Women’s Week: Be careful who you call an Essex girl!

Juliet Thomas and Natasha Sawkins launched a campaign to end the Essex girl stereotype. Picture: KIK

Juliet Thomas and Natasha Sawkins launched a campaign to end the Essex girl stereotype. Picture: KIKA MITCHELL PHOTOGRAPHY - Credit: Archant

What do you think when you hear the phrase “Essex girl”? - writes Lauren Hockney.

Natasha Sawkins, co-founder of The Mother Hub. Picture: THE MOTHER HUB

Natasha Sawkins, co-founder of The Mother Hub. Picture: THE MOTHER HUB - Credit: Archant

For some it may conjure up a stereotype involving white stillettos (has anyone even worn these since the 80s?!) peroxide blonde hair, lots of make up and, according to the Oxford English dictionary is “a brash, materialistic young woman of a type supposedly found in Essex or surrounding areas in the south-east of England”.

The Collins English dictionary definition is both appalling and aggravating: “A young working-class woman from the Essex area, typically considered as being unintelligent, materialistic, devoid of taste, and sexually promiscuous.”

So can you only possess brash and materialistic traits, and be unintelligent or devoid of taste if you live in or are from Essex? I think not. I have seen plenty of fellow females up and down the country, and indeed around the world displaying these tendancies.

These thoroughly derogatory definitions make us out to be a particular breed of woman found in a land far, far away - but I can assure you we are not. We are simply women and girls, who do not require definition according to the county we are from. We are successful businesswomen, teachers, artists, mothers, nurses, doctors and sportswomen - amongst other things - professions which do not support the notions found within the pages of a “modern” day dictionary.

Juliet Thomas, co-founder of The Mother Hub. Picture: THE MOTHER HUB

Juliet Thomas, co-founder of The Mother Hub. Picture: THE MOTHER HUB - Credit: Archant


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In case you can’t tell, I am from Essex - Colchester born and bred - and I am proud of my roots, they just happen to be Essex roots!

There may be similar generalisations for women from Suffolk, or in any other English county, but I am not aware of them and feel sure they don’t have their own dictionary definition!

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In 2016, two Essex mothers were so perturbed they launched a petition calling for the official definition to be changed.

Natasha Sawkins and Juliet Thomas, creators of the Mother Hub blog which supports and inspires women across the county, were 216 signatories away from their 10,000 target via the online petition site change.org. At the time the pair said: “We want more Boadicea and less of this invented ‘Essex girl’. Because that girl you’re referring to... she’s just a girl.”

Lauren Hockney, EADT and Ipswich Star Town Editor, is a proud Essex girl.

Lauren Hockney, EADT and Ipswich Star Town Editor, is a proud Essex girl. - Credit: Archant

And they are quite right, women and their many achievements should be celebrated and not be subjected to such stereotypes, including those from Essex!

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