Thursday, 24 January 2008

Don't fall for sexist advertising

It's a well known fact that sex and advertising tend to go hand in hand. Watching only an hour of TV will expose you to a whole host of adverts using semi naked bodies in order to make their products sell. Well, lets get specific, for the most part its not just any bodies; it's thin, young women's bodies. And yes, of course, there are adverts for underwear and perfume featuring semi-naked men, but for every one of those, there are at least twenty featuring semi naked, writhing, pouting women advertising products as diverse as cars and toothpaste. I'm well aware that as you read this you may be thinking how prudish I'm being, but I promise I'm not. It's not because I think sex is bad that I think this is important, it's because I think women are too important to be treated like this. Adverts like this objectify women, they take living human beings with brains and important things to say and make them no more important than the sum of their breasts, bums and legs. Many might argue that this is not a big deal, that we all objectify people, we are all sexual beings and this is merely our natural behaviour. But as I look around at society and see pornography, prostitution, trafficking, and sexual violence against women at epidemic levels I can't help but wonder if there is some connection between treating women as consumer objects, and going that one step further and believing that women can be bought and sold and used for pleasure regardless of their wishes, after all, we are just objects.

But back to the adverts. In all honestly, I didn't think that these adverts could get much worse short of showing an ugly man having violent sex with a playboy bunny with a big neon sign above them saying 'if you buy our product then you get to do this all the time!' (although to be fair, the Lynx adverts aren't far off this). But somehow a new advertising campaign has managed to up the levels of sexism and objectification of women in the media. I assume you have seen the posters and promotions for 'Pussy' around campus?

Yes, you did here me right, this is a juice called Pussy, and somehow I have a sneaky suspicion that they're not talking about little kittens, but rather, um, vaginas. Promoting themselves as the new cool energy drink their slogan is, 'why have wings when you can have pussy.' And I saw you laugh at that! And I know it's easy to find things like this funny, but it really, really isn't. For one thing, this marketing trick is extremely insulting to men's (I assume straight men are its main audience) intelligence. This assumes that when you see this, you will automatically relate it to vaginas, get all excited, and then have to buy the drink, hardly flattering to the New Man. But more than that, this marketing, particularly, the slogan, takes the actual human being out of the picture and focuses merely on her sexual organs. It's all about you, and what you can get, she doesn't matter, after all, she's just pussy isn't she? This is only one small step away from rape, because that's what happens when it becomes all about what you can get and nothing more. This is what happens when you treat women as though they are no more important than their body parts. It really is as big a deal as that.

Beyond the objectification of women and the insult to men, this new product associate's alcohol with this 'pussy' as this (all natural!) energy drink is intended to be a mixer like red bull. An Amnesty International Survey shows that 30% of people interviewed thought that a woman was partially responsible for being raped if she was drunk, which is horrific, only one person is responsible for rape: the rapist. However, this drink, both in its name and advertising begins to not only justify this attitude but also acts to encourage men to drink and then go out and 'get pussy'.

So, I have a challenge for you all, and it's fairly simple. Don't buy it. Let's send a message to the people that make this that objectifying and dehumanising women doesn't sell round here. At this university we believe that everyone deserves dignity and respect, and products like this rip that dignity and respect away from fifty percent of the population. And if you're up for it, go one step further than not buying it, start to challenge it. Challenge the promoters around George Square on their sexist advertising, take down their posters, or even better, stick post-its to them reminding people that objectification of women leads to violence against women. It wouldn't be a revolution if we all did this, but it might just be the beginning of some change.

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