Thanks to our friends at ‘The Illusionist’ for this blog post on Dove. With the deluge of lovey-dovey isn’t Dove wonderful guff all over the social media stratosphere, it was refreshing to read this piece which sums up all that is wrong with the so-called ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. So what if they make cool videos? Does that justify everything else the company does? Collective Shout has had Dove in its sights since our inception four years ago, and its parent company Unilever continues to appear on our annual ‘Cross ‘em off your XMAS list’
This week my inbox was flooded with emails from friends and acquaintances – who had forwarded me the link to the latest Dove “Real Beauty” video, highlighting the disconnect between women’s perceptions of their own attractiveness and how outsiders see them. The point of the video is to show that women are often too critical of their looks. I was glad to see how this video sparked important conversations in the blogosphere and social media. But there’s a dark side to Dove that many people are unaware of.
I had written a blog post about some problematic aspects of Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign back in October 2008. Recently, while researching material for my feature-length documentary, I came across more evidence that supported my earlier points. Thing is – I’ve been reluctant to speak up about these issues for several reasons. The key ones:
Dove’s campaigns are the only ones that – at least on the surface – promote positive body image, in an ocean of toxic advertising set to make women feel insecure about their looks
I am acquainted with several people connected to Dove’s Real Beauty campaign – they’re good-intentioned people I deeply respect and admire.
I actually really like Dove’s videos
So, I considered these issues and thought about the latest email I received from my friend S. I wondered, would she feel that same way if she knew the other side of the story? My hunch: probably not. Staying quiet would be the easy thing to do. But is it the right thing to do?
So, without further ado, I am addressing the big elephant in the room. Below you will find my original post about Dove – with some tweaks and updates reflecting new evidence I recently discovered.
About three months ago, upon completing the first phase of research for my film, I held two slideshow presentations in front of an audience of friends, acquaintances, and a few people working in the TV/movie industry in Paris. Very much in the style of Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”
At the heart of the presentation is the assertion that the obsession over the pursuit of the perfect female body is one of the integral parts of the capitalist system. If women were suddenly content with their appearance – accepting their body size, skin tone, wrinkles, graying hair, and the size and shape of their breasts, amongst other things – entire industries would collapse. Indeed worldwide revenues for cosmetics, dieting products, and cosmetic surgery totaled almost 500 billion dollars in 2006. Thus the saturation of images in advertising and mass media promoting an idealized, surgically-enhanced beauty that is impossible to achieve.
Well, during my presentations I would invariably get asked about the company Dove and its campaign for “Real Beauty.” Wasn’t that refreshingly positive? People would ask. It is a question that comes up every time I talk about my project. The short answer? Yes and no.
The people at Dove have actually exploited a void in the marketplace. By introducing so-called women with “real” bodies, they distinguished themselves from their competitors. According to the New Yorker, after the introduction of their “Real Beauty” campaign, Dove’s sales shot up 700% in the U.K. Read more here.
And what about this, also brought to you by Unilever?
‘We showed companies all over the world that rewarding rape is not just wrong, it’s a bad marketing strategy’
So happy to report some good news.
U.S based women’s protest movement UltraViolet led a massive protest against rapper Rick Ross and his endorsement deal with Reebok, prompted by his lyrics in the Rocco song ‘U.O.E.N.O’., about drugging a woman and having sex with her without her knowledge.
Ross’s segment on the song featured spiking a woman’s drink with the drug MDMA, also known as Ecstasy or molly:
Put molly all in her Champagne
She ain’t even know it
I took her home and I enjoyed that
She ain’t even know it.
Only 13-months-old, UltraViolet harnessed a groundswell of protests that forced Reebok to end its relationship with the rapper. Much of the action took place through social media, resulting in a mammoth 90,000 signature petitions, 10,000 phone calls and 2000 tweets.
Protest outside the Reebok store in Manhattan (NYT)
Here’s an email I just received about the campaign’s success.
YOU just dealt a big blow to rape culture.
Thanks to 100,000 UltraViolet members and our allies who spoke out, Reebok just ended their endorsement deal with Rick Ross, the rapper who brags about raping a woman on his recent single. The 90,000 petition signatures, 10,000 phone calls, 2,000 tweets, the letter signed by 500 rape survivors, and the nearly 100 people who rallied at Reebok’s New York City flagship store sent a clear message: we won’t stand for a company that rewards rape.
And Reebok listened. In fact they issued a strong statement, saying “We are very disappointed [Ross] has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue or an appropriate level of remorse.”1
When a company does the right thing, it’s important that we thank them–so we’re going to send them a thank you card, signed by thousands of UltraViolet members. We’ll also send the card to the press to help Reebok get good publicity for taking a stand against rape. Can you sign the card?
This isn’t just a blow to Rick Ross–it’s going to have an impact on how companies like Reebok choose their spokespeople in the future. We showed companies all over the US–and all over the world–that rewarding rape is not just wrong, it’s a bad marketing strategy.
After Todd Akin, Rick Ross, Steubenville, and far too many similar stories, it’s clear we have a lot of work to do together to end rape culture. But right now, we need to take a moment to thank Reebok, and show companies everywhere that if they stand up for women, it will pay off. Can you sign the thank you card?
Thanks for speaking out,
Nita, Shaunna, Kat, Malinda, and Karin, the UltraViolet team
Ross part of another video eroticising violence against women
Remember Rick Ross’s part in a behind-the-scenes clip for the Kanye West Monster video which showed him eating a plate of meat between the spread legs of a dead woman? Collective Shout, Adios Barbie and others joined together in a global campaign against the Monster video which was described as a rape scenario set to a soundtrack – and won. MTV refused to screen it.
Radio host Ben Fordham interviewed me today about a Barbie Webcam he’d found in an electronics store. I argue that a webcam marketed to little girls is one more weapon in the corporate arsenal to groom girls for a lifetime of seeing themselves as on display in a culture that rewards exhibitionism. You can listen to the interview here.
‘How dare the elite media and privileged individuals who think themselves superior to the average mother, deride mothers and imply they’re not eligible for a view on how society should be improved?’
The articles last week in New Matilda (Trixie Wellington), Crikey (Helen Razer) and ABC Unleashed (Lauren Rosewarne) were so nasty and hurtful to mothers who are legitimately doing their best to make sure their daughters don’t come to any harm from men.
What about mothers who are survivors who might feel like they worry too much about child sexualisation stuff? (which I don’t think is possible). It’s just feeding into their self-doubt, and disempowering them from taking proper action to try and protect their kids better than they were protected.
I think there’s an implicit message in Wellington’s article that mothers are looking at their daughters sexually, which she should be called out on. This is an outrageous claim – Australian courts are currently chock full of, not women, but men who have decided to extend their violent pornography consumption to children. The statistics are huge and getting worse by the year.
Of course we would all love men to come to their senses and begin to lead decent lives like women have managed to for hundreds of years, but at this point in history there’s no indication they’re collectively deciding to do that. So, in the meantime, we have to let mothers feel as empowered as possible to protect their kids, without feeling like they’re weird or being told, (with no evidence) their agenda is puritanical: to ‘shame’ girls and put them in burqas?
How dare the elite media and privileged individuals who think themselves superior to the average mother, deride mothers and imply they’re not eligible for a view on how society should be improved? It smacks of classism. Why are mothers not eligible to speak on behalf of other women? Why can’t they lead the women’s movement (however that’s defined)?
Why can’t we have a women’s movement that’s influenced by our concern for children? Do we have to hide the fact we’re mothers if we want to speak out? And what’s with ‘feminists’ siding with corporations over an individual mother? How could that happen?
More than ever, we need to stand together across the class divide to protect children against trends like sexualisation. Disparaging and belittling mothers, who are most qualified to speak on behalf of children, is just a good way to let the corporations win.
The pornification of culture occurs because not enough of us have children’s rights foremost in our minds. On a daily basis mothers are going about their lives with children’s wellbeing and welfare as their top priority, so we could learn from their example.
Dr Caroline Norma is a lecturer in the School of Global Urban and, Social Studies at RMIT University and a contributor to Big Porn Inc: exposing the harms of the global pornography industry.
Target has drawn fire from campaigners against the sexualisation of children for selling clothes considered sexually inappropriate for young girls
Click on image to watch interview on ABC’s Lateline
(just as an aside, I don’t ‘run’ Collective Shout. I am part of a founding board which takes responsibility for the organisation. The day to day running of the movement is managed by Melinda Liszewski in Brisbane supported by volunteer activists around the country).
Why did it take almost a year to remove child prostitution tourism book?
On Thursday, after a protest initiated through Change.org Amazon removed the Age of Consent: A sex Tourists Guide!
This is how it was promoted on the global book seller, before it was pulled.
The self-published e.book by Peter F. Friedmann – available for free in the Kindle Lending Library – was described this way:
…there are many countries on this planet where the age of consent is as low as 12 or 13, whilst one country has no age limit whatsoever! Before travelling, whether you are going as a backpacker, for business purposes, or as a sex tourist, you need to invest in this comprehensive guide to the age of consent laws in every country in the world! It will keep your fun legal!…This $3.49 will keep you out of jail, possibly the most important few dollars that any red blooded testosterone pumped traveller will spend.
Isn’t that great news? The age of consent as low as 12 or 13 and in one country you, the lucky child sex tourist, you will not be limited by any inconvenient laws to restrict your child shopping!
Until it was threatened with a boycott, Amazon had no qualms about selling this guide to the selling of children for rape – which it had been doing for nine months.
And Amazon wasn’t just offering this handy service to heterosexuals.
This Kindle book relates only to heterosexual sex, if you are gay or lesbian then you need the sister publication Age of Consent: Homosexual Edition.
The company helpfully directs us to other books by Mr Friedmann who no one could accuse of not doing his bit to further the global trade in the bodies of women and children:
Also by the same author – Sex Tourism in Bangkok, Sex Tourism in Pattaya, and Free Webcam Sex: Find Real Girls Don’t Pay A Penny!
Amazon initially went on the defensive, stating:
Amazon believes it is censorship not to sell certain books simply because we or others believe their message is objectionable. Amazon does not support or promote hatred or criminal acts, however, we do support the right of every individual to make their own purchasing decisions.
That’s the same line it trotted out when it defending selling The Pedophiles Guide to Love and Pleasure: a child lover’s code of conduct in 2010, following another protest which I wrote about at the time.
The book endorses sexual crimes against children.
The E. book by Phillip R. Greaves, which was available for Amazon’s Kindle electronic reader, is an instructional manual which teaches pedophiles how to break the law so as to avoid getting, caught or so as to attract ‘liter’ [sic] sentences” if they are caught.
In using the term ‘pedosexuals’, the book asserts that the sexual abuse of children (often their own children) is simply a sexual preference. The idea is that pedophiles are a misunderstood sexual minority who ‘love’ children. The book compares the plight of pedophiles to the plight of Jews in World War 2. This is a deadly idea that covers up the reality of what is being promoted: the rape of children.
The book advises on how to find products similar to condoms for ‘boys younger than thirteen’. It gives advice on the best way to use images of children as ‘masturbation material’. It suggests the use of ‘any children you have actually been with, in the past’ in fantasies.
…Amazon’s own policies prohibit content of certain kinds, including “offensive material,” as well as content that “may lead to the production of an illegal item or illegal activity.”
Perhaps teaching men how to rape children and get away with it just wasn’t offensive enough?
At that time child advocates called for the resignation of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos for allowing Amazon.com to sell such titles, citing a “blatant disregard and complete inhumanity” towards child victims.
But Bezos is still there heading up this corporate irresponsibility and books which make it easier to locate children to torture end up promoted and sold through Amazon like they were any other book.
How long will this continue? What can we expect Amazon to bring us next?
Just the latest example of the mainstreaming of pornography
‘The “Telstra Babes” content is just a few clicks away from the “Women at Telstra” recruitment website, which describes the company’s “inclusive working environment” for women and its culture that “celebrates the success of women at every level”’.
This piece by James Frost in The Australian last week provides further evidence of the encroaching of pornography into the mainstream. Our major telecommunications company is now in the porn business, offering and profiting from Playboy and Girls Gone Wild.
If you are a Telstra shareholder why not let the company know that you didn’t buy shares to invest in the company’s porn-for-profit venture? And if you’re a Telstra customer, let the company know that this isn’t your idea of corporate social responsibility. You can contact Telstra here.
Telstra’s soft-porn site under fire
IN another sign that Telstra is not the boring government-owned phone utility it once was, the company now offers softcore pornography over video-capable mobile phones.
Telstra mobile users can watch videos with titles such as Dirty Housewife and Hot Asian Gets Wet for between $3.50 and $4.95 per viewing.
“We have a range of web pages offering different content for the many niche interest groups that make up our customer base,” a Telstra spokeswoman said.
The “Telstra Babes” content is just a few clicks away from the “Women at Telstra” recruitment website, which describes the company’s “inclusive working environment” for women and its culture that “celebrates the success of women at every level”.
Author and anti-pornography campaigner Melinda Tankard-Reist said Telstra’s attitude was disappointing and raised serious questions.
“This is a mainstream communications company,” she said. “When did they make a decision to go down this path? Was it at a corporate level?”
Telstra won’t reveal whether it pays for the content or whether it is paid for referring any of its 12 million mobile users to material produced by Playboy and Girls Gone Wild. The telco said warnings were displayed and that the content was relatively tame.
“We have stringent guidelines pertaining to all content across our sites and in particular, the ‘glamour’ pages, which are among the mildest in the category among industry providers,” the spokeswoman said.
Ms Tankard-Reist rejected that defence and said the companies supplying content to Telstra had disturbing associations.
“Playboy isn’t just your father’s magazine under the bed any more,” she said. “Playboy hosts a range of hardcore, explicit, triple-X content across a range of cable television channels. You couldn’t even print the names of the titles they show.
“The Girls Gone Wild genre is harmful to women and girls and there have been allegations that girls have been made drunk to coerce them into filming sex acts or simulated sex acts for the camera.
“Shareholders would be surprised to know the company is hosting and distributing pornographic content. It’s a significant issue for its reputation.”
“Pussy is great by itself, but you know sharing with friends, it’s nice to experiment and I would recommend sharing pussy with friends…”
Where did I find these quotes? Comments posted on a porn site? Men discussing their sexual preferences perhaps?
No, they’re found in this promotion for an energy drink called Pussy. These words were uttered through the dazzling teeth of Sam Branson and filmed at the Kensington Roof Gardens owned by daddy Sir Richard Branson.
The video’s opening frame states the company’s mission is for “Global Pussyfication.”
It appears they are succeeding.
Three thousand retailers in the UK alone can’t get enough of it. It’s even in Tesco. And Selfridges. And on Virgin trains (maybe the planes are next – surely Richard Branson will see the cross-promotional opportunities in combining the company names?).
The beverage is now in 18 countries worldwide, including Australia where it can be found in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
Shearer has a photo of porn mogul Hugh Hefner drinking Pussy at his 80th birthday. Shearer has now joined entrepreneurs Sam Branson and sister Holly in their corporate sexualisation mission.
While smothered in porno references and online pics of women naked from the waist down and in sexual acts illustrating the brand, Pussy’s marketers tell us: “The drink is pure. It’s your mind that’s the problem”.
Their drink “challenges the consensus” and is “spontaneous, entertaining, optimistic and fun. It’s a starting point. A moment when something happens and when things begin – Pussy starts conversations. It believes in having a good time as often as possible”.
At the expense of women. Because this drink contributes to the second class status of women and girls. How is it that appropriating porn industry terminology is seen as cool bourgeois sophistication? It’s happening every day, as I’ve documented so many times (including here recently).
The product is so mainsteam that an online vocational training institute has established a new distribution business for the energy drink in Australia, in a move described by the CEO of the Dymond Institute of Business, Russell Dymond, as a “giant leap forward”. The brand, says the cool and sophisticated Dymond, is “exciting and progressive.”
“This is a golden opportunity for Dymond Institute’s Business and Marketing students to apply their learning, knowledge and skills, to a real life business, as opposed to simulated business scenarios,” Dymond says proudly.
“The Pussy Drinks option…will enable our students… to develop product, pricing, promotional and distribution tactics, as well as strategic direction.”
So even our educational institutions are getting in on the act. Female students will be expected to market and promote a symbol of their own objectification.
Marketing Sexploitation 101: enroll now at the Dymond Institute of Business.
Thanks to the Pussy wunderkinds, boys are encouraged to crack sexist jokes and harass girls. If Pussy is in the fridge at their local milkbar next to the milk, what’s the harm in using the term in interaction with each other and with girls?
The drink and the advertising that goes with it entice boys and men to jest about ‘drinking pussy’ or ‘needing pussy’ or ‘getting pussy’ (you can enquire about the drink through an email whose address begins ‘Get Pussy’). Fuelled by the porn-inspired references, they will ask their mates if they ‘would like some pussy’ or tell them it’s ‘BYO Pussy’.
The porn-inspired name encourages boys and men to dissect women and see them only in terms of their sexual body parts. “Pussy is great by itself,” as Branson Junior informs us, as though it is an inanimate object not connected to a real flesh and blood woman. All women are collapsed as pussy, to be shared and consumed by men.
This product is part of the widespread sexploitation of women and girls. The mainstreaming of the drink treats women and girls as objects and is part of the sexual harassment of women and girls, especially given plans to saturate Queensland with the product.
The young woman serving behind the counter is asked by a male where he can find some “pussy”. It’s not hard to imagine what she could be subjected to while going about her work. Pussy has provided yet another tool for multiple harassment scenarios.
Of course many girls will joke and laugh along. Certainly, that is what they are expected to do. Girls are taught to put up with sexist crap from the earliest of ages, even to embrace it as liberating. And if they are upset, or distressed, or uncomfortable, well that’s too bad, they just need to lighten up. And don’t they know that even Holly Branson thinks Pussy is great and has one every morning?
The Pussy energy drink is just another example of the mainstreaming of porn-inspired themes. It pretends to be cool but really it’s just Big Sexism in a can. And that doesn’t “move us forward” as the drink’s masterminds claim. It sets us back. Again.
It’s that time of year again. The time of year when companies ramp up their advertising in order to compete for your Christmas dollar. There is nowhere you can go without companies placing their product and logo in your face.
Now is the time to recall which companies used sexploitation to sell and promote their products over this past year. You can make a difference by voting with your dollar against sexploitation this holiday season.
Following the positive response to our inaugural ‘Crossed off’ list of 2010, we have compiled an updated list of corporate offenders, who we have selected for specialising in sexism, objectification and sex industry themes in 2011. These companies do not respect women and they have not responded to complaints nor changed their ways, so they do not deserve your patronage.
Beside each logo you’ll find a link to more information about why we encourage you to boycott this company. And don’t forget to let them know why you won’t be buying from them – we’ve included their contact details as well.
For pimping Playboy porno chic to girls and women. Our Change.org petition – currently over 7000 signatures – was recently hand delivered to Diva stores. Some staff refused to accept it, saying they had been instructed not to. Diva is owned by BB Retail Capital, which also owns Adairs and Bras N Things, where the signature brand of the porn industry gets centre spread in linen and underwear, and where women are told to ‘Be a Bunny.’
Contact Diva: firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign the petition here.
Bras n Things
Bras n Things sells and proudly advertises the major brand of the porn industry, Playboy. We’ve written about this here and here. Bras n Things also sexualises girls. For example, the Teacher’s Pet ’dress up’ outfit is advertised with the words ‘This school girl needs to be taught a lesson!’
For sexualised ad campaigns aimed at young girls. Supre advertised using an image of a topless young woman on the back of buses and trams and on their website. A television ad featured a young woman gyrating around her bedroom before falling onto a bed. Supre has a long history of sexploitation with their slogan t-shirts including ‘Santa’s Bitch’, ‘Pussy Power’ and ‘High Beams’ to name a few.
Unilever claimed to care about ‘real’ beauty and the worth of women through its Dove label while using demeaning advertising promoting women as sexual recreation through ‘Lynx.’ Lynx’s most recent offering was banned by the ASB. Unilever once again defended its sexist ads. Unilever owns a variety of different brands, but there is no need to try and remember them all. Just look on the back label of personal care, food and cleaning products for this blue ‘U’ logo. If you see the ‘U’ put the item back and choose another one.
General Pants uses objectification and sex industry themes to sell and promote their products. Large posters of topless women – with only tape covering their breasts – were used to advertise a new fashion line called ‘Sex‘ in shop front windows. Young staff at General Pants were required to wear badges that said ‘I love sex.’ Other promotions have featured topless models and live pole dance shows in their shop front windows. Change rooms at General Pants have featured floor to ceiling ads for prostitution and strip club venues.
City Beach continues to sell pornographic themed t-shirts to a young market. Collective Shout supporter Caitlin Roper challenged City Beach directly through the Equal Opportunities Commission. City Beach were uncooperative and continue to sell items like this.
Other logos for stores, which stock ranges of t-shirts depicting women in porn-themed poses and subjected to eroticised violence are shown below. Sixty high-profile people put their names to an open letter calling for removal of these t-shirts for normalising violence against women and exposing children to sexualised images. Click on each logo for contact details of each store.
Rivers began objectifying women on the front cover of their catalogues. They then used an image of a dead woman on the front cover of their catalogue ’10 Deadly deals’, which attracted complaints and significant media attention. Rivers remains unrepentant.
Contact Rivers by emailing them at email@example.com
In a clear reference to the sex industry Nando’s used a burlesque/stripper model in the ‘Little Hotties’ campaign. Nando’s marketing director Kim Russell described the ad as “sassy not sleazy”. We disagreed. Stop off somewhere else for take away these holidays.
Not the place for your holiday fuel stop, selling extreme porn titles promoting rape, incest and sex with young girls. While BP, Shell/Coles Express and Mobil withdrew these titles after a campaign led by Julie Gale of Kids Free 2B Kids, McDonalds/Fuelzone and Caltex have remained intransigent.
Contact Mcdonalds here (regarding Mcdonalds co-brand with Fuelzone).
Now it’s over to you. Are there any other brands that should be included on this list? Are there alternatives to these brands that others might like to know about? Please share your suggestions below.
Crossed Off in the media
SEX SELLS AND ASB CAN’T STOP IT CAMPAIGNERS WARN
By Madeleine Ross on 15 November
Grassroots campaigners Collective Shout have lashed out at a fistful of brands for sexploitation in advertising and lamented the lateness of the standards watchdog in dealing with demeaning material .
The advocacy group, which encourages individuals to boycott brands which sexualise females in advertising, yesterday released a list of offending brands which included Lynx, Diva and Nandos.
The collective has called on consumers to boycott the brands this Christmas and accused them of using sexism, objectification and sex industry themes to sell products. Read more
Porn identity puts Diva on top of list of shops to drop
November 16, 2011
TWEEN jewellery store Diva tops the list of brands targeted by a campaign calling on shoppers to boycott brands that use sexual exploitation in their marketing.
Lobby group Collective Shout says that as brands step up their advertising in the lead-up to Christmas, consumers should vote with their wallets by avoiding those brands that use ”sexism, objectification and sex industry themes” Read more
Collective Shout reveals list of ‘sexploitative’ brands to boycott this Christmas
An Australian organisation has called on the public to boycott brands this Christmas that it believes sexualise and objectify women and girls.
According to Collective Shout, the companies on its list have been the worst at objectifying and sexualising women and girls through advertising and marketing in 2011. Read more.
Antoinette Jones – Principal – Mitcham Girls High School
“Intelligent, passionate, brilliant, fearless… I could not recommend her more highly”
Dr Michael Carr-Gregg
“You continue to reset my shock meter…”
“As a teacher and parent I recommend all parents, in fact all people, to attend a talk by Melinda- it will open your eyes and awaken your subconscious.”
Heather Douglas – Parent – Pembroke School
“Melinda’s presentations to our parents, staff and full day workshops to students was inspirational, transforming the attitudes and thinking of all involved”
Paul Teys – Principal – Hunter Valley Grammar
“Melinda Tankard Reist’s presentation to Middle and Upper School students at Pymble Ladies’ College was absolutely brilliant!”
Justine Hodgson – English Faculty, Pymble Ladies’ College
“Melinda Tankard Reist has had a transformational affect on our school.”
Ms Stephanie McConnell, Principal – Turramurra High School
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