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?
You’re about to be bombarded. Bombarded with junk mail, TV, radio and outdoor advertising all competing for your Christmas dollar. Before you purchase gifts for your friends and loved ones, lets remember those brands that have excelled in sexploitation this year, the brands and companies that do not deserve your hard earned money. Cross ’em off your Xmas list! For our third year running (see lists from 2010 and 2011) we are making it easier for you to make ethical decisions rejecting of companies which have not demonstrated corporate social responsibility.
As a first this year, we’ve added a positive alternative: Toward the Stars, an inspiring on-line global marketplace for products for girls. And we’re hoping to be able to add our first major corporate to sign on to our Corporate Social Responsibility Pledge. (Watch this space!) Here’s our list for 2012.
The popular youth surf store continues to push pornified products to young people. City Beach sells what we’ve called ‘porn t-shirts’ -clothing with pornified images of naked and semi naked women.
The range extends to thongs, hats and at the start of the year even pencil cases
were available at its ‘back to school’ sale. We’ve held protests outside City Beach stores in Brisbane and Sydney.
We’ve taken City Beach to the Equal Opportunities Commission and yet they refuse to budge. While City Beach insist on pimping porn accessories to the youth market, you insist on taking your Christmas shopping elsewhere.
Jewellery and accessories retailer Diva began selling Playboy branded jewellery
in 2011 to its target market of tween girls. (also read: The Age)
A petition through change.org accumulated over 8000 signatures and Diva withdrew much of its Playboy advertising and stock from the shelves. But dodgy Diva continued to sell their Playboy range from underneath the counter and stock has slowly crept back out on display in stores again over the past year.
When challenged again, Diva defended their Playboy range as marketed to their ‘mature’ customers. No matter their age, girls and women deserve better than being sold the merchandise of the global sex industry – when it comes to your Christmas shopping, drop Diva.
Lynx, men’s deodorant has continued to churn out their trademark sexist ads throughout 2012.
Lynx’s ‘controversial’ promotions – including the “Rules of Rugby” and the ‘Washes Your Balls’ promotion – are the perfect demonstration of how a company can misuse advertising industry self-regulation to its advantage. Create a ‘controversial ad’, wait for the complaints to roll in, cross promote with sexist ‘lads mags’ then cash in the dollars from the increased exposure. Lynx seems to think this manoeuvre will stop us from speaking out – it won’t.
And while you’re boycotting Lynx, you might want to give this brand a miss too…
What? Dove? The brand that brought us the campaign for real beauty? Absolutely! Dove is owned by Unilever, the same company who owns and markets Lynx. But the sexploitative hypocrisy doesn’t just stop there – under the Dove label, Unilever also sell a number of ‘skin whitening’ products, as well as anti-cellulite, breast-firming and breast growth creams. Making money off body dissatisfaction, sexual objectification AND positive body image campaigns? We’re not buying it Unilever.
In February this year, Mossimo ran a competition asking people to upload photographs to their Facebook “peep show” campaign. Images of Australia’s Miss Universe contestant in her underwear were given as examples, with the ‘peep’ which received the most votes winning a digital camera.
Despite the clear references to the sex industry as well as (the crime of) keyhole peeping on women, Mossimo denied any wrongdoing. The Advertising Standards Board saw it differently, upholding complaints about the campaign. Read about the online protest (and how we won a lovely new Canon camera!) against Mossimo here.
We wrote about General Pants explicit, sexist, and degrading advertising campaigns last year. They have a history of sex industry inspired stunts including live pole dance shows in their shop front windows. We have continued to hear from supporters about shop window displays and the images they display inside their change rooms. Give General Pants a miss.
The Buddy Ball
The Buddy Ball is the creation of AFL poster boy Lance “Buddy” Franklin. When Franklin’s not busy flogging over priced footballs to youngsters, he spends his time ‘co-directing’ Nena &Pasadena, a line of overpriced porn-inspired shirts, popular in surf stores such as City Beach.
In the past 12 months Franklin has brought us (caution when opening links) this, this and this. Posing as a role model for young boys, and then selling them the degradation of women to wear across their chests? We’re not buying it.
Despite being aware of Lance Franklin’s clothing line for almost two years, the AFL has refused to enforce their Respect and Responsibility policy and discipline Franklin. The AFL claims to be committed to addressing sexism and violence against women, but their silence and lack of action indicate they are not serious about these issues. Thinking of purchasing tickets, a membership or items from the AFL store? Think again.
Lovable is not so loveable following its ‘Besties’ campaign, which encouraged women to upload ‘selfies’ to its Facebook page. Jen Hawkins and fellow models, posed in their underwear, featured in the promotion. While the terms and conditions stated that participants didn’t need to upload images of themselves in underwear, the promotion sent mixed messages about cyber safety, prompting the Ad Standards Board to ban the promotion on this basis.
Of course, this is not the first time Lovable has objectified women – previous campaigns have also been so sexualised that they’ve been featured in the now defunct ‘FHM’ magazine.
Typo’s ‘back to school’ 2012 promotion pimped a wide range of porn-inspired travel mugs, iPod covers and notebooks to students. After parents complained and media caught on, Typo agreed to remove the ‘Porn is my saviour” and ”Dirty” ranges. While they withdrew these items, other items, including notebooks with sexual themes intended for school, remained in stores.
Typo are owned by the Cotton On group, who are serial offenders for selling porn t-shirts and sexploitative advertising campaigns.
These are companies that appeared on last year’s ‘crossed off’ list last and which have continued to use sexploitation throughout 2012.
A positive alternative – Introducing Toward the Stars
Created by Inês Almeida, Toward the Stars is an online market place and a safe haven from the commercialisation and sexualisation of girlhood, from the toxic gender stereotypes that dominate the marketing, media, and products targeted to children and young adults. A place full of gifts that inspire and enable girls to reach for the stars. Offering a venue that motivates and supports artists, business and craftspeople to innovate and explore new products that have the potential to change the world.
If you’re looking for gift ideas that will inspire and empower girls, check out Toward the Stars.
Now over to you!
Which stores will you be avoiding this year and why? Are there alternatives to the brands we’ve listed above? Please join the discussion in the comments section below and at Collective Shout.
Today’s post begins with an actual account of the meeting that took place when the Lynx ‘Clean your balls’ campaign was born.*
It’s late on a Friday afternoon. Lynx executives sit side-by-side with the most brilliant minds in the advertising industry. They’re ready to make history. Ready to win awards.
The brief is simple: sell Lynx men’s shower gel. Ties are loose at necks. Hands are running through product-filled fringes. One guy’s watching Bikini Car Wash III on his iPad.
‘All right, men,’ begins Lynx’s highest ranking officer. ‘What have we got?’
A young man in a tailored suit speaks up. University-educated, well travelled, crisp accent. ‘Balls,’ he says emphatically.
Some nods. Some looks of confusion. Some uncomfortable shifting in seats.
‘What’s wrong with breasts?’ the boss asks. ‘Breasts sell everything.’
‘We’ve done breasts before. We need something edgier. More creative. More tangible.’
‘Balls . . .’ the boss muses, warming to the idea. ‘Talk me through it.’
‘We use different sorts of balls, you know, like tennis balls and golf balls, as a metaphor for … well, balls.’
‘Bit opaque isn’t it? There must be some way we can get breasts in there?’
‘No, sir, not really. It would compromise the thematic premise.’
‘Hmm. A commercial without breasts.’ He sits back, squints his eyes and tries to imagine such a curious creature. ‘It’s a risk, but I’m going to back it. You know I love creative ideas!’
The campaign is offensive; it’s meant to be, as Lynx has more-or-less confessed (though they use the phrase ‘sharp and edgy’).
What Lynx hasn’t explained is why it has to be so unaccountably juvenile. It’s not clear from the campaign video whether the whole thing is for an actual product or is just a snigger-fest put together by a bunch of fourteen-year-olds with Final Cut Pro and too much time on their hands.
Call me a crazy, femo loving wowser, but why does Lynx have to use puerile double entendre to sell shower gel? Have all the good ideas really run out? They talk about being mavericks, but what’s maverick about objectifying women? Just about every ad agency on the planet is doing that.
Women? How could this be objectifying women? It’s all about balls.
No, it’s not. It’s about the premise that women exist primarily for men’s sexual gratification. No matter how much Lynx claims this is a ‘sharp and edgy’ campaign, it has the same misogynistic foundation as so much of the other tripe we’re served up by advertisers on a daily basis. All of them infusing our minds with the idea, explicit or not, that women are mindlessly stumbling from one opportunity to pleasure their menfolk to the next. That’s the sum total of their contribution to society. And here’s a tip, lads, if you use the right shower gel, they won’t be able to help themselves.
But Lynx wasn’t going to stop at one overproduced advertisement. Just to prove that the campaign team had more than one brilliant idea, they decided to knock off a picture of the Hockeyroos – you know, the incredibly dedicated sportswomen representing Australia at the next Olympics – and plaster it on Lynx’s corporate Facebook page with the blisteringly witty caption ‘These girls sure know how to handle balls.’ Seriously? Sharp and edgy? Or disrespectful and lame?
Has anyone actually said ‘edgy’ in conversation since 1996?
Two-faced Unilever is the parent company that owns Lynx. Unilever also owns Dove. Dove campaigns for real beauty. Lynx objectifies women. Enough said, I’d suggest, but Miles Mainwaring says it better than me anyway so check out his article highlighting Unilever’s hypocrisy.
Of course, the team at Lynx will be slapping their palms red from all the high-fiving at every negative word spoken; free publicity, campaign longevity! Well the joke’s on you Lynx, because no-one actually reads this blog.
But you know what, maybe I’ve been a bit harsh. At least the campaign was original.
The original Axe campaign, which Lynx ripped off and re-badged for an Australian audience
* Today’s post did not really begin with an actual account of the meeting that took place when the Lynx ‘Clean your balls’ campaign was born. But if advertisers want us to think they’re more than a group of adolescents in suits with way too much money, give us something clever, creative and maybe even funny. Please leave the smut and objectification behind.
Guy Sigley is a Melbourne-based writer who works in communications by day and blogs by night. A father of young children, Guy began his blog The WorldTells Me to oppose the profit-driven sexploitation and misogyny so widespread in popular culture.
More sexploitation from a repeat corporate offender
Men’s deodorant brand Lynx – owned by Unilever – has added to it’s ongoing list of degrading ads with the company’s latest promotion, “Lynx, cleans your balls.”
We began hearing from CS supporters about the ad via our Facebook page when it aired on television. We checked out the video on YouTube where it was promoted on the home page. The company’s teenage target market are frequent visitors to the site.
We were asked to comment on the ad for the Herald Sun:
The controversial three-minute Lynx ad titled Cleans Your Balls stars actor and singer [Sophie] Monk in a mock tele-ad showing men how to wash sports balls.
The ad, which is full of double-entendres, has been criticised as crass and oversexualised by lobby group Collective Shout.
Co-founder Melinda Liszewski said up to 10 members had lodged complaints with the Advertising Standards Bureau because it was degrading to women and condescending to men.Read entire article.
Melinda Tankard Reist was also asked about the ad on Melbourne radio 3AW:
Co-founder of Collective Shout Melinda Tankard Reist said she was unsurprised by the tact that “repeat corporate offenders” Lynx had taken with their latest campaign.
Number of complaints is reported again in the media, view this as free advertising
When the ASB upholds complaints (if they uphold complaints) act indignant but agree to comply with the ruling even though you can’t do anything about the majority of other sites still hosting your ‘controversial’ ad. This will be perfectly timed with the natural end of the ad campaign anyway.
Slap each other on the back for a job well done and roll around in money, like Scrooge McDuck
Here’s something Lynx may have missed.
Lynx may be advertising deodorant and body wash, but they are also advertising the failure of the ASB to reign in recalcitrant advertisers. Lynx have done this before and they will do it again. They will face no financial penalties for continuing to run ads that are sexist, demeaning and that breach the Advertising Industry code of conduct.
We will keep speaking out because we believe silence has never changed anything and never will. Lynx’s latest ad campaign – like their previous ad campaign – highlights the inadequacies of the ASB and demonstrate why an independent body or authority is needed to replace it. Penalties should be put in place to ensure that advertisers cannot use self regulation to do whatever they want.
So thanks Lynx for helping us to make our case for independent advertising regulation in Australia. We will be sure to ‘advertise’ you at the next government enquiry.
As for Lynx’s claim that their ad is ‘sharp and edgy’ we’ll leave the last word to Allison who wrote:
I sat through that ad on the big screen. You could sense every person in the cinema cringing. No one thought it funny at all. My male companion felt embarrassed to be the target of such purile crap & he grew up watching Benny Hill.
The Advertising Standards Board have upheld complaints against Lynx’s sexist ‘Rules of Rugby’ advertisement.
The advertisement was supposedly created to educate men about the rules of Rugby Union. It is of course just another excuse for Lynx to objectify women. It would appear that objectification is Lynx’s one and only marketing strategy. We’ve written about this before.
The advertisement, which appeared on YouTube and was reported to be launched as a television advertisement to coincide with Rugby World Cup, featured scantily clad women wearing modified Rugby Union uniforms (ie. underpants and midriff tops) running in slow motion. The camera zooms in on women’s body parts at different intervals while the voice over makes reference to ‘shape’ and ‘size.’
The Advertiser – Lynx’s parent company Unilever – defended their advertisement in the way they usually do. It’s funny! It’s tongue in cheek! Our consumers love it! In their response to the ASB, they also complained about Collective Shout:
We have noticed that a Facebook group called “Collective Shout” asked other Facebook users to send complaints about the Video to the Advertising Standards Bureau (see attached screenshot). The Collective Shout Facebook site contains the following statement:
“Have you seen this Lynx television ad? Please make a complaint to the ad standards board via the on line form at www.adstandards.com.au. … ”
Directly underneath this statement a link to the website of the Daily Telegraph was posted together with the following statement:
“Scantily clad models play out the rules of rugby in this controversial new TV ad that’s been launched to coincide with the World Cup.”
Both statements incorrectly refer to the Video as a television ad although in fact it is not shown on TV. We have reviewed the Collective Shout Facebook site and have not noticed that the Video was made available on this website. It is not unlikely that the nine complainants who claim to have seen the Video on TV have been encouraged by this Facebook site to lodge a complaint without having seen the Video on TV.
In its determination the Advertising Standards Board found that the advertisement breached Section 2.1 of the code (advertisements shall not portray or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, sex, age, sexual preference, religion, disability or political belief. )
The Board considered that the advertisement is clearly shot to emphasise various physical attributes of the women – with lingering shots on the women‟s breasts, groins and bottoms. The Board considered that the advertisement depicts the women as sexual objects. The Board considered that the „fantasy‟ element of the advertisement takes away any suggestion of the women actually being presented as sportswomen and increases the impact of them being presented as sexual objects.
The Board considered that the advertisement depicts women in a manner which amounts to discrimination against women.
Based on the above the Board determined that, in this instance, the advertisement did depict material that discriminated against or vilified any person or section of society.
You can read the full determination including Unilever’s full response here
Jingle bells, Christmas is here. Well, it was here around October according to most retailers! But that’s another blog entirely. So it’s time for you to fill the Christmas stocking, Christmas hamper or car boot with goodies again.
Throughout the past year, Collective Shout has taken action to create a world free of sexploitation. Now it’s your turn to create a shopping bag free of sexploitation this Christmas.
Below is a list of products, brands, people and companies who have been ‘naughty’ and not nice this year. Actually they’ve been exploitative, degrading and disturbing.
Here is a list of corporate offenders we have crossed off our shopping list this year. We encourage you all to do the same.
Thousands of people spoke out against Roger David shirts featuring objectifying images of gagged and half naked women. Roger David have never addressed concerns about these shirts and continue to stock them. Shop somewhere else for men’s clothing this Christmas.
Degrading images usually reserved for the centre pages of fhm or Ralph magazine, have now found their way onto t-shirts marketed primarily towards teenagers, via the T.I.T.S brand stocked by City Beach. If you don’t see these items in City Beach, you will see them wherever a person chooses to wear them. City Beach is contributing to the pornification of culture! Don’t buy from City Beach this holiday season.
Amazon came under fire recently for selling a book titled The pedophile’s guide to love and pleasure: a code of conduct for child lovers.Since then more disturbing material has been found such as Understanding loved boys and boy lovers. Did Amazon act swiftly to remove these child abuse manuals when challenged? No, it defended it’s right to sell the child abuse instruction guide as free speech until they could no longer ignore the threat of global boycott. A company that supports child abuse does not deserve your money. Don’t shop at Amazon.com
‘High Beams’… ‘Pussy Power’ … ‘Santa’s Bitch’ … ‘North Pole Dancer’ … All slogans on t-shirts at Supre, a retailer hugely popular with 11 and 12 year old girls. After loads of complaints sparked by an article on Melinda Tankard Reist’s blog in December 2009, Supre said they would remove the shirts. They lied, the shirts were seen on the clearance rack selling for $5. Don’t shop at a store that treats little girls this way.
Where to begin with Lynx? The Lynx Lodge dubbed a ‘virtual brothel’ by the media. The ‘pop up spa’ in Sydney’s Martin Place, providing passers by with the sexual titillation usually reserved for a strip club. Lynx have been combining deodorant with porn themes and marketing them to a teenage audience for years. They call this the Lynx Effect. The Lynx Effect is that men treat women as objects of sexual recreation. Do not support them this holiday season. Put their stinky, over-priced gift packs back on the shelf, because Lynx Stynx! Lynx have defended their campaign saying it is designed to give men ‘confidence.’ Having looked at Lynx’s facebook page, many men are now quite confident in treating women like pieces of meat.
To add insult to injury, Lynx is owned by Unilever. Do you know what else Unilever owns? Dove. You know, the campaign for real beauty, where women are encouraged to be themselves, to love who they are, no matter what size, colour or age? Contrast the ‘campaign for real beauty’ with Lynx’s advertising and you will see why many are keen to ditch Unilever altogether. It’s easy to do, just look for the ‘U’ logo on the back of the label, then put it back on the shelf! Check out the full list of Unilever brands here.
Lovable are using their affiliation with a leading Eating Disorders charity to further their reputation and profits, while undermining their work in every way. You cannot use a former ‘Miss Universe,’ a woman known for her ‘flawless’ physical attributes in a pornified campaign and claim to be helping to promote positive body image. Eating Disorders are serious mental health issues affecting a growing number of girls and women each year. Not something to be taken advantage of to increase your profits. Lovable? As one commentator has put it, their behaviour is ‘hatable.’
Calvin Klein has a long record of pornified, degrading advertising. Recently we alerted our supporters to this billboard dubbed the ‘gang rape’ billboard. The Ad Standards Board received a large volume of complaints about this ad, sparked by articles on Collective Shout and Melinda Tankard Reist’s blog. An Ad Standards Board representative even wrote to us asking us to advise supporters to use the online facility instead of fax or post – apparently the number of complaints was impacting their workload and online is easier for them to process. The Ad Standards Board upheld the complaints and the billboards were taken down. Read the outcome here. If you see the Calvin Klein logo on jeans, underwear or perfume, put it back on the shelf. This company does not deserve your money.
Diesel has a history of sexualised and degrading ad campaigns. ‘Be stupid’ is one of these campaigns with the accompanying slogan: ‘smart may have the brains but stupid has the balls.’ Melinda Tankard Reist has written about that campaign here.
Diesel came to our attention again this year when images of their ‘sex sells’ campaign were plastered on the front of shop windows. This resulted in a flood of complaints from our supporters with at least one retail store agreeing to remove the posters.
Diesel again hit the media just recently. A US law school rented out their Library to Diesel for what they were told would be a tasteful photo shoot for jeans. The resulting images of models in their underwear crawling over the facilities and each other, were an embarrassment for the law school who said they were duped into allowing Diesel to use their facilities.
“It’s gross. I work on those computers every day!” fumed a female student, referring to a shot showing two women wearing just bras and panties climbing over the machines toward an older man.
Now it’s over to you!
As well as boycotting those which objectify and sexualise in their advertising, we want to support those who are doing the right thing.
Tell us what you will choose not to buy this holiday season.
Can you share with us any positive alternatives to some of these brands?
Objecting to objectification: Collective Shout celebrates a year of wins
Collective Shout, a dynamic grassroots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls, celebrates its first birthday in Brisbane this weekend.
Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation, was founded to target corporations, advertisers, marketers and media which objectify women and sexualise girls to sell products and services. The movement has established itself as a serious agent for change.
In its first 12 months, the movement has achieved a number of significant wins. These include:
• Getting Bonds to withdraw bras for 6-year-old girls
• Getting supermarket chain Woolworths to disassociate itself with a sexist Lynx promotion
• Getting Calvin Klein billboards suggestive of sexual assault removed
Collective Shout co-founder and spokesperson, Melinda Tankard Reist, said the campaign had helped remind companies of the importance of corporate social responsibility.
“What Collective Shout has achieved in its first year is extraordinary,” she said.
“We have seen inappropriate clothing, toys and games removed from sale, billboards taken down, sexist ad campaigns stopped.
“We have helped people recognise they have a right to object and equipped and empowered them to take action. We have put corporations on notice that if they do the wrong thing, they will be exposed and boycotted. The bodies of women and girls should not be seen as fodder for companies to exploit for profit.”
Collective Shout’s achievements will be celebrated this weekend at an event featuring Melinda Tankard Reist, Julie Gale, comedian and founder of ‘Kids Free to be Kids’, Erica Bartle, ‘Girl with a Satchel’ blogger and local musos and artists.
Date: Saturday November 20, 2010
Place: SPOON, 6/33 Lytton Rd, East Brisbane, QLD
Media enquiries: Melinda Tankard Reist, ph: 0414305738
The backlash against corporate exploitation of women
“Women are frequently positioned very differently to men in media. Often shown as passive, vulnerable, scantily clad, headless, and sometimes dead…”
Today a guest post from eating disorder prevention specialist and member of Collective Shout’s core team, Lydia Turner. It’s reprinted from theFierce, Freethinking Fatties blog.
In recent years there has been a growing backlash against the prescription of a rigid beauty ideal. The bombardment of images of ultra-slim models, across a range of mediums, is increasingly gaining recognition as having a harmful effect on girls and women. Late last year, 45 international eating disorder experts released a statement, reporting that after reviewing over 100 international studies, the evidence was “overwhelming” that these images contributed to increasing rates of anxiety, depression, sexual dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, unhealthy weight loss behaviours, and eating disorders [http://bit.ly/cUwZSJ].
Rather than seeing eating disorders as ‘extreme’ responses to a culture that actively discriminates against those labelled fat, the Health At Every Size (HAES) movement recognises unhealthy weight loss practices have become culturally normative as a consequence. When fat people – especially fat women – are depicted in the media, they are usually held up as objects of ridicule, with a barrage of negative characteristics attacking their intellect, integrity, self-worth, and sexuality. For this reason, allowing ‘plus-size’ or fat women to be depicted as ‘sexy mynx’ may seem liberating, giving permission and visibility to women who are systematically denied sexual identity. Yet the need to prove sexual acceptance reveals that participation in a discourse of oppression is required – for women of all sizes – in order to achieve visibility.
We need to discuss the wider problem of the hyper-sexualisation of girls and women in media everywhere. It is not any one particular image that is problematic; but rather the reiteration of the same sexualised images that create a harmful cultural narrative of what it means to be a girl or woman in industrialised nations today. When corporations are given unfettered power, abuse of the consumer is a result. We have already seen this demonstrated in the massive conflicts of interest in obesity research and unethical practices promising thinness. It is now time to recognise that global brands are contributing to illness by cashing in on the narrow way in which women and girls are being depicted in media – even when the ideal is expanded to include fatter women.
While the beauty ideal for decades had already required women to be (usually) white and ultra-slim, pornographic themes are rapidly creeping into mainstream media, showing women in ways that suggest they are nothing more than sexual service stations for men. Consider Australian brand Lovable’s latest campaign. Employing Miss Universe, it shows Jennifer Hawkins in bra and undies, suggestively licking an ice cream with white liquid running down her arms, in reference to male ejaculation.
Then there are Calvin Klein and Dolce & Gabbana ads, known for ‘pushing boundaries,’ with many of their ads alluding to gang rape and violence against women, used in outdoor advertising. One Dolce & Gabbana ad has now been withdrawn in Italy.
In Argentina, Unilever’s child company Axe has launched ads that encourage boys to sexually harass women .
Unilever’s other child company claims it will open a lodge in Sydney later this year, promoting female servitude as “the ultimate male fantasy,” with scantily clad young staff obeying men’s orders in adherence to the lodge’s central theme of “tell her what to do” .
Women are frequently positioned very differently to men in media. Often shown as passive, vulnerable, scantily clad, headless, and sometimes dead such as in these ads:
These images inform women over and over that their body primarily exists for the purpose of evoking male desire, as though their bodies are merely sex aids. Robbing them of their humanity, women are often referred to as “it” or “that”, for example on Facebook’s Lynx Effect UK site fans say things like “you no [sic] you would ruin that all night long” commenting on photos of young women in bikinis. Axe, also a child-company of Unilever, has ads recommending men use its shower gel to “scrub away the skank” the morning after a regretted sexual encounter (including women who are disabled, ill, or elderly).
These images and language choice have a very dehumanising effect, which is dangerous on many levels. They help create a climate which increases violence against women, or at least, puts women in danger of violence. As we see on Lynx Effect Ireland’s page, fans discuss types of women they dislike: “She’s a bitch,” says one commentator. Others advocate violence against them, saying things like “spray Lynx in her face.” Lynx Effect Ireland insists this is all just ‘tongue-in-cheek.’ Lynx are not alone in portraying violence against women as sexy.
It is not just women that are affected. Given these many of these images are displayed in public areas, children can’t be protected from seeing them. Yet if such images were shown to a child by a paedophile in a private area, we would call this “grooming.” Images such as these are also not allowed in the workplace, as they are considered a form of sexual harassment. Yet they pollute our public landscape.
What message do these images send boys about how women should be treated? What message do they send girls about their own bodies and self-worth? Academic psychologist Cordelia Fine revealed numerous studies confirming that environments that cue gender stereotypes negatively affect how men interact with women, even when women are fully clothed. With advertisements positioning women as sex objects, such as in this banned Toyota Yaris ad, this “drip drip effect” has a detrimental impact on women, and on the way men relate to them.
Children are further affected when corporations try to out-sell competitors by pushing boundaries by ‘adultifying’ and sexualising them. Up until two weeks ago, corporate giant BONDS was selling bras for girls as young as six. They weren’t the only ones. Retail chain Best & Less, and even Kmart was stocking ‘bralettes’ for little girls. Another company went as far as selling padded bras – with lace – for six year olds.
These messages go against the spirit of the Health At Every Size and Fat Acceptance movements, as they erode body trust while inducing bodily anxieties, for girls of all sizes. Retail chain Supre whose target market are ‘tweens’ ages 6-12 has sold t-shirts stating “Pussy Power” and “Santa’s Bitch.” In rap/hip hop culture this means the girl is ‘owned’ by Santa as he is her ‘pimp.’
Another retail chain, Witchery was just this week exposed for their latest catalogue showing little girls wearing mini-adult clothing and striking adult poses.
While these are not sexualised images, adultifying girls blurs the line between girls and women, where girls feel increasing pressure to achieve the same beauty ideals traditionally applied only to their mothers. The cultural messaging teaches them that their worth depends primarily on whether they are ‘hot-or-not,’ instead of fostering real values, talent, and intellect. It is predictable these days that when a young female celebrity reaches the age of 16, she must “prove” she is “all grown up” by stripping down, such as in the example of pop singer Gabriella Cilmi and Miley Cyrus. Funny how young male celebrities are never required to do the same.
When a ‘plus-size’ woman is allowed to be ‘sexy,’ she is still positioned as a sexual object rather than one who ‘owns’ her own sexuality and personhood. Take former Australian Idol contestant Ricky-Lee Coulter for example. It was considered a victory posing her on the cover of lads mag Ralph because she was not waif-like.
Yet she was required to be scantily clad, donning a dominatrix-style outfit with whip. ‘Bigger’ women are often positioned in this way. We are still attaching unhealthy messages to women of all sizes – being ‘plus-size’ or fat does not provide immunity against the damaging effects of objectification.
While the Health At Every Size and fat acceptance movements actively speak out against the harms of promoting thinness as the only acceptable body type, I urge all supporters to consider also supporting movements that send other harmful messages to girls and women about their bodies. Messages that tell women all they are ‘good for.’ While some argue that the increasing sexualisation of girls and women is sexually liberating, I say these corporate messages are actually sexually prescriptive.
As Gail Dines argues in her latest book Pornland, it’s time we stopped allowing corporations to hijack our sexuality. Accepting one’s body does not include feeling that everyone must have big breasts or obligatory fattened lips to feel good about themselves, nor that their stripping is necessary to prove their newfound body-love. Just as fat is not “evidence” of poor health, neither is aging- yet we are told on shows like Oprah that aging is somehow linked to not taking good care of oneself. It’s imperative these movements collaborate with others that challenge other notions that also affect body image.
In Australia, a new grassroots advocacy group has already achieved a raft of successes against advertisers, corporations and marketers which promote body shame through their hyper sexualised products and marketing practices. Headed by author and social commentator Melinda Tankard Reist, ‘Collective Shout: for a world free of sexploitation,’ has managed to stop the sale of bras and bra-like products to girls under age 10, block a rape-simulation game console from being accessed in Australia, successfully pressured Woolworths to cancel its support of the Lynx Lodge, amongst many other wins. Collective Shout is less than a year old already with over 1500 members worldwide. If you would like to show your support, please sign up here .
Last week I exposed the fact that Woolworths was in bed with Lynx in a promotion based on female servitude and sexual objectification.
Today Woolworths has announced they’ve broken up.
Here’s a letter the grocery corporation sent Collective Shout supporter Jade today:
“Thank you for your email to Woolworths concerning the recent Lynx Lodge marketing campaign. A number of customers have contacted us and expressed their concern about Woolworths’ involvement in this promotion which was primarily focused on an associated competition to win dirt bikes.
We have reviewed this activity and agree that the nature of the overall Lynx Lodge promotion is not in keeping with Woolworths’ values as a company. As a result we have spoken to the manufacturer and taken steps to remove the association between the Woolworths brand and the Lynx Lodge promotion. We sincerely apologise for any offence caused.
We are pleased Woolworths has responded to community concern including from customers and shareholders. We also hope they won’t make the same mistake again.
But Lynx Still Stynx
Woolies might have done the right thing. But Lynx still stinks. That’s why we’ve launched our new Lynx advertising parody on You Tube today. Please watch it and share!
Unilever Stynx Too
Parent-company Unilever continues to justify its anti-women behaviour with patronising and condescending cut-and-paste responses to the many who have complained.
Kath at Fat Heffalump has had enough of the P.R spin. She takes apart Unilever’s response here.
Well, well, well. I got a response from Unilever regarding my complaint to them about their Lynx Lodge campaign. Brace yourselves for some of the worst correspondence to a customer complaint that you are likely to see: Read the entire post here.
Unilever’s new product to ‘wash away the skank’
Ms Magazine exposes a new Axe body wash called Snake Peel, to ‘wash away the skank’. Lynx is the equivalent of Axe, which is the US brand name.
“I noticed a website address scribbled on the body of the man in the third storyboard. So I visited www.thefixers.com and found The Fixer Show, a faux-talk show made by Axe and dedicated, apparently, to advice for men. Each of The Fixer’s five segments corresponds to a new Axe body wash. In the Snake Peel segment, I learned that “questionable hookups” whom you might wish to “scrub away” include: “the geriatric, the bedridden, the lazy eye, the girl that has way more muscles than you, which is sexy only until she has you pinned down and she’s asking you to call her Frank …” And more! For three minutes! Thanks, Axe. You sure know how to make a girl feel special”.
That’s right, a man can use this Axe body wash to rid himself of any traces of sex with women who are sick and disabled (and skanks as well, apparently). Because who could possibly find these women attractive? They must be erased from the body and mind. I’d like to know what disability rights groups think of Unilever’s degrading and demoralising depictions.
Collective Shout has had three wins in less than a week. It shows what’s possible when individuals speak out. If you haven’t done so already, please join Collective Shout and we will see even greater things. Also find us on Facebook.
Virginia Haussegger is right to lament the status of women in other countries and the brutalities and indignities they suffer daily.
But attitudes towards women in our own so-called liberated western democracy desperately need an overhaul as well.
While I frequently write about the objectification of women and girls, this issue has been unrelenting of late. Sexism is alive and well. Is it really the 21st century?
Lynx sexual performance in Martin Place
Last Thursday global brand Unilever staged a ‘Pop-up spadate’ in Sydney’s Martin Place to promote its ‘man-cation’ travel destination, the Lynx Lodge. Young bikini-clad women splashed about in a hot tub. The amply breasted models had shower gel splattered across their chests (a reference to ejaculation, for those unfamiliar with the porn genre).
Nina Funnell described the scene in The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday:
“… Martin Place was transformed into something resembling a cheap porn filmset…The hot tub was placed on a raised platform, blocked off by rails. Male suits pulled out iPhones to take photos through the rails…Other Lynx models pranced around in tiny French maid outfits. Another had set up a masseuse table and was busy giving a semi-naked man a massage. Unsurprisingly men ogled the women, slapping each other on the back, while making comments like “she’s a bit of all right” or “I wouldn’t mind a bit of that”. I felt like I’d walked into a middle aged man’s seedy buck’s night. It was 9am on a Thursday morning.”
Did Sydney City Council and its female Lord Mayor approve this sexual display in the middle of Sydney city? No qualms about sending men off to work all aroused? No second thoughts about the message to boys that they are entitled to ogle women in public places?
The Lynx Lodge appears to be parent company Unilever’s foray into the sex industry, with all the trappings of a brothel without identifying it as such. “Lynx Lodge – Get Laid Back” declares the website:
“The ultimate man-cation destination to get you back to your primal roots”
“Get laid back, as lodge staff pamper you with breakfast in bed and on-the-spot massages”
“Golf range: Grab your wood”
“Pool hall: Scared of being beaten by a girl? Some of our guests quite enjoy it.”
“Ball Games: Teamwork is everything, so be sure to focus on your partner’s backside to make out her block signals.”
Women are advertised as ready to do a man’s bidding and to entertain and excite him.
A video ad shows young women lonely and desperate for men to arrive at the lodge. Helpless and passive, they need a man to serve and give them attention. One girl wades naked into the lake waiting for him to arrive.
You can see just how mainstream sexism has become. Woolworths is in bed with Lynx, co-branding in the promotion of borderline prostitution at the Lodge.
Yet Woolies claims a “high level of social responsibility”.
How is supporting a view of women as subservient sexual slaves acting responsibly? Woolies, the women-as-fresh-meat-people?
Does this look like one of your fresh food mums, Mr Michael Luscombe, Managing Director and CEO?
Evidence of the Lynx Effect can be found on its Facebook page.
“DO I WIN A BLONDE , NICE ASS , LARGE NATURAL BREASTS,NICE EYES ” asks one man. About the spa girls:
“you no [sic] that you would ruin that all night long”
The Gold Cost Turf Club: Parading women like animals
The Gold Coast Turf Club is planning a special summer carnival in which women in bikinis take the place of horses. Herded into horse barrier stalls, they will be released to sprint down the straight for a prize.
The entry form calls entrants “mares and fillies”. The club takes no responsibility for “injury or death”. Women must wear a bikini and “acceptable running shoes”. Of course, her feet must be supported but her breasts need be free to bounce around for the entertainment of male punters.
The responses from Women in Racing and the Brisbane Women’s Club were lamentably weak. Women in Racing Director Jennifer Bartels said: ”We love anyone who will promote racing, but perhaps this isn’t quite racing. Good luck to them though.” Good luck to them?
Turf Club CEO Andrew Eggleston wants to see elite sportswomen take part. Just not in their usual sportswear.
Calvin Klein violent billboards
Then I was sent this billboard image from a woman in Sydney. Another example of violence against women being promoted as sexy, with intimations of the gang rape of an inanimate young woman. Where the hell is the Advertising Standards Board on this and others like it?
Yesterday my sister contacted me from Byron Bay about the three Wicked Campers she’d just seen with slogans: “Jugs” “Random Breast Testing” and “Shaved Pussy” across their vans. Sexism on wheels.
Everywhere they look, women and girls get the message that they exist for male gratification and pleasure. Their reason for being is to serve men and meet their every need. They should enjoy sexual harassment.
Fortunately there is a grassroots uprising against this. You can find it at www.collectiveshout.org. We’ve had enough. Vive la revolution.
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