grim."
The response to the petition has been extremely strong, Gardner said, with around 7,000 signatures fewer than 24 hours after it was launched.
Some people have criticised the petition on the grounds that women should have agency over their bodies. However, Gardner said it specifically focused on girls under 18.
"I'm not thinking about over-18-year-old women who are making their own choices, I'm thinking about messages to under-18-year-olds," she said.
"Being empowered is not about the patriarchy saying to girls, 'Look this way, send a photo, and then send it out.' Sexting itself has within it that power dynamic where girls are more adversely affected by sexting than boys are."
She added: "I am all for girl empowerment, I'm all for girls choosing their fashion, expressing themselves in creative and unique ways, being fierce and bold and beautiful in who they are. But this message I think is not acceptable, and it absolutely does not empower girls."
Bluewater shopping centre confirmed to BuzzFeed News that the sign had been removed from the Missguided store. BuzzFeed has reached out to Missguided for comment.
The Missguided store in question is in the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. A previous version of this story misstated its location.
Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Fiona Rutherford at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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