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Smurfette installation at Atomium marks International Women's Day

08:58 04/03/2020

The Atomium, the United Nations and the Smurfs are working together on a new gender equality installation to be unveiled on International Women's Day.

The show in the ground level and central spheres will contain various examples of the "Smurfette principle" culled from films and contemporary television shows such as Stranger Things and Marvel as well as strips from Smurf comics that depict an underestimated and excluded Smurfette.

In 1991, New York journalist Katha Pollitt coined the term the Smurfette principle. Writing about children's shows on television she said: "Contemporary shows are either essentially all-male, like Garfield, or are organised on what I call the Smurfette principle: a group of male buddies will be accented by a lone female, stereotypically defined.

"The message is clear. Boys are the norm, girls the variation; boys are central, girls peripheral; boys are individuals, girls types. Boys define the group, its story and its code of values. Girls exist only in relation to boys."

Almost 30 years later, there have been improvements, but for the most part things have not changed a great deal.

Through playful panels, the Atomium installation will treat such serious topics as the fact that women do three times more unpaid care and housework than men, or when they are paid they receive 23% less than men for the same job.

Since 2015, the United Nations and the Smurfs have worked together on a campaign around 17 challenges, one of which is gender equality. For the latter, the campaign's spokesperson is the Smurfette.

The exhibit opens on Sunday 8 March.

Written by Richard Harris