Tuesday, 28 February 2012

missing the point

i was watching 7 days on friday night, as i do when i get the chance. well, wouldn't you know it, one of the news items was auckland feminist action's campaign against the tui breweries ads. as would be expected, the feminists were put down and the ads were supported. if you want to watch the episode, head over to the tv3 website.

funnily enough, the guys weren't saying too much. it was the woman comedian, urzila carlson, who really got stuck in. there were a few issues with what she had to say. her main point seemed to be that the young women in the ads must have worked hard at a gym to get the kind of bodies they have, and if she had such a body, she would be busy flaunting it.

there's some unpacking to be done here. first is the notion that people who have slim bodies work hard to achieve them. well that's true of some people but not true of others. some people just have a metabolism which means they don't have to work too hard to keep to the beauty ideal. other people have metabolisms which mean that they could work a couple of hours every day, and still find it almost impossible to get to that ideal.

it buys into the notion that fat people have the bodies they do because they are simply lazy. which she must know is crap. plenty of people who don't have the "ideal" body size are actually active and fit. some of them aren't because they can't be - due to health issues, or time and energy issues (possibly because they are working 2 or 3 jobs plus managing a household, and don't have the time/energy to put into exercise). and of course, some people who are thin aren't particularly healthy.

then there's the self-deprecation. ms carlson is implying that her current body shape is not attractive - seeing as how she isn't flauting it in quite the way she described on the show, she would seem to think it isn't worth flaunting. which again reinforces the notion that bigger bodies can't possibly be beautiful. her body shape is something that she does use to get laughs - i've seen two stand-up routines now where she starts off by saying that she's in the show to be the "eye-candy". which gets a laugh because we're in a society that accepts that someone with her body size and shape can't possibly be worth looking at.

i can only go by what i see, but she seems to be quite comfortable with this state of affairs ie that only thin women can be attractive, that fatness is a thing to be ridiculed at laughed at. and because she ensures that the laugh is on her, more than it is on anyone else, it doesn't seem so bad.

the only problem is that there are women who don't want to live in such a world, and who want to change this notion that only a certain size and shape of woman can be considered attractive. we want to live in a world where fat isn't evil, and people don't make lazy assumptions about fat people which they use to justify the general abuse and ridicule they choose to direct at such people.

now, i'm certainly not saying that ms carlson has to take on that fight. certainly not, and not when she's working in an industry that is particularly difficult for women. what i am saying is that she might consider that other women do want to take on this fight, and maybe she could just think about the possibility of not giving them her contempt or putting them down. it wouldn't be hard - she could have just gone with a comment about how she disagreed with their stance, but accepted that they have their own point of view. see, i'm not even expecting solidarity or any kind of support from her. just a lack of the ridicule and contempt that so mirrors what we're seeing from the dudebros across the internet.

and finally, ms carlson did seem to miss some of the point of the AFA protest. it's not just the sexualisation of the women in the ads, but also treating women as if they are stupid and/or not to be taken seriously, as well the clear misogyny of some of the billboards. it's the whole package. see, ms carlson's defense of the women in the ads seems to imply that it is those women who are somehow under attack. this is not the case. it's the people who make the ads - come up with the concepts, decide that it's ok to depict women in this way (and again, talking about the whole package) who are the target here. as well as the people who authorise and pay for the tui campaign. it's the people who make the decisions and who can choose to change the way they market the product who the protesters is speaking to.

on the other hand, shelley bridgeman gets it (as usual, avoid the comments). make of that what you will.


Leonie Morris said...

Great post - thanks - meeting with Tui marketing people tomorrow - hopefully, that will be interesting! - cheers, Leonie, Auckland Feminist Action

Anonymous said...

I've seen her before, she gets laughs by putting herself down, "I'm so fat etc" I don't like it and it seems like the audience laugh to be polite. It is very American.

I don't really care about the tui ads. I can imagine who those ads are aimed at only a very small demographic of men but probably the most profitable for beer companies. annoying everybody else in the country women and older/more mature men is worth it because young unsophisticated non-urban pakeha men drink more beer than anybody else in NZ put together. I really can't see this anti-tui campaign catching on, it is very American too.


A Nonny Moose said...

K.A: Are you saying that feminism is an American only activist stance? That gender equality belongs in another country? That NZ women should just suck it up and be sexually objectified and treated like isht?

No, you say you don't think it will work because you're either too lazy to care about equality or you don't WANT equality. Either way, we're too busy working for that equality to put up with indifference. Indifference just gets in our way. If you've got nothing helpful to say other than to put the issue down, don't bother saying it.

Anonymous said...

@A Nonny Moose

I said various other things in my comment which you can read above. If you want to reply to something I didn't say I don't know why you address your comment to me.


stargazer said...

@KA: the last line in your first comment sounds very much like the defeatist attitude most activists get. any minority taking action is told they're wasting their time, it won't work, there are more important things, no-one's listening, no-one likes them, or any one of 100 other things which are intentionally demotivational. luckily activists throughout history ignore this stuff and carry on regardless. sometimes they achieve good results, sometimes they don't.

but the thing is, it depends on what counts as good results. in this case, i wouldn't call a good result being tui totally changing their campaign, because that's unrealistic (though possible). a good result for me has already been achieved in terms of raising awareness, getting some people to think about the issue, creating spaces where those who disagree with the tui campaign can voice their concerns. it's putting something into the public discourse that wasn't there before.

and let's recognise that it comes at a cost, particularly to the wonderful women who have chosen to speak out. that cost is in verbal abuse and harassment in this case. sometimes it's more than that.

in any case, best of luck of with your meeting tomorrow leonie, and congratulations on what you've achieved so far. as far as i'm concerned, the fact that you've got them to the table to have this conversation is already a huge achievement. there are plenty of us who are behind you all the way.

Aaron Chang said...

The Tui women are hot, if they want to show off their bodies on a tv commercial then let them, I definitely enjoy looking! The market obviously has a demand for these commercials and Tui is just filling a gap in the market. Get Lucy Lawless on one of those Tui ads and off that stupid boat!

A Nonny Moose said...

Aaron, your cognitive dissonance is astounding.

You do realize that by removing sexist imagery from advertising there will still be "hot" (subjective opinion) women? Just that they'll be hot under their terms, not yours.

Boo hoo, women claiming back their bodies. Your pour peen.

stargazer said...

aaron, you either haven't read the post or haven't been able to understand what you've read. see this bit:

see, ms carlson's defense of the women in the ads seems to imply that it is those women who are somehow under attack. this is not the case.

i thought that was pretty plain english. no-one is criticising those women's choice to be in the ads. maybe that's a difficult concept for you to get your head around.

Brett Dale said...

Anonymous: You said it's very American. Actually that type of Humour would appear to be more British.

I still stand by original thoughts, I hate the ads, I wont buy the product, I would even write to them, suggesting they change their advertising. They still should be allowed to air the ads if they want to, no matter how sexist they are.

James said...

ANMOUSE: You do realize that by removing sexist imagery from advertising there will still be "hot" (subjective opinion) women? Just that they'll be hot under their terms, not yours.

Just how are these Women being "hot on Arron's terms" and not their own? They want to be in these ads,they exercise hard and beautify themselves as that's what they have to trade in the market...and when they do well and get these ad jobs they rake in the payoff.

The Tui ads exploit Men and their sexual interests to sell beer. And these Women are laughing all the way to the bank.

This beat up is really about the same old gripe.Less attractive frumpy Women envious at their more desirable sisters getting all the attention. Hiding this envy behind the vail of feminism fools no one...

A Nonny Moose said...

"Just how are these Women being "hot on Arron's terms" and not their own?"

Under the criteria of socialized acceptable beauty: white, thin, tall, big boobs, small waist, fit, wearing skimpy clothing.

"Less attractive frumpy Women envious at their more desirable sisters getting all the attention"

Oh James, did you have to use such an obvious bingo point? You have no idea what we look like. We don't need you approval of our looks to be happy with ourselves. And, of course, why should a woman's looks be her defining attribute. Oh that's right - YOUR PEEN.

LudditeJourno said...

James - I can think of almost nothing more sexist and misogynist than telling women they think the way they do because they are not "pretty".
It's unusual for me to say this, but please just go away. Anything even vaguely close to that again and I will personally be removing it.