Hamilton police will 'revise the theme' of Girls Night Out recruitment event

Hamilton's police service says its female recruitment night next year will have a different theme after a women's organization objected to its hot pink "Girls Night Out" poster.

YWCA Hamilton says it's a frivolous theme that plays into stereotypes

The local YWCA says Hamilton Police Service's Girls Night Out title and poster reinforces stereotypes. (Hamilton Police Service)

Hamilton's police service says its female recruitment night next year will have a different theme after a women's organization objected to its hot pink "Girls Night Out" poster.

The YWCA Hamilton called out the service on Twitter for the frilly banner and pink Hamilton Police logo. It also objected to the title, which it says summons images of attendees drinking Cosmos and doing their nails.

"We have to stop calling women 'girls,'" the agency said. "We are dissatisfied with the use of patronizing language (and stereotypical pink) by @HamiltonPolice in their recruitment effort. #UseTheRightWords."

The event is to recruit women — not girls — to be police officers, says Medora Uppal, YWCA Hamilton director of operations. 

"It just didn't fit with the intention," she said. "And it sounded like they were playing off some ideas of what appeals to women."

Female officers organized the event, said Jackie Penman, Hamilton Police Service spokesperson. Reaction to the marketing has generated some "healthy discussion."

"We welcome the feedback and will revise our theme next year."

Inspector Treena MacSween tweeted similar sentiments, saying it was "a healthy discussion … about labels."

"Let's not let it overshadow a great event. As a guest speaker, I encourage females interested in policing to sign up."

The service has held female recruitment events since 2006, Penman said. This is the third Girls Night Out. 

The name, Penman said, is meant to reflect the informal nature of the event. "It was designed to be an informal conversation between female members and potential candidates."

A more informal forum, she said, makes it easier for women to ask questions about maternity leaves, job sharing and the physical aspect of the job. Women are less likely to do that in a mixed audience.

"The goal is for the participants to see our officers as mothers, wives, sisters and friends — and hopefully see themselves as future police officers," she said.

The approach seems to work, she said. Statistics Canada figures show 21 per cent of police officers are women. In Hamilton, it's 24.47 per cent, or 198 officers.

"It's important to engage in the dialogue," she said, "and ensure we aren't using labels that detract from our goal."

Not everyone on social media took issue with the Girls Night Out theme.

"If female officers chose to name this Girls Night Out in (a) playful way to generate interest, I think it's insulting to tell them they're not allowed to do that," said one female tweeter. "There are plenty of issues to get upset about. I don't think this is one."

About the Author

Samantha Craggs

Reporter

Samantha Craggs is a CBC News reporter based in Hamilton, Ont. She has a particular interest in politics and social justice stories, and tweets live from Hamilton city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca

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