Collective Shout campaigns manager Caitlin Roper spoke with Dave Pellowe this week about our campaign against Honey Birdette and how the sexual exploitation of women by companies like Honey Birdette has real-world consequences for women and girls.
The evidence is clear. Twenty years of empirical research, 135 studies across 109 publications, found that:
"regular, everyday exposure to [sexually objectifying portrayals of women] are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women's competence, morality, and humanity."
The petition calling on shopping centres to take action on Honey Birdette's porn-themed ads has garnered over 70,000 signatures. Keep the pressure up!
If you have signed the petition please share it with your family and friends. We want Westfield and the other major shopping centres that lease to a Honey Birdette to know they can not turn a blind eye. Honey Birdette have breached the advertising code of ethics multiple times this year without consequence. It is time the centres, their landlords, intervened.
By Sherele Moody, founder of the RED HEART Campaign dedicated to fighting violence against women and children. Read the full article at the Courier Mail.
I can only imagine what is said during a Honey Birdette marketing meeting.
Perhaps the conversation goes something like this: “Hey, let’s put a photograph of a scantily clad hairless vagina in our catalogue and at the front of our outlets in the lead-up to Christmas. Make sure the panties show a good percentage of side labia. And don’t forget to emblazon “ASK FOR YOUR CANDY” in capital letters across the image.”
The lingerie retailer is known for titillating and offending Aussie consumers by covering its stores — usually in major shopping centres — with controversial marketing that objectifies women.
At best, Honey Birdette advertisements serve up “hypersexualised” imagery of young women.
At worst, it delivers a good dose of “soft porn”.
There is a fine-line between empowering women and turning them into sex objects.
I believe Honey Birdette has well and truly crossed that line in its attempt to profit from the female form.
I am a feminist and that means I’m 110 per cent behind a woman having the freedom to work in whatever industry she wants — including modelling lingerie.
I am also opposed to policing what women wear.
As a gay woman, I do not see myself as a prude with a churlish view of women looking sexy.
But coming face-to-face with near-naked vaginas while strolling through the mall is enough to make me want to grab a can of black spray paint to do a little bit of censoring.
The Advertising Standards Bureau has banned 13 of its adverts for being “sexually explicit, highly pornographic and condoning excess violence”.
The business copped a ban earlier this year for a marketing campaign that clearly showing a woman’s nipple.
The watchdog said it contained “high level nudity and sexual suggestion”.
“The level of nudity was at the higher end of the scale and the image was highly sexualised and as such the image included on a poster that is visible to members of the community standing outside the business was not appropriate for the relevant broad audience which would likely include children,” the ABS said.
A petition calling for Honey Birdette to change its marketing strategy has gained almost 70,000 signatures.
Reprinted with permission of the author.
News Corp journalist Sherele Moody is the recipient of the 2018 BandT Women in Media Social Change Maker Award and has multiple Clarion and Walkley Our Watch journalism excellence awards for her work reducing violence against women and children. She is also the founder of The RED HEART Campaign and the creator of the Femicide Australia Map.
Sign the petition to Westfield: STOP Honey Birdette using porn-style advertising in Westfield family friendly centres.
Female Empowerment? Why Feminism Deserves Better than Honey Birdette- ABC Religion and Ethics
Objectifying Christmas promotion turns heads; stomachsRead more
Campaign to end Honey Birdette's porn-style advertising featured in 10 DailyRead more
Our annual list of corporate offenders who don’t deserve your Xmas dollar!
As our loyal supporters know each year in the lead up to Christmas, we release our annual blacklist of corporate offenders- companies that have objectified women and sexualised girls to sell their products and services throughout the year.
You can send a message to these companies by voting with your wallet and refusing to financially support brands that rely on sexploitation to sell their products.Read more
"I am writing to complain about your choice to allow and profit from, Honey Birdette, being given a platform to brazenly advertise to your customers using highly sexualised porn inspired imagery within your ‘family friendly’ shopping centres. There are significant community concerns for the harm these kinds of images have had and continue to have on the collective cultural psyche regarding the objectification of women.
a significant pornography epidemic in which boys are being misled into believing woman are there for their personal
sexual gratification. This is a crisis being played out in schools, homes, work places and social media 24/7 and highly sexualised public images such as these do a great job in reinforcing these extremely harmful mindsets. In supporting and allowing this store a platform within your shopping centres to display its porn inspired images in such a public way, and to be making a profit from it, you are a contributor.
Myself and my friends are surprised that Westfield would align itself with this degrading imagery considering the
amount of families that support your business.
Please consider the broader community and your contribution to it. Especially considering that the majority of shoppers in your establishment are women. Respect them.
The Panel noted that the advertisement was in the widow of shopping centres and considered that the relevant audience for this advertisement would be broad, and include children.
The Panel considered the second image. The Panel considered that the poses of the women in this advertisement were more sexualised, with the women holding each other as though they are about to kiss. The Panel noted that the bottom of the body suite worn by the woman who was standing was extremely high-cut and exposed a large amount of the woman’s groin area. The Panel considered that this in combination with the sexualised pose of the women was a highly-sexualised image which did not treat the issue of sex, sexuality and nudity with sensitivity to the relevant broad audience and that the advertisement did breach Section 2.4 of the Code.
Ad Industry self-regulation means they get away with it
"The advertiser has not provided a response to the Panel's determination"
Sign the petition to Westfield hereRead more
Scentre Group and Honey Birdette Advertisements in Westfield Retail Space: Eight examples of Inconsistency
1) Scentre Group promotes awareness and supports victims of domestic violence
They also allow display of sexualised imagery- the very type that perpetuates harmful stereotypes and is correlated with violence against women.
2) Avoidance of discrimination
Scentre Group Directors’ Code of Conduct requires that directors
“Avoid discrimination against any person on the basis of gender, religious beliefs, race, marital status or disability.”
Yet in their retail space, discrimination occurs daily against Westfield customers in the form unwanted exposure to sexualised imagery.
3) Concerns for public health and safety
Scentre Group employees are encouraged to report behaviours that bring “harm to public health or safety or the health or safety of any Scentre Group employee.”
Despite the claim above, Scentre Group continues to allow display of sexualised imagery - the very type verified by research to harm mental health, body image, sense of self-worth and attitudes towards women.
4) Encouragement to report unethical behaviours
Scentre Group employees are urged - via formal whistleblowing policy - to report concerns about “unethical, unlawful or improper conduct” and are ensured they may do so “without fear of reprisal.”
Yet when customers reported unethical behaviours (in the form of Honey Birdette advertisements - 13 recent examples of which have been ruled to breach Ad Standards) Scentre Group’s response was silence. Direct approaches to Scentre Group lessees, Honey Birdette, have been met with claims that are dismissive, condescending and scientifically indefensible.
5) Champions for gender equality
Brian Schwartz, chairman of Scentre Group, has been lauded as a champion for gender equality in the workplace. He was initially driven by the desire to see his own daughters grow up in a world with equal access to opportunities to succeed and excel.
Despite this, Scentre Group has remained content for customers’ daughters (and sons) to grow up in a world where exposure to sexualised imagery in the course of grocery shopping and visits to Santa is the norm.
6) Commitment to the development of women
Westfield is the major sponsor of our national women’s soccer team, the Matildas, and also of the Young Matildas (under-20s team). (See https://matildas.footballaustralia.com.au/)
Despite Westfield’s tremendous dedication to the development of women in sport, they have failed women in the general public by allowing the display of overtly sexualised imagery (via Honey Birdette advertising) to persist.
7) Commitment to community enrichment
In the endeavour to “connect and enrich communities,” Scentre Group gathered feedback from “some 29,000 community members.”
Despite their stated commitment to the betterment of local communities, Scentre Group has largely ignored the 63,000 community members who have signed this petition.
8) Proponents of change
Sir Frank Lowy, Owner and Manager (and former Chair) of Westfield was named a 2018 BOSS (publication) True Leader. True Leaders are “people who are changing Australia for the better.”
Despite this award and the existing change.org petition which has urged Westfield to indeed make a change for the better by ceasing to allow Honey Birdette porn-style advertising in their retail space, no change has occurred.
Sir Frank was quoted in March, regarding the growing popularity and success of pop-ups in Westfield shopping centres and their resemblance to kiosks of old:
“The more things change, the more they stay the same."
Sadly, little could be more truly said about the perpetual disregard and mistreatment of customers in Westfield-owned retail space – driven by Westfield’s continuing permissive relationship with Honey Birdette. Only when this dichotomous situation ceases and Westfield agrees to allow advertising only of the type that lines up with their other positive statements and activities within their retail space will any true change be possible.
Click here to sign the petition to Westfield
Honey Birdette is a serial sexploitation offender. The sex shop, located in shopping centres around the country, has attracted hundreds of complaints for its sexist advertising. Ad Standards has investigated complaints over almost thirty separate advertisements, upholding half, but Honey Birdette continues to sexually objectify women.
Last year, father and Collective Shout supporter Kenneth Thor launched a petition calling on Westfield shopping centres to stop Honey Birdette’s porn-themed advertising, but to date Westfield has failed to take any action. Enough is enough- Westfield must act on Honey Birdette sexual exploitation of women.
In this blog, we’ve compiled responses to some of the more common defences of Honey Birdette sexism.
1. "You see more flesh at the beach"
In response to Kenneth Thor's petition to Westfield, Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan claimed, “You see more flesh at Bondi at 10 am.” Monaghan has clearly missed the point.
The presence of female flesh alone does not constitute sexual objectification. The inclusion of attractive women in an ad campaign does not constitute sexual objectification.
Sexual objectification occurs when a person, often a woman, is treated as a body, or series of body parts for others’ use and consumption, when her physical attributes and sexual capabilities are regarded as representative of her whole self or seen as determining her worth.
Commenting on Honey Birdette advertising, Australian researcher Dr. Meagan Tyler said:
"These are not just images of women's breasts, they are sexually objectified and commodified images of women's breasts in public space. These representations of women, that reduce us to consumable body parts, reduce our recognition of women's full humanity and make it more difficult for women to participate in public life."
As Dr Linda Papadopolous stated in Sexualisation of Young People Review:
“Although sexual objectification is but one form of gender oppression, it is one that factors into- and perhaps enables- a host of other oppressions women face, ranging from employment discrimination and sexual violence to the trivialisation of women’s work and accomplishments.”
Honey Birdette routinely promotes the sexual objectification of women in their floor to ceiling porn-themed advertising, featuring hyper-sexualised depictions of women’s bodies or even just parts of their bodies. The women in Honey Birdette advertising are portrayed as though they are for men’s pleasure, defined only by their sexual appeal and availability. The message is that women exist for men’s enjoyment and entertainment.
Objection to the sexual objectification of women is not an objection to women, nor is it an objection to women’s bodies. It is an opposition to sexism, to corporates who profit from the sexual exploitation of women and have the audacity to claim they are empowering women in the process.
2. "It's just women expressing their sexuality"
If Honey Birdette advertising is an expression of female sexuality, “for women, by women”, then why is it indistinguishable from the content in men’s softcore porn magazines?
Honey Birdette promotes a very narrow view of female sexuality, one in which youthful, slender, and typically white-skinned women are depicted as passive objects of male desire. Female sexuality as represented by Honey Birdette entails women being sexually appealing to men, exposing their bodies and mimicking porn-inspired poses and acts. How does this differ from the sexually objectifying depictions of women for a male audience? Essentially, it doesn’t.
In her TED talk about growing up in a ‘porn culture’, Professor Gail Dines encouraged the audience to critically analyse porn-inspired depictions of women in media and advertising. Pointing to a hyper-sexualised image of a female model, she said:
“Look at her clothes, look at her face, look at her posture, and look at her gaze...who is she speaking to? Because the notion is that every image has a reader in mind. Before you answer, do you think she’s speaking to her mother, saying, ‘Let’s go for a cup of coffee after the photo shoot?’ So who is she talking to? Who is she speaking to? Men. And what is she saying? ‘F*ck me’.”
Who is the ‘reader’ or the intended audience in Honey Birdette ads? And what is being communicated to them?
Note the differing treatment of men and women in Honey Birdette ad campaigns. Lingerie clad women are posed alongside fully clothed men. What does this unequal treatment represent? Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth said, “Cross-culturally, unequal nakedness almost always expresses power relations.”
It is in Honey Birdette’s interest to reframe their commodification of female bodies and sexuality as ‘female sexuality’ or ‘empowerment’. “For women, by women” may be a great marketing hook, but the promotion of sexist stereotypes and sexually objectifying imagery of women does not become an ‘expression of female sexuality’ simply because a company with vested financial interests says so.
3. "You're just easily offended"
This is not an issue of offence or personal taste. Our opposition to Honey Birdette’s constant sexually exploitative depictions of women is not on the basis of offence, but documented evidence of harm.
Representations of women that reduce women to mere sexual objects, as sexually available and existing for men’s use are problematic not because some people might be offended but because they cause harm, primarily to women and children.
Researcher Rebecca Whisnant distinguishes between offence and harm. Offence is “something that happens in one’s head”, whereas harm is “an objective condition, not a way of feeling; to be harmed is to have one’s interests set back, to be made worse off, to have one’s circumstances made worse than they were...Whether a person is harmed does not depend on how she feels.”
The harms of sexually objectifying portrayals of women are well established. A review of twenty years of research, from 109 publications containing 135 studies found:
“consistent evidence that both laboratory exposure and regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women’s competence, morality, and humanity.”
Honey Birdette’s attempts to paint those who object to their routine sexual exploitation of women as easily offended, prudish or even religious fundamentalists is a deliberate tactic to silence those who might threaten their profits, and to avoid engaging in meaningful discussions about the harms to women and children from the very sexual objectification they promote.
4. "It has no impact on kids"
Some people believe that children are unaffected by floor to ceiling soft-porn advertising in public spaces, such as Honey Birdette shopfront advertising. This view is not supported by the international research into the sexualisation of children and its corresponding harms.
Sexualisation of children refers to the imposition of adult models of sexual behaviour and sexuality on to children and adolescents at developmentally inappropriate stages and in opposition to the healthy development of sexuality. It encompasses sexual objectification and representation of children in adult sexual ways and in ways that imply the child’s value is dependent on conforming to a particular appearance, sexual display or behaviours. Children may also experience secondary sexualisation through exposure to sexualised advertising material and products aimed at adult consumers- like Honey Birdette shopping centre advertising.
Pic credit MTR/Caters Media
The harms of sexualisation are extensive. In its 2007 Task Force into the sexualisation of girls the American Psychological Association concluded there was “ample evidence to show that sexualisation has negative effects in a variety of domains including: cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and beliefs”.
Harms from exposure to sexualised content
There is a “growing body of evidence” of the harms to children from exposure to adult sexual content. The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists noted that premature exposure to adult sexual images and values has a negative impact on the psychological development of children, in terms of self-esteem, body image and understanding of sexuality and relationships.
The objectification of women in media and advertising puts pressure on girls and women to conform to stereotypical sexualised beauty ideals. According to RANZCP, exposure to sexualising messages contributes to girls defining their self-worth in terms of sexual attractiveness, and the “excessive focus on appearance and narrow definition of attractiveness” contributes to the development of abnormal eating patterns and lack of positive body image.
Links between sexist advertising and violence against women
The NSW Government acknowledged the links between media and advertising reinforcing sexist and stereotypical gender roles and men’s violence against women in their 2016 report on sexualisation:
“The exposure to media representation of genders...can provide templates for what it means to be a boy/man (equated with sexual conquest and entitlement to access women’s bodies) and girl/woman (sexually available).”
“The NSW Government further maintains, in line with the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022, that such stereotyping contributes to attitudes that support or justify violence against women and girls.”
Honey Birdette targets kids
So far, complaints have been made against 28 Honey Birdette advertisements, with rulings against the retailer on 13 occasions. Children around the country are exposed to Honey Birdette advertising every day. Honey Birdette is well aware of parents' concerns for their children, as outlined in frequent complaints, but it is clear the wellbeing of children is not a priority for them.
In addition to their standard sexually objectifying advertising material, Honey Birdette have gone out of their way to attract the attention of children in their advertising in public spaces. Several Christmas ad campaigns have included imagery of beloved children’s figure Santa alongside lingerie clad women, in various BDSM themed scenarios. One advertisement even addressed children directly, with the slogan ‘Sorry Kids! We gave Santa the night off.’ Honey Birdette founder Eloise Monaghan dismissed complaints about the “fun” Santa campaign, commenting, “You can’t please everyone.”
The retailer continued to put profits before the rights of children, refusing to take down the ad even after Ad Standards had found it was in breach. “Nobody tells Honey B’s when to take down her signage”, the brand posted on their Facebook page.
The harms of sexualisation of children are well established and significant. We know that sexualisation presents a threat to the health and wellbeing of children, yet Honey Birdette arrogantly and repeatedly breaches the AANA code of ethics, showing a complete disregard for the most vulnerable members of our society.Read more