They even film themselves doing it [video]
We've known for a long time that there is a connection between the way women and girls are portrayed in advertising and the impact on attitudes towards women and their treatment. Sexual objectification is linked to self-esteem issues for women, eating disorders, cognitive difficulties and even political efficacy. Men who view objectifying media are more likely to believe rape myths and less likely to have empathy for women.
There is a mountain of evidence on this. A 2015 meta-analysis showed objectified portrayals of women led to a ‘diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity.’ [Media and Sexualization: State of Empirical Research, 1995-2015, Ward LM, The Journal of Sex Research (2016)]
We recently received a message from Jo who provided us with a first hand account of how Honey Birdette's advertising dehumanises women:
About 4 weeks ago I was at Westfield Carindale and was near the Honey Birdette shop. There were two older teenage boys out the front of the shop, smirking and pointing at the images in the window. I heard one say to the other ‘I’d like to f*#k that!’ and there was a snigger of agreement from the other boy.
Where I work we have a language cadence we use for speaking up to report issues of safety. I decided to put this approach into practice so I spoke up to both boys about objectifying women in this way and referring to a woman as ‘that’ and the implications this has for young girls in our culture- but also what it says about them as well. The main boy who said the original words told me to ‘f off’ but the other one at least had a look of shame on his face. I walked away from the boys - but I must admit now I regret not going inside the shop to let the staff know what had just occurred outside.
Again last week I was at Westfield Chermside and again walking past HB. A young boy, probably about 13 or 14 max, walked past the shop, stopped, stared at the pictures for about 30 secs, then walked away bright red and head hung low. He looked again quite uncomfortable and even a bit shamed. I really felt for the young boy because of the impact these pictures obviously had on him especially in this important time in his physical, social and emotional development.
Meanwhile a search for #HoneyBirdette on Instagram has uncovered footage from a man who filmed the shop front windows of Honey Birdette while making sleazy comments.
In the short video below - shared on Instagram with the hashtags "teen" and "schoolgirluniform" - the man zooms in on the womens bodies and is heard to remark "so local girls wear lingerie like this? I might migrate to Australia today."
Why Australia Should Follow France's Lead on 'Degrading' Sexist Advertising
Melinda Tankard Reist via ABC Religion and Ethics
We share in the Commons. This is a very old term that refers to public spaces inherited by, belonging to and affecting a community - the shared places in which we all live and move, work and play.
But our public spaces are contaminated, the commons mismanaged. No one has exclusive rights to these spaces, but advertisers too often engage in visual and psychological pollution, as if the commons belong exclusively to them.
This pollution happens most frequently in the presentation of women for gratification, consumption and profit. Corporate Social Responsibility, to which most companies now lay claim, is not reflected in images of women topless, having violence done to them, made submissive by fear, on their backs, up for it, adorning, adoring, decorative objects with nothing to offer but their sex. They are presented as passive, vulnerable, headless, short of clothing, as sex aids - and sometimes dead.
Why do advertisers address women in these ways, instead of in a way consistent with their dignity as persons? Why do they address the commons itself in a broadside against the very possibility of a civil society, respectful of the dignity of all?
Public advertising that addresses women in this manner conditions expectations and behaviour, and cultivates gender stereotypes in how we see and recognize others. Pioneering advertising critic Dr Jean Kilbourne, of the famed Killing Us Softly series, points out that ads do more than sell products: "They sell values, images, and concepts of success and worth, love and sexuality, popularity and normalcy. They tell us who we are and who we should be."
Public advertising tells us who we are and who we should be in gendered terms: men are persons of entitlement and power with clothes on, and women are ... not.
In a meta-analysis of published research in peer-reviewed English-language journals between 1995 and 2015, Monique Ward found that exposure to sexualized content results in a "diminished view of women's competence, morality, and humanity"