Today I was approached by the Press Office asking if I would do a quick interview with BBC Look East to talk about the campaign #IAmAnEssexGirl and give my thoughts on whether the definition for ‘Essex girl’ should be removed/changed in dictionaries.
I am originally from East London and I lived there until I applied to Anglia Ruskin, Chelmsford in 2012 and I have lived in Chelmsford ever since. Although I’m not a born and bred Essex girl I have experienced the stereotypical comments from people when I mention that I live in Chelmsford, and these are not always positive.
A few examples of the noun/definition ‘Essex girl’ is a series of dictionaries are as follows:
A contemptuous term applied (usu. joc.) to a type of young woman, supposedly to be found in and around Essex, and variously characterized as unintelligent, promiscuous, and materialistic.”
— The Oxford English Dictionary
A young working class woman from the Essex area, typically considered as being unintelligent, materialistic, devoid of taste, and sexually promiscuous. ”
— Collins Dictionary
The fact that women are being labelled as “unintelligent, promiscuous, and materialistic” simply because they are from a certain area is incredibly unacceptable. Having the definition written in such a well-recognised text that is used as an educational source within schools is merely conforming to the decision that was made over 20 years ago. We need to move with the times and realise that putting this type of stereotype on a group of women can be demotivating. Girls from Essex should never have to defend or try to prove their intelligence or sexuality because of an outdated stereoype.
As President of the Students’ Union and a Chelmsford based student I will proudly say that Essex girls are far more than a stereotype. We have a vast number of female students who are from Essex and the surrounding areas, studying professional courses, practicing to be nurses, teachers, lawyers and engineers etc.
On 6th October 2016, Natasha Sawkins and Juliet Thomas launched the #IAmAnEssexGirl campaign and here is what they had to say:
“We want the definitions removed. Or, at the very least, made obsolete. And we know that, in order to do this, Essex needs to reclaim "Essex girl". To let the world know that it doesn't signify anything other than a girl who lives in Essex. Who she chooses to be beyond that, is entirely up to her.”
Whether you're from Essex, or just believe that no girl should be defined by anyone other than herself, you can support the campaign by signing the petition here: https://www.change.org/p/i-am-an-essex-girl-reclaim-essex-girl-and-remove-it-from-the-dictionary