sexist advertising

HOTmilk and MILFs: Whose “Sexy” is Pregnancy?

Ad for Hotmilk lingerie, showing a pregnant woman in bra and panties

Ad for HOTmilk lingerie

by Kristen Hurst

The MILF acronym, popularized by 1999’s American Pie, is most often associated with teenage male desire for their friends’ “hot” mothers. Over ten years after the release of this film, even the casual cultural consumer could notice that soft-core MILF pornography has become prominent in pop culture, and with that, the sexualization of motherhood and pregnancy are on the rise.

Pregnancy fetishists and feminists alike may argue that pregnancy has always been sexy—it’s the natural result of heterosexual sex, after all—but a pregnant MILF’s body that has been dismantled limb-by-limb by an advertiser’s camera may only be sexy according to a troubling narrative, one which many feminist mothers would like to decapitate, even if they lack the tools to do so.

The main advertisement that I’m referring to, the 2009 commercial promoting HOTmilk lingerie, has been discussed widely across feminist blogs. As you can see below, a lingerie-clad mom-to-be greets what we may assume to be the father of her unborn child with a glass-shattering striptease.

Mom is so voracious that she is willing to break any dish or lamp in her belly’s way, but there is little in the video that lets the viewer know that the woman in question is pregnant. The editing and camerawork are handled in a way that would make Laura Mulvey more than cringe. While we see the assumed father’s titillated reaction to the tease on his face, the mother is revealed as an array of parts—a seam on the hip here, a bra strap there, a glove against the lip. She is a buffet of sexual consumables that you, too, can access, if you visit hotmilklingerie.com. She is sexy even though she is pregnant. Read more

Posted on by Kristen Hurst in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

FFFF: What Every Woman Wants: Yogurt + Birth Control!

"Friday Feminist Funny Film" square logo

“Friday Feminist Funny Film” square logo

At last week’s #sheparty Twitter chat, I was rightfully called out on the fact that this site is not fully accessible to people with disabilities. Some of the problems are embedded in the design/theme I’m using and will take a bit more time to resolve, but to start improving things immediately I’ve taken a few steps: installing a plugin that lets visitors increase or decrease the size of text in articles (via a widget in the upper-right of the page), making sure all links have text describing the destination, all new images (and, still in progress, all historic images) have captions, alternative text and longer descriptions and all new videos from here on in will be posted with transcripts.

With that note, on to your Friday Feminist Funny Film, a satirical look at ads directed to women, written by and starring Megan Amram.

Dannon Birth Control on the Bottom from Payman Benz on Vimeo.

Transcript after the jump

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Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in FFFF Leave a comment

Feminism F.A.Q.s: What is Objectification?

Feminism FAQs Title Screen

by Jarrah Hodge

My latest episode of Feminism F.A.Q. is on the issue of objectification, specifically sexual objectification, and why this is an issue for feminists. Check out the video below and read my notes and the transcript after the jump.

Read more

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture 3 Comments

Edmonton Salon Ads Cross a Major Line

Even with the scores of sexist advertising out there, I was seriously disturbed to come across a series of ads using depictions of domestic violence to promote an Edmonton salon.

From the Edmonton Sun:

Fluid Salon, located near Whyte Avenue, launched the ad series “Look good in all you do” more than one year ago.

But on Monday, the series took a public lashing from local social media users after a New York advertising copywriter featured one of the ads – depicting apparent domestic violence – in a blog.

“I was appalled,” Kasia Gawlak said in an interview. She’s a blogger who saw the ad Monday morning. “It’s like saying ‘at least you have good looking hair when your boyfriend abuses you.’ The women who have been abused with real pain, heartbreak and suffering – it’s not something that should be trivialized to sell a hair salon.”

It’s disgusting, to say the least, to imply that a woman who was being beaten by her male partner would feel better knowing at least her hair looked good.

Unfortunately, it’s not even just the one ad. Another in the series of the “Look good in all you do” shows a woman wearing tights and a bra while smoking a cigarette sitting on a dirty mattress in an alley (implying she’s a prostitute). If you look closely, it gets even worse. On their Facebook page, someone pointed out another ad showing a woman’s being dragged from a hearse by her legs features the “corpse” wearing the same shoes as the woman in the alley ad. Yes, That Jill also found a picture of them doing the woman model’s makeup for the first ad, with the caption: “hottest battered woman I’ve ever laid my eyes upon.”

In their other campaigns there’s a racist ad for Brazilian blow-outs, featuring white women in pseudo-tribal makeup, and another ad showing a woman coated with oil and wearing feathers to promote a portion of hair cut proceeds going to oil spill relief. The women-as-animals in distress is a frequent tactic of other sexist ad offender PETA.

Fluid Hair owner Sarah Cameron, yet again proving that women can be their own gender’s worst enemies, says she sees no problem with the ads: “It might strike a chord, but as the way our society and community is getting, we keep tailoring everything because everyone is getting so sensitive…Anyone who has a connection or a story behind anything can be upset or have an opinion. We are not trying to attack anyone,” Cameron told the Sun.

Tell Cameron & Fluid that trivializing violence against women isn’t acceptable under any circumstances. You can post on the image gallery on Fluid’s Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150395289750206.610405.713520205&type=1 or use the contact form on their site here: http://fluidhair.ca/?page_id=39. You can also complain to Advertising Standards Canada here.

-Jarrah

 

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism, Pop Culture 16 Comments

Response to American Apparel Post

So E. Cain’s post about American Apparel’s advertising strategies has broken a new record for most hits per day on this blog, and has generated a lot of interesting discussion. Should we assume the models are feeling empowered about their representations, or is the message the ads send of women’s sexual availability more important? Is it unfair to pick on American Apparel given their efforts to end sweatshop labour, or are they giving with one hand and taking with the other? Be sure to visit the post and add your thoughts!

In case you don’t have a chance to check out all the discussion so far, here’s one letter from Liz, which I particularly liked. For more about Liz, check out her MySpace.

(@ ZSMWISODM re: “Quit being so comfortable with your misogyny and male privilege.”  LOVE that! :) I would love to see that on an AA t-shirt, rofl.)

Anyway!

I stumbled upon this, and decided to send a rather polite letter to AA. Thought I’d share:

Confused. . .

Hello there, American Apparel creators, consumers, and eye brow-raisers!

First, I’d like to start off by thanking the creators, employees, and supporters of American Apparel. I think that it is fantastic that you all are leading the movement towards responsible consumerism in efforts like taking care of your employees (paying a living wage PLUS bling bling-in medical benefits) and being a political symbol for immigration rights (WTF was that all about, Obama?). Not to mention your support of GLTG community, natural disaster relief, and organic products!! So, in short, w00t for 13 years strong in Los Angeles!

Another thing that I really appreciate about your company is the fact that you use “real” people for your advertisements! The natural, no touch-ups look of your ads is a welcome change to the unrealistic, Barbie-esque trend that our culture has leaned on for so long. You models are beautiful, natural, and <STRIKE>naked</STRIKE> wear your line well.

Ok, so this is where I am going with all the blither blather: it is great how socially and environmentally conscious you all are as a company. You are pioneers of our time, and show respect for many-a-cause. It is, therefore, striking to me that you all don’t seem to show such consideration for the F-word movement. (So sorry, that is Feminist Movement).

And I get it! Sex sells, without a doubt! Where most corporations exploit… well.. practically every marginalized group for the sake of profits, you all seem to have drawn the line at the sexualization of (mostly only) women in the media.

But that doesn’t make sense! Why would such a progressive, responsible company overlook a cause that affects such an enormous population? I’ve decided to consider the unlikely, preposterous idea that not everyone in the world (American Apparel, specifically) sees things exactly as I see them. Crazy, I know… but I’m really at the end of my rope here, so I’m putting my “the world revolved around me” mentality on hold for a moment to ask you this questions sincerely:

Whats up with that sh*t?

Now, be not intimidated by my use of the F-word (feminism…. in case you were thinking of the other, much less provocative F-word…). I know that we, as a group, have a bit of a bad reputation. After all, the radical notion of equality has never really been well received. But I promise that we, as a group, are not the man-hating crazy people that often come so readily to mind. In fact, we tend to err on the side of loving men, even if all of us don’t like to F-word them (er.. the other F-word)

Point being, in a culture where push up bra’s and thongs for 8 year old girls (who want to be.. sexy?) are almost acceptable and clothing ads look like porn (ahem…. I would just like to note that “How can I download photos from your ad archive” is in your top FAQ’s… just saying… ) it would be really great if us F-words had the support of such an awesome company!

Now, before you answer, I’d just like to squeeze in there the fact that women, myself included, enjoy feeling sexy, looking at women who are sexy (regardless of sexual orientation), and buying clothes that are comfy-a-la-sexy. But, for me at least (and remember, the world tends to revolve around me),  there is a line in the sand!

On one side the sea-shell letters say something like “I feel like a sexually empowered Piranha ready to suck the stamina out of my lover(s).”  Now, the other side is kind of blurry from so many corporate feet standing on it, but it says something like “hello underpaid bimbo’s– thanks for selling our sh*t and doing that thing you’re good at.. standing around looking pretty. Oh, and could you bed over a little more and turn this way, so we can see your  nipples and ass? Thanks, doll.”

The allure of the provocative and taboo is great in our puritan-based culture, but then again so is the allure of cold, hard cash at the expense of everyone else.

So, my delectably brilliant and minority-friendly American Apparelers, why have you made such strong social-political stances on other major issues, but choose to “exploit” the sexuality of women (and men) in your advertisement? Clearly, there is a strong moral compass about your company, so what does it offer on the struggle of women in our culture and the ever-exhausting push to be perceived as something other than the playthings of (predominantly) men? I daresay the American Apparel sees the ads as provocative, sexy, but overall unharmful. Why?

Also, what color socks are you wearing? :)
All the best,
Liz

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism, Pop Culture Leave a comment

Sexist Advertising from American Apparel

Vandalized American Apparel Billboard

by E. Cain

Trendy clothing company American Apparel has a lot going for it. For starters, it has a great concept – simple yet fashionable clothes, available in a wide variety of colours. Secondly, the brand practices corporate social responsibility, it produces sweatshop free clothes made in downtown LA. In addition, workers are paid well over minimum wage, given full benefits, subsidized English lessons are provided for immigrant employees (on company time) as well as year-round employment.  This worker-friendly model is rare and distinguishes American Apparel from competitors.

With that being said, I feel compelled to write about the sexist advertising from American Apparel because I find it truly ironic that a company built on the principles of non-exploitation and social responsibility when it comes to workers rights, can be amongst the leaders in pushing the limits of social acceptability when it comes to depictions of women in consumer advertising.

American Apparel advertisements are easily recognizable based on their overtly sexual nature. They regularly feature women in provocative poses – lying in bed, legs spread, on all fours, from behind, bending over – trust me, they’ve done it all.

They’re selling socks…I guess

These racy advertisements render the company vulnerable to charges of exploitation and objectification of women. They epitomize the male gaze and are taken from the perspective of a heterosexual man looking at a woman who is (presumably) sexually available for him. In addition, the women depicted in the ads are selling themselves – body and sexuality – not clothes (hell, most of the time they are hardly wearing any clothes).

So I ask you, what distinguishes consumer advertising from pornography? Why are certain photographs – often described as explicit, raunchy and sexually charged – relegated to the dark corners of stores and the backs of the magazine racks when American Apparel advertising – often described using the same language – is blown up and plastered on billboards, buses and magazines?

What are the limits and when do we decide that a company has crossed them?

These are important questions and American Apparel –worker friendly policies, sexually explicit advertising and all – provides a very interesting case study.

 

Editor’s Note:

If you’re interested in recent campaigns against American Apparel, here are some links:

 

 

Posted on by E. Cain in Feminism, Pop Culture 35 Comments