Monday, 18 January 2010

More on AirNZ's cougar rubbish

Further to my post about AirNZ's vile Grabaseat promotion last week, there have now been articles in both the Sunday Star Times yesterday and the Herald today on the matter.

SST:
... Victoria University associate professor Delores Janiewski – an expert on gender, culture and media – said the ad was "funny and cheeky" but it was hard to tell whether the ad was encouraging or denigrating single women.

However, Auckland comedian and poet Penny Ashton said the ad was sexist, and painting women as predators and men as their feeble prey "incensed" her.

"Men are not helpless. Surely if you say no a couple of times it should work?"

Social commentator and Sunday Star-Times columnist Rosemary McLeod said the ad was lame.

"I think older women should think very carefully before tackling young men in gay bars, as disappointment is bound to follow."

A Grabaseat spokesperson said the promotion was not intended to be offensive. It would not be shown on TV.
And from the Herald this morning:
The director of Rape Prevention Education [Kim McGregor] has attacked a promotion offering rugby tickets to "cougars" or women aged 35 and over "looking for slabs of meat" as appalling and disgusting, and wants advertisement withdrawn.

But the competition's promoters say they have no plans to stop the advertising campaign, which it says is meant to be light-hearted.

...She said the online advertisement, which shows a mature woman or cougar "starving itself on sparse vegetation during the day then hunting large slabs of meat at night" by stalking a young man at a bar should be withdrawn immediately.

Despite the man's attempts to ward off the woman's advances, the cougar has "not tasted fresh meat for days" and drags her prey to an inner-city apartment.

Ms McGregor said the organisation had heard from Air New Zealand staff who were embarrassed and concerned by the promotion.

"They find it degrading and that it is encouraging potentially harmful behaviour, so my question is why is our national carrier promoting sexually predatory behaviour?"

"We have also had complaints from male survivors who have been raped by women and they are very distressed that their situation is being laughed at and made out to be humorous."

Ms McGregor said a fifth of sexual violence happens in or around licensed premises and figures showed that one in four women and one in eight men would experience some level of sexual violence.

Grabaseat spokesman Sunil Unka said complaints had been laid about the promotion, but it would continue.

"We have certainly received some feedback ...it's mainly from women who are over 35 and have taken a bit of offence to it and felt it was an unfair kind of blanket comment."

"It (sexual violence) certainly is a fairly major issue but this was meant to be light-hearted and not meant to be taken too literally, so we will not be pulling it..."

48 comments:

A Nonny Moose said...

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/lifestyle/news/article.cfm?c_id=6&objectid=10620648

Kerre Woodham's had a go too.

AirNZ must be loving the attention, if they've popped out the "zomg get a sense of humour" reply.

XChequer said...

Is feminism really that fragile in New Zealand?

Are individual women's ego's in such a precarious state that a viral ad such as this threatens?

I agree with the principles of feminism in that in every way it balances a sometimes obvious male gender bias.

However, to get upset over this "puff piece" stretches credulity.

I appreciate your right to a dissenting opinion however, in the name of Billy T James, when did we get so precious?

Anonymous said...

seriously XChequer...can you explain to me how it is precious? To firstly ridicule women who are sexually active beyond their mid thirties as desperate and pathetic. And secondly to depict the act of someone being dragged out of a bar against their will and raped. A close friend of mine was dragged out of a bar in town at 2am by two guys and raped in a back street. Is that funny to you? Is it funny because women are so harmless and helpless they would be too weak to overpower a man…is that the funny bit? I don’t actually think it is so much a feminist issue as an issue of basic decency in advertising

A Nonny Moose said...

XChequer: How is it "precious" not to wish harm, or depict harm, to another person?

Because to depict sex without consent, whether man or woman, is a harmful depiction.

It is perfectly acceptable to use positive sexuality to sell something - in this case, the Sevens, where you can have a fair and even depiction of men and women having a good time, wearing fun costumes, making friends etc You don't need to show it as an event where you go to practically rape someone for fun.

Hugh said...

I've got to say, while I can see how feminists would find this ad annoying, the idea that it's offensive to male victims of female rape is kind of stretching it, for me.

XChequer said...

Firstly, the "hauling off for sex" scene was of a woman climbing all over a man. This is hardly your typical rape scenario - an issue that both you, A Nonny Moose and Anonymous brought up - not the advert itself.

Secondly, it is clearly a caricature. The advert at no time seeks to present the situation as being true to life. This viral video is clearly adult oriented. Any reasonable adult will NOT conclude that this is an affirmation of rape and the sundry violence associated with it. This may be, perhaps, why the style of ad is termed "mockumentary".

Thirdly, have you been out with any "Cougars"? I have a friend who is 37, divorced with two kids who for years subjugated herself for her husband in the belief that that was how relationships worked. The prick dumped her faster than a Tiger Woods sponsorship deal when he became "bored" and set off with a younger woman. Jan is now well off, independent (in mind and in money) and doing the things she always wanted to do. She also likes to exercise her right to go out and snag a younger man. It fits with her sexually and, given her vivacity, charm and experience, younger men are glad to be seduced. We laugh over the fact that she sometimes refers to herself as a "cougar" and makes no apologies for it. Nor should she. And there are other like-minded women out there. This rather long winded example illustrates the fact that this is a real shift in societal attitudes to woman and sex. I think it is a good thing. Jan and her girlfriends do to.

Fourthly, ridiculing anybody who has the ability to ridicule back is an essential feature of a well balanced society. As in the example above, the cougars that I know are all intelligent, lively
and exciting people. They enjoy a laugh and (I can't believe that I've stopped work to do this yet I feel obliged) the two women who may be loosely termed cougars that I've just got off the phone with both find the advert silly and amusing - the whole point of the advert! They are not insulted. They do not feel denigrated. Why should they? It's an advert - not an indictment on their lifestyle or personal choices. The point of my post was that, like Billy T did so well years ago, humour is a reflection of society. And cougars, for want of a better term, are part of society.

Lastly, this is for you alone, Anonymous:

"And secondly to depict the act of someone being dragged out of a bar against their will and raped. A close friend of mine was dragged out of a bar in town at 2am by two guys and raped in a back street. Is that funny to you? Is it funny because women are so harmless and helpless they would be too weak to overpower a man…is that the funny bit?"

At no time in my post did I even hint at affirming rape. I find the idea of rape abhorrent. I'm sorry about your friend. Truly. My sister was raped in similar circumstances in Hanmer Springs 14 years ago. The guy got off it. My sister deals with the consequences every day as does every member of my family when such ultimate violence is done to one so close and so loved.

To insinuate that I personally find rape funny or celebrate physical power over woman even slightly amusing for the purposes of trying to put me on the back foot so you can win an argument online says more about your character than any cheesy, vapid advert may ever imply.

If you want to denigrate people, put words in their mouths or ascribe them opinions that they have never claimed to hold, can I suggest ventriloquism as a possible future career path.

XChequer said...

P.S Sorry to everyone else and to the owners of The Hand Mirror about the last part of that post. I am not normally that vituperative however I do get slightly "put out" when someone accuses me of things that are clearly not my view.

XChequer

Anonymous said...

Xchequer, how does your description of your friend 'jan' reflect this ad? Is the woman in this ad applauded for her independence and confidence? no, she is shown as a shallow, drunk that men avoid and pretend to be gay not to have to go home with."ridiculing anybody who has the ability to ridicule back is an essential feature of a well balanced society" i guess this is where we are different. I don't think middle aged woman are so powerful in society that they should be up for ridicule on their clothes, looks, job etc for asserting their sexuality in a way men have been doing for centuries.

XChequer said...

Anonymous

Thanks for getting back on topic.

"no, she is shown as a shallow, drunk that men avoid and pretend to be gay not to have to go home with."

Once again, this is a caricature - a humourous (the level of humour involved is debatable) take on a common everyday happening.

This is NOT an attack on independent, confident single women.

"I don't think middle aged woman are so powerful in society that they should be up for ridicule on their clothes, looks, job etc for asserting their sexuality in a way men have been doing for centuries."

So where then, Anonymous, should we find humour? Only in the things that you find acceptable? Are women out of bounds as a target for humour? Perhaps it should just be men? Okay, so I'm being a bit inflammatory with that last remark however the question still stands.

My point in my previous post is that humour is a reflection of everyday, modern life. I regard confident, knowledgeable middle aged single women as a part of that everyday life and therefore can't see the reason that this ad is an issue at all.

That we are not allowed to laugh at aspects of our society, I find deplorable and, given the level of subsequent reaction from some quarters, disgraceful.

Deborah said...

Shorter XChequer: Oh teh silly feminsts. Can't they take a joke?

Bingo!

XChequer said...

Yes......

You have me nailed. Cause that was exactly what I was saying. Bingo-ed.

Many apologies, all.

Because one doesn't agree, one must be wrong. And then labeled.

Reminds me of a quote by Charles Kettering:

“People are very open-minded about new things - as long as they're exactly like the old ones.”

Anonymous said...

XChequer your faux outrage and passive aggressive approach is boring. You start your comments with sentences like "Are individual women's ego's in such a precarious state that a viral ad such as this threatens?" but then get very upset when asked if you find sexual violence amusing in a similar rhetorical fashion. I am offended that you think my ego is anything to do with my offence at this campaign. As I am 24 I'm not a target of the cougar stereotype, i still find it very offensive and pathetic on behalf of women, women in their thirties and beyond, and men who date older women. I am glad my character is the sort that thinks depictions of sexual coercion in "funny" advertising is offensive. Seeing as you were happy to
"denigrate people, put words in their mouths or ascribe them opinions that they have never claimed to hold" with your first comment perhaps you might like to take your own lame, passive aggressive advice.

A Nonny Moose said...

XChequer, you have to remember that we've heard all the same arguments over and over and over again. Your repeated attempts to make us realize "it's just a joke, so lighten up" is the same thing we (collective we, feminists/equalists/activists) get told every single day, about every single thing we like to point out is harming the collective framing of women in society.

How about you have a read of this regarding "Offense vs Harm". To make it relevant to this discussion: if a man is caricatured as predatory, it's ok because he is sexually powerful, he's da man - if a man doesn't like that caricature, it's ok to be offended but it's not going to hurt men as a whole.

But when a woman is caricatured in such a way, she's a slut, whore, shameful etc etc and it's harmful to women as a whole because women are still attempting to right the power of sexuality in our society.

To quote a silly little pop song: "The guy gets all the glory, the more he can score
While the girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore"

A Nonny Moose said...

Whoops, forgot the link:

"I don't care if you're offended"

http://smadin.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/i-dont-care-if-youre-offended/

lex said...

“People are very open-minded about new things - as long as they're exactly like the old ones.”

What, like ridicule of older women who *still* have, and express, sexuality?

Denigrating anyone who does not fit with narrow norms of what is allowed to be sexual?

Ridicule of sexual coercion?
Rape jokes?

Ignoring wider patterns of representation in favour of anecdotalising individual exceptions?

Being so imbued in one's own conventional socialisation that one becomes blind to the wider attitudes that these representations influence?

Yeah, yeah, I can see how your view on this is totes novel.

Humour is not about regurgitating the 'real' in an uncritical way. That is failed humour. Comedy has always a core of truth, and it is this core that determines its value to the subject. In this case, the core of truth is based on referent systems that class older women as invalid and laughable as sexual beings. What makes this ad so knee-thumpingly hilarious is that it draw on those signifieds to elicit a laugh. Not as and of itself, devoid of context, but by referring directly to a group of pre-existing concepts that mean something. This is not challenging humour, it is not subversive and above all, it is not new.

If this was representing an older man dragging young girls back to his for some coerced action, how funny would it be?

lex said...

*draws :/

XChequer said...

A Nonny Moose

Thanks for the link. Fair call. I don't get discrimination such as women find it and, after your post can see what you are saying (it was lucky I saw your post as was about to respond to Anonymous).

Being male, one can't pretend to know someone else's level of offense. One can only empathise, and being male, would probably do a bad job at that.

When Anon embarks on ad hominem attacks, however, it seems to be falling exactly to what Madin describes in the article. E.G:

"It’s a mistake to object to them as merely “offensive” — tacitly accepting that the inherently subjective idea of offense is of primary importance, which enables the privileged in claiming, confident it can’t be disproved or even argued against, that they’re “offended” by challenges to their privilege: or as Fred Clark has it, empowers the cult of offendedness"

I'm not debating weather Anonymous is offended or not - that seems fairly plain.

Yet when I talk to Jan - my friend who, by any rights should be offended - she is not. Anonymous says "i still find it very offensive and pathetic on behalf of women, women in their thirties and beyond, and men who date older women."

Why would someone take on offense clearly not intended for them? Jan doesn't feel like a slut, a whore and is certainly not ashamed. And personally I see her as an empowered woman - certainly not one to be "bingoed". Isn't this just fostering more of the "cult of offendedness"?

In the same vein, I also take your point, that lots of little things build a bigger image and therefore I can see where this ad would be distasteful if not extremely unhelpful.

Anyhow, thanks for taking the time to explain.

Hugh said...

X-chequer, conversely, while I've no doubt that your friend Jan doesn't feel offended, it would be wrong to assume that no other women in her situation disagree - and even more wrong to assume, because one woman who could potentially be offended isn't, all women who could potentially be offended and are are somehow whiny or over-reacting.

XChequer said...

@ Hugh

Agree, totally. However, where does that leave us but in an intellectual funk that is ineffectual.

There are two (and sometimes more) sides to everything and if we remained in said funk no one would ever get up and protest anything or stand up for their beliefs (such as the women on this blog).

Hugh said...

Generally I find it leaves us somewhere where it's best to have discussions that don't rely on personal narratives for their validity?

Anonymous said...

What concerns me the most is not the women who might be offended but the men.

As a female victim of rape I can only imagine what its like to be a male victim of female rape.

It's not taken seriously and is continually treated as a joke.

I've had friends who have been victims of this, and they do not speak of it lightly. They have only mentioned it to me after they have found out that I have been through a similar (not taken seriously) rape. Emotional scars may not leave bruises but they stay for years.

Seeing the footage on the news last night she quite clearly was not all over him. She was dragging him unwillingly out of the bar.

Rape is not a joke. It is not funny. We are not laughing.

Marcella Chester said...

Xchequer, you lament not having an intellectual discussion and put the blame onto others but you began your comments in a very unintellectual and hostile way by asking, "Is feminism really that fragile in New Zealand?"

This question assumes incorrectly that the only reason anyone could have a problem with this humor is because there is something wrong with that person. When you make this type of general slur, it's not surprising that people formed an impression of you based on the slurs you made.

Further, when you reference your friend Jan you seem to be using her to prove that any woman who doesn't react like her is wrong and should have her response dismissed. That goes directly against a willingness to grow in understanding.

You said that you appreciated a dissenting opinion, but clearly you didn't when the opinions dissented with yours in this situation. You want to be treated respectfully, but began by treating others disrespectfully.

As others have said people's attitudes which contribute to violence and acts of bigotry can be reinforced by humor. What to you feels ironic may feel like direct support by those who take actions you condemn. This could include your sister's rapist.

If what seems harmless to you helps rapists consider their actions to be acceptable and helps others dismiss credible evidence allowing serial rapists to go free wouldn't you want to know it?

Craig Ranapia said...

I've got to say, while I can see how feminists would find this ad annoying, the idea that it's offensive to male victims of female rape is kind of stretching it, for me.

Just do a gender flip, Hugh, and think about that statement while I get my blood pressure under control.

sophia b said...

urgh, a friend just left his facebook status saying how funny this ad is and a bunch of others agreed with him... not really sure if i feel like getting into a fight with them just now, don't have the energy..

Hugh said...

Craig, doing a gender flip is not a particularly useful mode of analysis as long as we live in a world where 'male' and 'female' don't mean the same thing.

Craig Ranapia said...

Hugh:

OK, I was going to be nice about this but if you don't get why male victims of sexual assault by women have every reason to be offended by that ad, then I don't think it's a terribly useful exercise talking to you at all.

Sorry for being snarky, but talking about the ad with various people has given me a rather uncomfortable insight into why feminists so often just get exhausted having to go back to first principles on rape culture over and over...

Sexual harassment and coercion is not a joke.

Sexual harassment and coercion is not an "edgy" way to sell products.

Sexual harassment and coercion is never OK, regardless of the gender, orientation, age, class or ethnicity of the perpetrator - or victim.

If you don't get that, it's not always my responsibility to take ownership of your ignorance.

Craig Ranapia said...

Oh, and one more thing: Male victims of rape or sexual assault -- whether the perpetrators are male or female, gay or straight -- don't have to harden the fuck up and get over it.

Hugh said...

Craig, that's a good point about why the victims of rape shouldn't be ignored, and if I find somebody who feels they should, I'll be sure to pass it on.

My point's more nuanced than the one you seem to be responding to. I'm not saying no victim of rape should ever be offended by anything, simply that this isn't necessarily something they should be offended by, and even if it is, the offense this ad creates among women is way greater, more severe and more traumatic than it does among men who have been rape victims - and that's before we start to consider which is a larger group.

Deborah said...

the offense this ad creates among women is way greater, more severe and more traumatic than it does among men who have been rape victims

Really? One of the difficulties for men who have been raped, I'm told, is that people won't even let them express their hurt and trauma. They're told that it was fun, and in reality they were enjoying themselves, and they weren't raped - they got lucky.

But even so, what on earth is the use of trying to assess whether men who have been raped or women who have been raped are more traumatised by the experience? What does ranking people's trauma add to the discussion? Nothing, I suggest.

Hugh said...

Deborah, there's this theory going round that creating false equivalencies between men's problems and women's problems isn't positive for feminism. In fact I believe there's even a bingo card about it.

Julie said...

Apologies that I haven't been around in this thread, I have some other stuff going on, and hope to be back soonish.

Deborah said...

Why, thank you so much for the mansplain, Hugh.

I'm not trying to make them equivalent; I'm just suggesting that it's futile trying to rank them. And no matter what, the advertisement is offensive.

Craig Ranapia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Craig Ranapia said...

the offense this ad creates among women is way greater, more severe and more traumatic than it does among men who have been rape victims.

Oy vey... I wouldn't exhibit the suicidal chutzpah to presume to speak for women around these parts. But I really don't appreciate having my own experience of sexual assault and disgust at the way this ad degrades both men and women and perpetuates rape culture dismissed as "false equivalence" that seeks to marginalise and diminish abused women.

(And just for the record, what part of this is so problematic from a feminist perspective: Sexual harassment and coercion is never OK, regardless of the gender, orientation, age, class or ethnicity of the perpetrator - or victim.)

While we're trading bingo cards, I've just ticked off "stop distracting from the real issues", "everybody wants to be a victim in this PC world gone mad" and "you really need to get some perspective".

Can I have my prize now?

Desdemona said...

I wonder where "cougar" originated from?

I thought the name was a tag for older, confident women, in command of their sexuality who know what they want, who they want and go for it. Often financially successful and emotionally mature women without hang ups about body image etc.

However, it seems to have been hijacked to now mean a predatory, emotionally bankrupt female who shouldn't be "allowed" a relationship with a man younger than her.

Typical that a word that could be considered meaning strong, independent women should now be hijacked to make her socially unacceptable.

Hugh said...

And what exactly is a 'mansplain', Deborah?

Craig Ranapia said...

And what exactly is a 'mansplain', Deborah?

According to Urban Dictionary:
"To explain in a patronizing manner, assuming total ignorance on the part of those listening. The mansplainer is often shocked and hurt when their mansplanation is not taken as absolute fact, criticized or even rejected altogether.

Named for a behavior commonly exhibited by male newbies on internet forums frequented primarily by women. Often leads to a flounce. Either sex can be guilty of mansplaining.

The members of the equestrian community were unimpressed when Bob posted an essay that mansplained a solution to a horsy problem they were all well-acquainted with."

I've just indulged in a meta-mansplanation, because Deborah is entirely capable of saying exactly what she meant without my assistance. Sorry, Deborah. :)

Deborah said...

Couldn't have said it better myself, thank you, Craig.

Hugh said...

Well clearly I should just shut up, then.

Craig Ranapia said...

And I believe, ladies and gentlemen, we have a perfectly executed textbook flounce. :)

No, Hugh, don't shut up. Just don't presume (as Deborah's said elsewhere) to tell Deborah - or anyone else - how to do their feminism. Doesn't mean to have to agree with her, or me, or anyone else. Just figure out how to register your dissent without being patronising.

Hugh said...

What I mean, Craig, is that I can't understand how you're reading all this patronising-ness, flouncyness, and various other concerns for tone as opposed to substance into what I'm saying. It's possible that you're seeing something I'm not, it's possible you're seeing something that's not there. But to be frank I really doubt anybody's ability to engage constructively on this issue at this point. But the issue of this post is not my own personal ability to be non-patronising, so I really don't see any point in engaging further.

A Nonny Moose said...

Hugh, how can we engage constructively when we spend all our time and energy going back to Feminism 101? And when we do explain the rules of engagement, we get the flounce because you don't want to be reminded how to engage?

I will say, on topic, I'm glad I didn't book AirNZ for my next trip north. I will continue to look at the alternatives for flying needs.

Bevan11 said...

This blog makes some interesting points:

http://blog.simonpound.com/?p=373

A Nonny Moose said...

Oh Bevan11 *shakes head* That's all just classic Rape/Anti-Feminism Bingo.

"In terms of the rape concern. If the ad showed stupification, the slipping of a Mikey Finn then that would be a concern. Or if she knocked him over the head. Or if she was so much physically more intimidating and was aggressive and stand-overy, or if he was legless then maybe or if he was in real distress instead of a weak sweaty-pitted act gay thing -- maybe then -- he looked into it and totally able to escape if he wanted -- during the Enya =could have been a good time -- but as the ad ran -- what a nonsense.It is an obvious joke and is not advocating, endorsing or glamourising rape. If they had showed him tied down and screaming, well, that is another story."

That paragraph was so hilarious rape apologist, it's almost like it was written in jest.

But then I remember, so many people are sincerely victim and women blaming.

"In terms of being Misogynist well -- if women are offended on behalf of women then I don’t really have a say in that."

Well, actually, yes he does. He has an obligation on the part of human beings to stop being part of the harm that is rape culture and apologia.

Again - we may not neccessarily identify as being offended. We identify this as being HARMFUL to a section of humanity who has less power.

notafeminist said...

The idea that a rape has to be violent, or that the victim must be physically unable to escape is perpetuating the myth that rapes only occur in violent situations by strangers, and that people who get rapes secretly enjoy it and want it.

There are a whole raft social pressures and non-violent circumstances under which rape can occur. It doesn't always have to be violent. Blackmail, peer-pressure, saving face, or being taken advantage of are just some ways non-consensual sex can happen. Non-consensual sex is not always violent, and it's not always like you see it in the movies, and it is most definitely rape.

The most alarming part is that the woman in this advert is completely unconcerned with the consent of the victim. Message: consent isn't really a concern when having sex. Especially if he repeatedly says no - then he really wants it.

But hey, I guess I should just give in and say the rape would still happen in a vacuum, and this ad reflects nothing at all on our attitudes towards it. Silly, humourless me.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to be off topic, but what's the blog's position on this?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq1nOYXFPhM ( and the sebsequent 4 videos).

Anonymous said...

Errr, where was rape ever part of this debate? Farking hell. This takes the biscuit.

Somebody has spent too many years in Wimmins Studies desperately trying to justify their wasted years and student loan.

Julie said...

Anon directly above is perhaps the mystery editorial writer from the Canadian National Post?