Don’t support the marketing of female inequality
Clothing retailers General Pants Co and Ksubi got together and made this:
This image of a woman, her top half naked apart from gaffer tape over her nipples, is having her jeans unzipped from behind. The image, part of the ‘Sex! & Fashion’ advertising campaign, adorns the glass windows of a number of shopping malls, including Westfield. It was launched at the end of last month.
The words ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and ‘satirical’ have been used to describe the campaign. Most children wouldn’t even know what that meanst. They are being socialised to see such sexualised representations as normal. But of course these images don’t affect only children. I’ve made the point before – if these pictures were put up in a workplace, it would be considered unlawful sexual harassment. But it’s OK to plaster the public domain with them when it’s advertising. The images are a form of harassment for women and girls who are confronted by them when going about their daily lives. Women are just for sexual decoration, to be stripped, to bare their flesh for the gratification of others.
Collective Shout has been inundated with complaints. One of our members told us that a Sydney General Pants. Co store went beyond a poster on the store windows to real life models posing with tape across their breasts.
We are pleased that the companies have experienced a consumer backlash. But we’d prefer not to have to run these campaigns in the first place. It seems corporate social responsibility has gone down the drain.
Let’s unpack the words of General Pants Co. CEO Craig King :
“We thought it would generate attention, sure. Much of what the guys [Ksubi] do gets attention, it’s that kind of brand. Any time we do something with the potential to polarise opinion we expect to get a few concerned ‘members of the public’.
“At the end of the day General Pants Co. is a curator of youth apparel brands for young blooded consumers. We encourage creativity and support youth initiatives. We don’t have a political agenda and we don’t want to be pulled into one – we don’t take ourselves that seriously.”
The sub-text is not hard to see. Note ‘members of the public’ in dismissive quotation marks. Note the references to youth and creativity – because anyone objecting must be old and outmoded. And as if stripping down women in advertising is clever and’ creative’ – really, you think were the first to come up with that idea? Anyone who objects has a ‘political agenda’ and the cool guys in their General Pants ‘don’t take themselves that seriously’. It’s all just edgy and chilled and the rest of you can get stuffed.
Here’s the thing Craig: we take what you have done seriously, because the actions of your company reduce women to sexualised adornments. So you might think it is all a big joke, and dismiss the rest of us. But your actions reveal what you really think about women. Like you company’s use of a peephole that invites the viewer/voyeur to have a good perve on gaffer tape woman. You’d never think to do that to a man.
General Pants and Ksubi told consumers they were censoring the campaign from May 3 onwards. But ‘censorship’ didn’t mean removing or pulling the campaign, it meant putting a black panel across the woman’s topless body, emblazoned with the text ‘CENSORED’.
Remember Advanced Medical Institute played the same little game? So did Nena and Pasadena. Sorry Craig, it doesn’t ‘diffuse the situation’. You have still exploited a woman’s body in your advertising, even though belatedly covering her. As my colleague Dr Helen Pringle said to me: “You don’t even need nudity to create pornography, you just put a ‘censored’ sticker over something and voila, homemade porn”. These boys invent their own censorship in order to justify their banal ‘self-expression’.
Here’s what I said about the issue on Channel 7’s Morning Show yesterday.
For details on how to make your protest known, see Collective Shout.