Friday, May 20, 2011

"Please stop the world, I'd like to get off!"

I am about to have a huge whinge about the Advertising Standards Board (again). If you are tired of hearing these long-winded rants, please walk away now. (Dave, this includes you.)

Have you ever wanted to clench your fists and cry out, "GAHHHHH!" because the whole world has gone crazy (except for, of course, you)?

I cannot fathom the thinking or the motivation of the ASB. By now, it has become clear that the current system of self-regulation is absolutely useless, you would think if anything that now they would want to give the impression of functioning effectively and actually uphold some legitimate complaints. Nope, not at all. In fact, despite occasionally reaching the correct answer, when the Advertiser doesn't like the answer- that their ad campaign was a violation- the ASB reviews their decision and decides despite the fact that they originally agreed the ad was inappropriate, that it's actually okay now.

This particular case is of Rivers catalogue, with the heading "10 Deadly Deals", with a picture of a woman's legs coming out from under the couch. She is wearing fishnet stockings and stiletto heels. The highlight of the ASB report where they reversed their original decision was where they actually suggested the woman under the couch might be "searching for a lost wedding ring". Maybe the campaign should have been named something other than "10 Deadly Deals" if we weren't supposed to interpret the woman as dead...and being that Rivers sell clothing, and not couches and not women....what exactly was the correct interpretation here?

Another recent case, for Supre 'jeggings' (now there's a crime right there). These ads are of a topless young model wearing jeggings. Her hair is covering her breasts. Of course, these ads are displayed in the appropriate venue you would expect- the backs of buses. The ASB dismissed complaints for this ad, saying that a topless woman draws more attention to the jeans that are for sale. Funny, I thought when there was a topless woman around, attention was elsewhere.

Supre's response was that this ad was aimed at girls aged 18 plus. Because we all know only over 18's go outside without blindfolds on.

So you can see, my levels of grumpiness to those who are failing to properly regulate advertising in the public arena are slightly elevated.

Then, on top of that, THIS.


I personally have no interest in Sexpo. I know there are adults who do. And if they are adults, then that is their call and nothing to do with me. Sexpo is R rated, for adults over 18 only. However, their advertising is once again, aimed at the general public.

I am aware of at least one Sexpo billboard that is up in North Perth, including a picture of a famous porn star, whose accomplishments include four awards for anal sex, I have since learned. I, along with others, have lodged a complaint with the ASB about this billboard, for all to see, not just the adults over 18 who might be interested in attending.

Of course, I can be sure that the ASB will take their sweet time responding to complaints, and they will get around to it sometime after Sexpo has come and gone. Maybe they will even say it needs to come down. But the advertiser will be ready to take it down anyway by then, the event is over. And the moral of the story is: Advertisers, do whatever you want, and put up whatever you want- because there are no repercussions at all, and the more offensive, the more everyone will take notice.

But my issue with Sexpo in the public sphere goes way past billboards.

Sexpo is planning a public demonstration to take place in the City, in the middle of the day, where they will see how many people they can fit in a bed with this accomplished porn star I previously mentioned, as well as various Penthouse Pets and pole dancers. In the workplace, displaying pornographic images or pin-ups is sexual harassment. But for all the office workers in Perth, once they have stepped out of the office for lunch- no protection anymore!

Can someone tell me how there are sexual harassment laws in the workplace, but not outside the office door? Why at work, a woman can strive for equality, to be taken seriously as someone who has something to contribute- but outside, be put back in her place, where it is now appropriate for others to ogle and make suggestive comments?

Or perhaps someone can explain how it is that Facebook deleted pictures of 'porn t-shirts' because they contained pornographic content, thus violating the terms of use, when facebook users must be at least thirteen- when anyone, even my small children, can walk down the street and see someone wearing the identical shirt?



  1. Part of the difficulty that you are running into with advertising is... Interpretation (as you discovered w/the Rivers '10 Deadly Deals' campaign). Students of Art soon discover that meaning (as well as beauty) lies in the eye of the beholder. Just as you can look at the ad w/a girl under a couch and be sickened, other people can look and laugh or be unfazed by it or think that it is just playful or clever. There are so many ways of looking at it and it is very much influenced by our own filters. How do we each 'see'/experience this world?

    I understand that you are not a fan of Sexpo but I am left wondering what it is about the billboard in North Perth that offends you? You didn't describe it you just complained about a porn star being pictured on it and even commented on that porn stars experience with anal sex. What relevance does that have to your complaint about the billboard?

    When is this public demonstration supposed to be taking place? I want to hop into that bed!!! Never mind, I found it. They're not going to be nekkid and they want couples for the stunt, not a bed full of women. So it won't be a case of women being ogled at, well at least not just women, there will be plenty of shirtless men I imagine. Do you think the male office workers will be offended? It sounds pretty tame and fun to me. Sexuality is something that people need to talk more about and laugh about and have fun with. I like this idea for a stunt.

  2. p.s. I'm interested to know whether you'll be walking the SLUTwalk in October? Is this a cause that we can both get behind?

  3. Hey Maureen. About SLUTwalk, I think it's an excellent cause, and I am glad that victim-blaming is questioned. But I struggle with the word 'slut'. I don't really believe you can reclaim a word that has such hateful connotations.

  4. Will you be going to the Perth SLUTwalk?

    The words 'gay' and 'nigger' both had hateful connotations that are not now lost but have certainly been minimised, neutralised? via efforts to 'reclaim' the word. If nothing is done then the word will always be hateful. If we claim it and walk proudly unashamed of our sexuality then the women-haters lose their power.

    Primarily the walk is about standing up for survivors of rape and challenging a pervasive rape culture. The debate about the word slut is a distraction.

  5. I wasn't actually aware there was a SLUTwalk in Perth. I won't be going though.

    I have done quite a bit a reading/listening of various articles and interviews on the issue but I am still having a hard time expressing myself clearly about it. Like I said, I think it is very important that these discussions are had, because it is getting people thinking about these attitudes where women are held responsible for being raped, which are still very prevalent as we can see from scandals involving AFL players, powerful men and even just some responses from the general public to the whole idea.

    I don't know if it's that I struggle to see how the word 'slut' could be reclaimed, or if it's just that I personally don't want to reclaim such a word. I don't believe that debate about the word slut is merely a distraction, I do see and support the issue about rape culture, but women calling ourselves sluts and being proud of being sluts, (apart from the possibility of the real reason and meaning going over some people's heads)I feel it just puts the focus on women's bodies and women conforming to a very sexual stereotype. I am a woman, I am sexual, I am not ashamed.

  6. I think that the debate over the word 'slut' is a distraction bcos the event is primarily about ending victim-blaming. Women (and men) are encouraged to dress however they want when attending the walks.

    It is not about trying to conform to a sexual stereotype at all. It is all about being free to be sexual in whatever way a person feels that sexuality (all consensual!). It is very much about our bodies and how we look, what we wear etc. The walk is very much about that. We should be able to wear whatever we want to wear and not be tuttutted for encouraging rapists!

    The word 'slut' has been used for 2 main reasons. One, the policeman in Toronto used that word when telling a group of Uni students they should not dress like one if they don't want to be raped. And secondly bcos of it's shock value. Have you ever been to a 'Reclaim the Night' rally? I haven't. I intended to go last year and then never made it. SLUTwalk has attracted so much attention. I am glad that such a hateful word has been used for good now. People listen. People talk. Hopefully the policymakers will do something and judges in courts will no longer say "well look what she was wearing" and let the rapists walk free.

    As for reclaiming the word, certainly that is part of the issue but a MUCH smaller part. I care more about tackling the rape culture head on than I do about reclaiming 'slut'. I read an article this morning that compared it to the word 'nigger' and how a black person can use it now w/out hate but a white person can not use it when speaking to a black person. I think slut will be like that. I may consider myself a slut (if that still means a woman who likes to have sex, dirty sex even) I still can't see myself using the word. I prefer to say that I am sex-positive. BUT a man using the word? I don't think that is going to role off the tongue w/out problems, so I think men will have to leave it alone.

    Whereas at an event like SLUTwalk I think that it is very clear that we are using the word to say he we all (men and women) are sluts, we all like sex, get over it... how we dress, who we sleep with, how often we have sex, what kind of sex we have etc etc none of that invites violence, ever.


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