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?
At an event in Amsterdam recently, I was ordered by a woman on the stage to take the hand of the woman next to me, who happened to be 76-year-old Hedy d’Ancona, and tell her she was beautiful. This would be more conducive to her self-esteem, apparently, than reminding her that, having served as a minister under two Dutch governments, as a member of the European Parliament, and as chairman of Dutch Oxfam, she was immensely distinguished and I was honoured to be sitting next to her.
Read full article here (including her take-down of the Dove ‘real beauty’ marketing campaign. Greer could have added Dove parent company Unilever’s diet products, cellulite creams and skin whitening creams and its sexist Lynx brand also!)
See also my piece in the Sunday Herald Sun a couple of weeks ago where I argued it was time to replace ‘Love your Body’ campaigns with a ‘Love your Mind’ campaign.
You know the one thing that’s more insulting than blatantly sexist/misogynistic advertising?
Advertising that touts pseudo-feminism but sends the exact same bigoted message, only cloaking it in women’s liberation to soften the blow.
Take the new ad from Triumph Lingerie Australia, for example. The ad’s tagline reads ‘Welcome to the Republic of Triumph’ and asks women to declare themselves. The associated image is rather epic – featuring lingerie-clad women marching and waving Mao-ish red flags while holding protest signs aloft. One of the signs reads “It’s my right to have a career and a baby” while another declares “It’s my right to smash the glass ceiling.”
Except the ad’s attempt at appealing to our feminist souls is an epic fail, because the women featured are not only perfectly perky and seriously skinny, they’re also airbrushed to the nth degree and look decidedly plastic and flawless. They are entirely, disturbingly unreal.
The Triumph ‘feminist’ message that sits alongside its contradictory content is awful, but by no means is it the first time a company has hidden misogynistic agendas behind pseudo-feminist armour.
Take the Dove real beauty campaign, for example. The toiletries company claims to be about advertising images of women with real bodies, of all ages who are ethnically diverse. An admirable effort.
But their ‘real beauty’ campaign is utterly hollow, when Dove is owned by Unilever who sell such patriarchal products like ‘Fair and Lovely’ skin-lightening cream (which is particularly popular in India where women are made to feel that the lighter their skin, the more beautiful they’ll be).
Or how about everyone’s favourite (insert sarcasm) athletic company, Nike? For a little while there they actually churned out some (surprisingly, begrudgingly) good and powerful ads that portrayed famous sportswomen not as sex symbols, but as the tough athletes they are in the feminist ‘Rock Victorious’ campaign of 2010.
But any ground Nike gained with women has been lost after their EPIC FAIL in releasing a Gold Digging t-shirt to ‘celebrate’ the fact that female athletes bought home 29 of Team USA’s 46 gold medals at the London Olympic Games.
If that t-shirt was Nike’s attempt at showing support for their female athletes, then we’d prefer they Just Not Do It.
But, back to the Triumph Australia ad and its ‘Declare Yourself’ feminist message alongside contradictory models. The height of irony is that one of the models is waving a sign that says “It’s my right to feel good about myself” – so we hope women looking at this ad take a moment to note the wrinkle-free, no-bulge-in-sight, big-breasted (airbrushed) models in their bras and undies and Declare themselves unimpressed with this faux-feminism marketing campaign.
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.
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: email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
In this guest post, Melinda Tankard Reist calls on advertisers to stop sexualising kids and objectifying women
The ad industry has the nasty habit of using self-regulation to its commercial advantage, exploiting women’s bodies in the process. Corporate social responsibility is sacrificed on an altar of sexism.
Inadequacies in the system include a weak code of ethics, no pre-vetting of ads, the Ad Standards Bureau’s powerlessness to order the removal of ads, inadequate monitoring and no meaningful penalties.
Many people don’t know how to make a complaint. Self regulation means the industry gets to do what it wants – and pretty much get away with it.
The colonisation of public space with objectified and sexualised images of women and girls continues unabated. Porn inspired representations of women in the public space have become the norm.
And while sexualised representations of women and girls displayed in a workplace constitute sexual harassment under anti-discrimination law, the open display of similar images of women in the public domain – including in shops, which are also workplaces (e.g. General Pants) – is exempt from these laws.
But wouldn’t it be good if companies chose to act ethically in the first place, rather than being forced to do the right thing by us?
And ASB rulings are inconsistent, with one ad ruled out of bounds following complaints, while complaints against a similar ad by another company are dismissed.
Collective Shout is about to release its line-up of corporate offenders for our annual ‘Cross ‘em off your Xmas list’ campaign. We are calling on consumers not to pay for sexploitation this Xmas – an updated list in the lead up to Xmas will be posted here.
There are plenty to choose from…
Diva for pimping Playboy porno chic bling to its target customer base of girls aged eight-13. Described by Corporate Failings as “Perhaps the most blatant example of consumer disregard we’ve come across”. Our Change.org petition – now approaching 7,000 signatures – was delivered in Diva stores this week. 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’.
Supre for sexualised campaigns aimed at tween/teen girls. From t-shirts advertising sexual availability to topless young models on buses, Supre has a long history.
Nando’s Mumbrella readers may recall the Nandos pole dancing mother. More recently was the burlesque/stripper model in the ‘Little Hotties’ campaign, which Nando’s marketing director Kim Russell described as “sassy not sleazy”.
Unilever for claiming to care about ‘real’ beauty and the worth of women through its Dove label while using demeaning advertising promoting women as sexual recreation – (e.g Lynx Lodge).
McDonalds/Fuelzone, Caltex – 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.
I’d advise you not to drop in at 7-Eleven for Xmas snacks for the same reason.
City Beach, General Pants, Rivers, Cotton On, Factorie, Roger David, live, Surfstitch, Universal, Glue Store, New Generation for a range of t-shirts depicting women in porn-themed poses and subjected to eroticised violence. Sixty high-profile people put their names to an open letter calling for removal of these t-shirts for normalising violence against women and involuntarily exposing children to sexualised images.
The proliferation and globalisation of sexual imagery in mainstream culture cannot continue to be given free rein. Public accountability and social responsibility – not profit margins – should be the guiding principles.
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.
But what is new is the discovery that Lynx has the support of one of the world’s biggest supermarket chains – Woolworths. Is Woolies to be known as the women-as-fresh-meat people?
Prostitute-like services at the Lynx Lodge
Described as the ‘ultimate man-cation’, the Lynx Lodge appears to be parent company Unilever’s foray into the sex industry. The lodge seems to have all the trappings of a brothel, without explicitly identifying itself 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.”
The Lynx Effect site presents provocatively dressed women (including in busty maid outfits) ready to do a man’s bidding, entertain and excite him. Emma, for example, is a “great cook” and “can do the splits – what more could you ask for?”
A video ad on the site shows a number of young women lonely and desperate for men to arrive at the lodge. Helpless and passive, they have no man to serve, therefore no meaning in life. One girl takes off her clothes and wades naked into the lake waiting for him to arrive.
Another video shows more women in sexually inviting poses and scenes. While called ‘hospitality staff’, the message is they will provide forms of sexual entertainment. Women are shown in wet t. shirts, borrowing from girls-gone-wild type themes.
“The concept of the Lodge is a play on popular male fantasy, so the girls are there to hang out and ensure Lodge guests have fun,” Lynx spokeswoman Laura O’Donnell told the Courier Mail.
She claimed all activities would happen in open public areas and that Lynx security staff would keep a watchful eye on everything. Does that include in the master bedroom where the site promises lodge staff will tuck you in and prepare you for sweet dreams?
Lynx draws attention to the backsides and cleavage of their models, but doesn’t expect any physical engagement? What about sleazy jerks who come expecting the girls to get their kit off, and try to grope them? Male visitors are primed to expect compliance, with the models at the ready to cook and serve them breakfast after a ‘sexy wake-up call.’ The Lynx girls are represented as seeking – indeed desperate for – every kind of male attention.
What is in place to protect women from sexual assault at the lodge? Will they have panic buttons? (What if they’re in the boat?) Given that the place is spread out and there are many different activities each day, how will a woman’s safety be guaranteed?
Submission: telling her what you want her to do
The theme repeated over and over is that the Lynx Mynx is to be ‘told what to do’. Lynx comments on its Facebook pages suggest a voyeuristic web-cam scenario:
“… if you love Faye so much, you’ll tell her what to do”
“The videos get released tomorrow and we’ll reveal more Tom… basically imagine a big brother-style house with these girls and you have to vote for your favourite and give her stuff to do….”
”so yesterday we filmed the first things you told the Lynx Mynx to do… it was a lot of fun, video coming soon so watch this space, but here’s a couple of pics to give you a little taste…”
Unilever: real sexism not real beauty
In case you didn’t know, the Lynx brand is owned by Unilever which also owns the Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign. Unilever is fueling borderline-prostitution of women through its Lynx brand while claiming to care about women’s true beauty and worth.
Trawling for business in Martin Place
Last Thursday Unilever took its Lynx Lodge promotion to Sydney’s Martin Place. The event featured young women in bikinis in a hot tub while men were offered massages on their way to work. Lynx shower gel was spread across the women’s breasts, in an image reminiscent of porn shoots. (Being linked with porn is no problem for Unilever, with cross promotions for Axe- the US version of Lynx- with Playboy models. For example “Watch how Playboy.com gets dirty and how they get clean with Axe shower gel”).
The event was described in ‘Time Out Sydney’ this way:
Lynx Lodge Pop-up SpaDate
Bikini-clad ladies, steaming hot tubs and on-demand massages sound like your thing? They’ll all be on offer at Martin Place for one day only to offer a sneak preview of the soon-to-come Lynx Lodge. The new all-male travel concept, located at Lake Macquarie and set to open in November this year, comes courtesy of the team behind its namesake, lady-wooing antiperspirant.
In the meantime, dudes can dive into one of the pop-up resort’s many spas along with a bevy of female beauties, or opt for a stress-relieving back rub from an accommodating hostess. Stop off on your way to work to take part in the ultimate boys’ trip draw – the chance for one guy and seven very lucky mates to initiate the first of many man-cations at the Lodge.
Did Sydney City Council have no qualms about approving this event? Were there any objections to offering sex-based entertainment in the middle of the street? Or should we expect to see more of this?
As Australia’s largest food retailer and second largest private employer, Woolworths recognises we have a high level of social responsibility, and we take these responsibilities seriously…
As a member of those communities we understand that we have a duty to be more than just a retail outlet, but to also make a positive impact on the societies that we serve. We work to the principle that we can never take our customers for granted – we need to earn their trust and respect and this means acting responsibly both inside and outside our stores.
How is supporting a view of women as subservient sexual slaves having a positive impact and acting responsibly? Does “high level of social responsibility” apply to the status of women in the community?
Does this look like one of your fresh food mum’s, Mr Michael Luscombe, Woolworths Managing Director and CEO?
Lynx – encouraging and rewarding sexist behaviour
Comments from men on the Lynx Facebook fan page show the effect of its advertising on them. Women are products to be won, they are ‘it’ or ‘that’ and judged mercilessly.
“DO I WIN A BLONDE , NICE ASS , LARGE NATURAL BREASTS,NICE EYES”
“you no that you would ruin that all night long”
“nah i seen better”
“she’s not that great”
On a pic of Jessica Simpson: “isn’t she a whale now?” “yeah she is”
On Scarlett Johannssen: “Scarlet get me a beer “
Lynx asks: “We thought it’s time we started talking about those annoying irritations when it comes to the dating game. Her clingy mates, the drunken brother, the barman that ignores you… what else shall we add to the list…?”
Jay Cooney: “the fuckin horrible moose that attempts 2 dance wit u”
Nathan Ireland: “The fat ugly mate that drags them away because she is upset the fittest bloke in the pub (besides us*) does not fancy her hippo-croc-a-pig ass!”
Allan Davison: “The fat friend”
And there you have it, the Lynx Effect, proudly supported by Unilever, Woolworths, Sydney City Council and maybe even Lake Macquarie Council.
The ultimate man-cation is, really, the ultimate objectification.
And even if the lodge is just a marketing ploy and not a real place, Unilever’s contemptuous attitude to women still comes through, loud and clear. Its campaign is a threat to the equality, freedom and wellbeing of all women.
Details on how to complain can be found here. We at Collective Shout are about to launch our Lynx Stynx campaign. Keep an eye on the Collective Shout website for more on this.
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