Archive for Advertising

Research Spin

If you’ve been anywhere near The Guardian for the past three days you will have come across this “intent” to curb the hypersexualisation of our beloved media.
There’s absolutely nothing in this new report or in the proposed “action plans” that we feminists haven’t seen at least a billion times since the ‘70s. This is a well known tactic used by governments when they can’t possibly avoid an “issue” any longer: they commission research. “You say there’s a problem? Don’t worry, we’ll look into it, leave it to us.” Ten years pass by and nothing gets done, on accounts that the research is not “conclusive” enough. So then more research is commissioned, another ten years pass by and the whole thing repeats itself again. This system of permanent “spin” is applied to anything that the public might show interest in, from acid rain to advertising aimed at children. The excuse for inaction is “we don’t know for sure yet”. In the meantime, the concerned public is appeased, the outrage conveniently dispersed. It’s a “safety valve” designed to stop pressure from effecting change. Or causing explosions. Both of which are dangerous to the status quo.

The problem is not lack of research, you see. We have known the harmful effects of pornography since the very invention of pornography. Not only we do not need further research, but we have never needed research in the first place. Accepting that we ever did acts to sow doubt in our minds. “Maybe we don’t know it all. Maybe the blatant truth in front of us is not quite what it seems”. So we better go to the big institutions, the big authority figures, the State, the Universities, all of which are designed to keep the status quo intact, to provide us with irrevocable proof that yes, the truth is indeed true.
We don’t need research to tell us that poisoning a river is “bad” any more than we need research to tell us that denigrating images of women are “bad”. And for good measure, we don’t need research to tell us that torture in Guantanamo is “bad” either.
The way to fight back against this “spin” nonsense is to do away with research altogether. You want proof that hypersexualisation is harmful? Our rage is proof enough. We want this to stop and we demand this to be stopped. End of story.
The way to rationalize this approach is to understand that the current state of affairs wasn’t put in place because the research proved it to be the best possible alternative. No one carried out extensive research comparing the benefits of a hypersexualised culture versus a non hypersexualised one and concluded that, yes, hypersexualisation was the way to go. If “they” didn’t need research to put it there we shouldn’t need research to take it down.
Or you can think about it this way: did the government commission studies to prove that bailing out banks was the most favourable social outcome? Thought so. Furthermore, did they go back and said “the evidence is non conclusive, come back in a year or two with better data”? Exactly.
Those in power get to call the shots, independently of whether they make sense or not. The rest of us don’t have that privilege. If we want to change something, we better justify it a thousand times over.

Just to finish this off, take a closer look at this line in the editorial article about this very topic:

“Today a Home Office report proposes action to try to reduce access to the kind of magazines and advertising that appear to objectify young girls, and more education to arm all young people against it.”

Did it occur to anyone that maybe there shouldn’t be stuff in our society for which young people should be armed against? What is this? A war?

Maybe it is. A war over who gets to decide what goes on in our minds. And we are losing.


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Gee, I Wonder Why You Choose To Look Like You Want To Get Raped

In this article, Leslie Goldman writes about that American Apparel billboard ad, with the woman with her back to the camera, her legs spread out, in which someone has cheekily sprayed the words “Gee, I wonder why women get raped”, the question mark between her thighs.
She criticizes the practise of using sex to sell, which is of course always demeaning to women. It all goes well until she says that the picture in question was the self-portrait of a real woman, implying that that kind of makes it ok. The author-model is quoted saying

“the fact that some people chose to project ‘victim’ onto that image — an image that I took of myself — is only an indication of their own distorted perceptions about women and sexuality.”

It’s good to know that no woman in the whole history of human kind has ever contributed to her own oppression, de-humanization, sexual abuse, and the like. Really, it is good to know. No woman has ever stayed with an abusive husband. I tell you, the minute a man was raising his hand upon his wife she would be at the door stopping a taxi. And no woman has ever contributed to promote her inferior status. This is why generations of mothers would raise their girls in politics and science, convinced that this would make their daughters more attractive to potential husbands. Oh, and a woman has never, ever presented herself as a piece of meat because, say, she would be able to get food that way. Also, the minute that women the world over realized that they should have the right to vote that men have been enjoying for centuries, they all leapt to their feet and became suffragettes. Not one woman opposed the suffragette movement, not a single one.
Serious, now. Following patriarchy’s well defined path for a woman’s life is rewarding. Pandering the patriarchy is more rewarding still. There’s nothing men like more than a woman who actively embraces her inferiority status; and nothing titillates men more than a woman who loves to present herself as a sex object. This is why whatever a woman chooses to do is NOT OK simply by the fact that she’s a woman and she’s choosing. Because she’s not free to choose. None of us really is, when the price of deviating from that chosen path is so high.

To that model who has chosen so freely and, may I add, wisely, I would say:

1) It’s indeed your right to present yourself as sex on legs to all men in New York who could potentially see the ad. Really it is. The message you are giving with you body, as “dude from company” has said is “Here’s my arse, fork me”. Just one thing. When and if a man spots you walking down the street, recognizes your arse and demands the sex you so eagerly offered, you should have to comply without a peep.
2) Would you have the kindness to present yourself as sex on legs in a way that makes clear it’s only YOU the one doing the offering? Because as this ad stands, it gives the impression that everyone with a vagina in the city of New York is actually suggesting so. You see, this is how the media works, by representing the world and therefore, women in it. It would be very impolite of you to give men the impression that all women are offering up their arses, when in reality is only you. Because if men did indeed get this idea and started demanding the sex we didn’t offer well, it would be considered rape.

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Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women


I’ve found a great video titled “Killing Us Softly”. It’s about advertising’s image of women. It’s enlightening, funny, entertaining. It’s only 35 minutes long, which is a shame, but it gives a very good idea of what the problem is. Ideal for women who don’t think advertising is “not important”.

One line I found hilarious:

” ‘Does your husband whish you had larger breasts?’. And if he does the implication is clear, you better change your body, … as opposed to changing your husband.”

Jean Kilbourne is the author of the movie. She has just published a book “Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel“. Her website Jean Kilbourne

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