A Melbourne based shoe designer has attracted complaints over a sexually objectifying image on their Facebook page depicting a series of semi-naked, headless women wearing their shoes.
Facebook users weighed in on Preston Zly Design’s photo, with a series of witty and insightful comments:
“But why does the model have to take her pants off to sell shoes?”
“Hi, can you please clarify, will I be able to wear these shoes if I have a head attached to my body? Also I put clothes on prior to my shoes, will these shoes still work with my dressing style?”
“Can we expect similar ads for men’s footwear with headless men missing their clothing also, or is it just sexual exploitation of women that sells shoes?”
“I don’t need nudes to sell me shoes.”
“Women are not inanimate objects and selling to us by exploiting us isn’t edgy.”
“Oh look, headless bodies of young, thin, conventionally attractive white women being used to sell a product. How artistic! So revolutionary and challenging! It’s almost like this outdated and sexist practice hasn’t gone on for decades!”
Designer Johanna Preston responded,
“We are not clothing designers- it’s all about the shoes here” – as if featuring clothed female models is a skill limited to clothing designers.
“The images aren’t exploitative- but if you choose to think they are that’s your prerogative.
“I understand that the use of the female body offends you but we are proud of our work and stand behind our beautiful shoot.”
But the use of women’s bodies as props, the depiction of women without faces, the treatment of women as interchangeable and the use of women’s near naked bodies to sell a product is objectification- whether it is acknowledged or not, whether it offends or not.
There is a wealth of research on the harms of objectifying women- decades of it- finding that this sexist treatment leads both men and women to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity. In short, treating women like things is bad for women.
It’s hard to understand how in 2018, in the wake of the #MeToo movement and with a growing awareness of the scourge of men’s violence against women, companies can continue to exploit women’s bodies to sell a product.
Car parts and services chain Ultra Tune have a long history of sexually exploitative advertising. From rubber-clad dominatrix women brandishing whips and feigning arousal at the sight of tyres, to countless ads perpetuating sexist stereotypes of women as ‘dumb blondes’ who can’t operate their vehicles and who accidentally drive off of cliffs, Ultra Tune has attracted a massive amount of complaints, from men and women.
Despite this, Ultra Tune’s marketing manager Rod Cedaro told the Mumbrella Automotive Summit that he didn’t see the problem with the ads and even went so far as to say they were “empowering” to women.
Ultra Tune’s ads are built on the premise that women are irrational and dumb. That they need men to step in and save them from getting hit by a train, driving off a cliff or blowing up their car because they’re just that stupid. But this humiliation of women is ‘empowering’, according to the company profiting from it.
From Mumbrella’s article:
Defending an ad where the Ultra Tune ‘Rubber Girls’ are stuck on the tracks in a car with a train quickly approaching, Cedaro told an audience at Mumbrella’s Automotive Summit, “The empowerment there was they [the women] actually were forward-thinking enough to actually exit the car”.
The women, who are continually portrayed as brainless yet sexy, are ‘empowered’ because when their car is stranded on the train tracks, they get out of the car. That’s it.
Cedaro went on to argue that the women were empowered yet again when van Damme rescued them from a flat tyre:
“The women were empowered by the fact that they are dressed up for a night out. If I was dressed like that I personally wouldn’t want to go and change a tyre myself. Who wants to get grease all over themselves dressed like that if you have been out for the night and you’ve got free road side assistance?” Cedaro said.
The women are empowered “because they are dressed up for a night out”. What does that even mean? That putting clothes on and leaving the house is an act of personal empowerment? If Ultra Tune’s sexist commercials can be said to empower women, the word has lost all meaning.
The reality is that sexual objectification harms women. There is nothing funny or empowering in demeaning women to sell car parts and services. The notion that women are less capable, less intelligent and less worthwhile than men contributes to a culture of gender inequality and undermines attempts to advance the status of women. Ultra Tune think the humiliation of women is amusing- let’s prove to them it’s not.
It was in 2013 that women’s surf brand Roxy was slammed for their sexist “all sex no surf” Pro Biarritz trailer. The video, a promotion for the upcoming women’s surf competition, featured a faceless and half-naked woman writhing around on a bed, stripping off and entering the shower and catching zero waves.
Three time women’s world longboard champion Cori Schumacher started a petition that attracted over 22,000 signatures, calling on the brand to stop sexualising women in their marketing and advertising:
Recently, Roxy released a trailer for the 2013 Roxy Biarritz Pro contest that showcases a style of marketing women’s surfing that is not conducive to a healthy, empowered vision of women. Instead of women surfers being presented as an alternative to the sexualisation and objectification of women in the culture-at-large, this campaign succumbs to the lazy marketing that is already so prevalent.
As the most visible and well-known women’s surf brand, Roxy has a unique opportunity to truly make a difference in how women and girls are represented in the world.
We ask that you stop the sexualisation of women in your marketing and advertising and instead, help to present women surfers in a light that women can be proud to be associated with and young girls can truly admire.
Five years later, Roxy have launched a new global campaign, entitled ‘Make Wave, Move Mountains’ to “promote a message of strength and support to young women of any age, sport, or dream.”
Roxy is not the only brand making major changes. In 2016 Unilever, the company that owns Lynx, a brand of men’s deodorant with a long history of sexist advertising, released the following statement from Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed:
“The time is right for us as an industry to challenge and change how we portray gender in our advertising. Our industry spends billions of dollars annually shaping perceptions and we have a responsibility to use this power in a positive manner.”
Photo: A compilation of sexist Lynx ads over the years.
Just last year, burger joint Carl’s Jr, with a reputation for sexually exploiting women in their porn-inspired commercials, claimed they were changing their ways, ditching the sexualisation of women and instead focusing on ingredients and taste.
This change of direction in advertising from a range of brands is evidence of a greater cultural shift that is underway, one in which sexism and the exploitation of women to sell products and services is no longer tolerated. Corporates are starting to recognise that sexual exploitation does not necessarily sell.
These changes are in large part because of those of us who have consistently challenged the sexualisation and objectification of women and girls in media, advertising and popular culture. As always, thank you for your ongoing support and let’s continue keeping up the pressure!
Kids exposed to bondage-themed scenes in Fifty Shades Freed trailers on Channel 7 during Winter Olympics
Here’s how to make a complaint.
We’ve received feedback from various supporters regarding Channel 7 broadcasting the trailer for MA rated film Fifty Shades Freed, during the Winter Olympics and at times children are likely to be watching.
The trailer included highly sexualised content, featuring a bondage-themed scene in which a woman in lingerie was blindfolded and tied up.
We’ve heard from parents whose children as young as six were exposed to this content while watching the Winter Olympics during the day- one even at 10.30 am.
There are restrictions placed on what content can be shown on TV, and when. Free TV Australia’s Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice lists several codes that apply here:
2.2.3 MA15+ Classification zone. Subject to subclause 2.3.2(b), material that has been classified MA15+ may only be broadcast between 8.30 pm and 5.00 am on any day.
2.4.2 During Sports Programs and Films classified G or PG which commence before 8.30 pm and continue after 8.30 pm, all non-Program material must be no higher than a PG classification.
2.4.4 A Program Promotion for a Program classified M or MA15+ must not be broadcast during any Program classified G: a) which is principally directed to Children; and b) broadcast between 5.00 am and 8.30 pm.
It is worth noting also that commercials for sexual services are only permitted after 11pm and before 5 am, suggesting a recognition that highly sexualised or adult content should not be broadcast during hours when children might see them.
Make a complaint
You can make a complaint via an electronic form on Free TV Australia’s website. Complaints must contain the date, time, channel and location as well as a brief description of the material. Licensees (TV stations) are required to respond to complaints within 30 days.
Have you made a complaint? Let us know in the comments.
Kenneth Thor, the father behind the petition calling for an end to porn-style Honey Birdette advertisements in Westfield shopping centres, is continuing to keep up the pressure on Scentre Group.
In a letter to the Chief Operating Officer, Kenneth outlined some of the issues with Honey Birdette’s consistent porn-inspired advertising.
I just wanted to state the obvious, that bondage, dominance, submissive, sado-masochistic (BDSM) depiction of women in your shopping centres should never be “normal”.
I would have thought that in this day and age when violence against women and sexualisation of young children is such a huge concern in society, that a non-tone-deaf organisation like the Scentre Group would find this type of advertising quite tasteless if not offensive?
As previously communicated, I’m sure you’ve had discussions with Honey Birdette, but forgive me for wondering whether they have been effective.
The ASB have ruled that the two previous Honey Birdette ads (Office Party and Santa Kids) were “degrading and exploitive”, but they of course had weeks of exposure before being taken down. Their tally is now 12 case reports being upheld. When will someone figure out that this company has no intention of playing by the rules and is eroding our confidence in the ASB and Westfield?
What are you going to do about this current demeaning Honey Birdette ads and help prevent further offensive ads in the future? It is not difficult to see what is wrong with this situation.
Join over 61,000 people and sign Kenneth’s petition.
A Collective Shout supporter has been offered a $200 voucher from Ultra Tune after making a complaint to their Head Office.
In what appears to be a cut and paste form letter, Ultra Tune National Customer Service Manager Tania Plumpton utilises a range of justifications for the company’s routine sexism.
“We are sorry that you hate our advertisements sexist toward women” (sic)
Ms Plumpton assures the complainant that Ultra Tune’s Executive Chairman, Sean Buckley “stands by” the ads (what a relief). Sean Buckley has previously insisted that the ads are funny, despite overwhelming feedback from the public that they are sexist and juvenile.
“Only 300 complaints were made”
According to Ms Plumpton, only 300 people complained about their latest “Unexpected Situations” ad (only 300!) which amounts to “0.006% of the audience”- with the implication being those who objected to the ad were a tiny minority.
It doesn’t work like that. In fact, research on customer complaints suggests that 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain (although 91% of these will not return), or that for every 26 unhappy customers, only one will lodge a formal complaint. Ultra Tune received 300.
Those of us who have ever made a formal complaint about an advertisement to the ASB know how difficult this process can be. The fact that more complaints are not being made is not an indication of community acceptance, but rather, a difficult and ineffective complaints process.
As advertising is not pre-vetted, it is up to members of the community to find the time to make a formal complaint for offending ads to be investigated in the first place. Many people are not aware that they can even make a complaint, or who they might complain to. Complainants must be able to describe the ad, including the channel it was on and at what time. Many others may be dissuaded from making a complaint given the process has consistently failed to lead to any successful outcome, leaving complainants to believe that making complaints is a waste of time and deterring them from bothering in the future.
This is not evidence of a successful advertising regulation system, it’s just the opposite.
Convicted rapist Mike Tyson went through a “dark period”
Ultra Tune’s latest ad went a step further, featuring convicted rapist Mike Tyson. The former boxer who bragged about beating his wife and described his enthusiasm for enacting sexual torture on women has “deep regret and remorse” for the “dark period in his life”, presumably, the time when he raped a woman and bashed his wife. Ultra Tune defends their decision to feature a convicted rapist in their ad because Tyson has appeared in other movies.
Sean Buckley gives money to sports
The letter goes on to boast about Sean Buckley’s “generous support” of local combat sports that would “simply cease to exist”, with athletes who “would not be able to realise their dreams within this sporting arena”. It is unclear what any of this has to do with complaints about Ultra Tune’s consistently sexually exploitative advertising.
Sexism sells so Ultra Tune will continue to profit from sexploitation
Ms Plumpton then argues the sexist advertising is effective, resulting in a steady growth in sales. Evidently ethics and corporate social responsibility have little weight so long as Ultra Tune can profit from the exploitation of women.
The letter concludes as follows:
“We take all of our complaints very seriously and whilst we disagree with your thoughts on our advertisement, we would like to extend to you a $200 voucher that you (or your family) can use in the next 12 months at any of our Ultra Tune centres throughout Australia.”
Ultra Tune believes that they can convince consumers to overlook their sexist advertising with a mere $200.
Have you made a complaint to Ultra Tune? Contact their Head Office today and ask for your $200 voucher: email@example.com
Watch Mike Tyson’s awkward interview on Sunrise
After years of Collective Shout campaigning, the Advertising Standards Board has announced long awaited changes to the AANA Code of Ethics regarding the use of sexual appeal in advertising.
Figure 1: An example of sexually exploitative advertising permitted in public spaces under the current system.
Previously, under section 2.2 of the code, advertisements were in breach if they were found to be both exploitative and degrading. An advertisement deemed simply exploitative was not in breach. From March, updates to the code mean the use of sexual appeal in advertising cannot be exploitative or degrading.
Collective Shout welcomes this revision of the code. While this is a positive step, there is much more still to be done in order to effectively regulate sexist and sexually objectifying advertising.
While the ASB claims most companies comply with advertising codes and rulings, we’ve spent years documenting and exposing serial offenders such as Honey Birdette, UltraTune and Wicked Campers - companies who continually exploit the weaknesses in the current system of self-regulation to promote their products and services. There is still a long way to go, and we’re not backing down any time soon.
Honey Birdette sexploitation highlights Ad Standards Board incompetence.
The Advertising Standards Board has upheld complaints against Honey Birdette’s sexist ‘Office Party’ advertisements, featuring fully clothed men in suits alongside lingerie clad women. However, this ruling accomplishes very little, given Honey Birdette replaced this ad over a month ago with their “Sorry Kids, we gave Santa the night off” ads depicting Santa spanking a model.
This latest development only serves to highlight the Advertising Standards Board’s ongoing failure to adequately regulate sexist advertising, and the willingness of stores like Honey Birdette to exploit an ineffective system of advertising regulation.
In response to this issue, Collective Shout supporter and petition starter Kenneth Thor has taken the fight against Honey Birdette sexploitation and the ASB’s inability to address it to members of parliament. In a letter to Victoria MP Rachel Carling Jenkins, Kenneth has highlighted the many failings of the Advertising Standards Board:
Pic credit MTR/Caters Media
I write to ask for your support in putting an end to porn-style advertising being allowed in family friendly shopping centres and amending the current legislation (or lack of) around Advertising Standards.
Serial offenders like Honey Birdette exploit broken advertising system
The Advertising Standards Bureau (ASB) has upheld no less than 9 out of 21 complaint case reports against Honey Birdette over the years. Honey Birdette have been ordered to take down highly sexualised and offensive posters from their shop windows, but they replace them with something just as bad or worse.
In this current system, as long as the advertiser takes down the ad eventually (in their own good time), it is registered by the ASB as a compliance. It does not matter if the replacement advertising is as bad or worse, it is considered a separate ad and requires a new set of complaints to be lodged. For example, in the last 5 months, they have been ordered to replace 4 ads!
Each case report consists of multiple complaints and requires the arduous effort of lodging complaints, waiting, sending in photo evidence, waiting up to 3 months, while the damage is already done. The worst thing is, there is nothing stopping the advertiser from breaching the code again. They can go through this process every day for the next ten years and the ASB will still register them as compliant, and the ASB can still boast about how effective self-regulation is with a 100% compliance rate. It is the biggest joke.
Take action today, Thursday 30th November.
Last week we put out a call to action, encouraging supporters to contact the Scentre Group and Westfield leadership about Honey Birdette’s sexually exploitative advertising. We had a great response from supporters, many of whom shared their actions with us on our Facebook page.
Westfield has responded to a few of our supporters, claiming to have no authority over the advertising their tenants display. Many others who called and emailed have had no response whatsoever.
Westfield think that we will get bored and give up. But we’re not backing down. We will continue to put the pressure on until they take meaningful action.
A wealth of research shows that regular exposure to sexually objectifying portrayals of women are directly associated with a greater support of sexist beliefs and greater tolerance of violence against women, leading both men and women to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality and humanity. Essentially, when women are routinely objectified or reduced to things, violence against them may be more easily justified.
Given a growing awareness of the scourge of domestic violence in Australia, with an average of two women being murdered by male partners each week, Honey Birdette’s ongoing and defiant promotion of the objectification and degradation of women is staggering.