Lesbians have slammed sex shop Honey Birdette for fetishising and objectifying lesbians in its latest ad campaign. The ‘Fluid’ campaign, set to coincide with the forthcoming Sydney Mardi Gras Festival, depicts an orgy of naked men and women with bodies painted in Pride colours, groping each other.
Liz Waterhouse from Listening 2 Lesbians, which documents lesbian experiences of violence and discrimination around the world, said Honey Birdette presented lesbians as available for the sexual gratification of men.
“Calling the campaign ‘Fluid’ combined with the presentation of objectified, sexually available lesbians, clearly communicates to the men watching that lesbian sexuality is fluid enough for lesbians to be sexually available to them,” Ms Waterhouse said.
“In a world where lesbians are harassed and attacked for our sexuality, for not being available to men, this is a dangerous game to play with lesbian lives.”
Ms Waterhouse said lesbians needed space to exist free of tokenism and sexual objectification.
“We all want to live in a world where lesbians are safe, where lesbian lives are celebrated and where lesbian representation gives hope and strength to young lesbians working out their sexuality. Honey Birdette’s campaign takes us further away from that world.”
Susan Hawthorne, author, poet and publisher at Australia’s only feminist and lesbian publisher Spinifex Press, accused Honey Birdette of sexualising lesbians.
“Using lesbians as titillation is not unusual, pornographers have been doing it for decades,” Ms Hawthorne said.
“But in the real world real lesbians are tortured for our activism; real lesbians are subjected to corrective rape; and in the real world when a lesbian is raped or tortured she doesn't get to say stop. Not only are you continuing the sexualising of women, you are giving mixed messages with images of a mixed orgy.”
Collective Shout has campaigned against Honey Birdette’s pornified representations of women for close to a decade. Honey Birdette has been found in breach of Ad Standards rulings 31 times since January 2018.
“Far from promoting equality, this is an act of rainbow washing for profit,” Ms Roper said. “The company claims diversity while featuring flawless bodies and large-breasted women”.
The ad has received an outpouring of criticism on Honey Birdette’s Instagram and Facebook page, including for “profiting off of Pride” and as a “blatant attempt to cover up an orgy with a rainbow filter”.
Collective Shout has supported a petition launched by Melbourne father of three Kenneth Thor directed at CEOs of shopping centres which host Honey Birdette’s porn-inspired portrayals which has attracted almost 77,000 signatures. Honey Birdette has a counter petition which we have been told by a source close to the company comprises a large percentage of fake names added by staff.
[caitlin at collectiveshout.org]
February 20, 2020