Victoria Square ad

This is a reply to Shane Magee of Fake Republic, who wrote a post about continuing sexism in the world, the pay gap between men and women in the workplace, and his baby daughter growing up in such a world. In response to some who wondered how to tackle such an overwhelming problem, he writes:

complaining can bring change. thanks to kellie turtle for pointing me to this advertisement [pictured above] for belfast’s new, huge, bright and shiny, upmarket shopping centre. apart from the unspeakable crassness of the ad, the general misogny is unmissable. so what did kellie do? she sent a well-worded complaint to the marketing agency responsible and to the advertising standards authority, which is charged with ensuring that all advertising in the uk meets various standards of truthfulness and decency.


I despise sexism in society, and patriarchy, as much as you. Things are slowly changing. But that ad is the least offensive thing I’ve ever seen. Does it attempt to use sex appeal to attract passing eyes to the shopping at Victoria Square? Certainly. And what’s wrong with that? (One shouldn’t think that only male eyes will be attracted, by the way.) Didn’t the famous Diet Coke commercial appeal for years to the sexiness of a topless man outside an office window using precisely the same device? And what’s wrong with that, either?

Complaining about ads is the last thing a mature society engages in. Asking your government to define decency for you in the manner of the Advertising Standards Authority is the opposite of liberal and tolerant and mature; it is small-minded, intolerant and childish.

I wish to fight sexism every bit as much as you do. But you don’t fight sexism by infringing on the freedoms of others to portray and enjoy sexuality in culture! To the contrary, it’s done by embracing that sexuality, not by thrusting it down deep, lest it distract the lustful. This was the mistake of the feminism of the past: it claimed to be a fight for the feminine and in actual fact it denied the very essence of femininity in doing so. Women began wearing pants suits, acting just like the men they were trying to fight, playing their game and imagining they were beating the system.

The result was exactly the mistake you’re making now: to bury the sexuality of women just in case anyone should ever think that’s all she has to offer, just in case any man should treat her only as a piece of meat. She deserves more than that.

Allow her to be everything she is, and fuck anyone presumptuous enough to imagine that she can’t hold her own in a boardroom at one and the same time. Allow men who would think of her as only a sex object to do so at their peril.

Baby. Bathwater!





Shane’s response:

hey john,

really appreciate the thoughts. i agree with you about the wondrous nature of female sexuality and think she should be free to utilise that sexuality however she wishes. this ad, however, represents something different – not a celebration of woman in all her beauty, but rather a comodification of that sexuality at the behest of the dominant patriarchy.

while i accept that the woman herself may well be visually appealing to other women, the set-up is overwhelmingly appealing to male sensibilities and proclivities. had a lesbian designed it, i dare say a different image would have emerged (is that simply my male heterosexual bias showing? i’m open to persuasion).

i agree with you on the diet coke ads as well. the whole issue of sex, sexuality and marketing is a deep and murky one. something i’ll perhaps dip into here at a later date. being a man in today’s society is no easy task either. it’s all also tied in with our obsession with celebrity and “stars”. but all that for a later time.

i guess i wouldn’t object to the ad so much if it were advertising an escort agency or porn – it’s the crass, lazy link made between woman as object and consumerism i object to so thoroughly.

anyway, the ad itself wasn’t really the main point. far more serious is the way women are portrayed in the media in general – the dual standards for males and females regarding the number of previous sexual partners, the ageism directed against women, the pay gap, woman as victim/helpless/captive/in need of a male rescuer … blah, blah, blah.

again, i think i’d be happier with an older molly watching ‘the exorcist’ than much of what disney puts out. with ‘the exorcist’ you get exactly what you’d expect – a movie that’ll scare the shit right out of you. disney purports to be wholesome, harmless family fun and yet sells a story to young girls (and to young boys about girls) that, if followed and believed, leads to the oppressive state we have today.

as for never complaining about stuff that offends, again, i’m torn. i’m acomplete libertarian when it comes to stuff i can choose to consume – bring it on and everyone else stay out of my business. images which are ubiquitous and unavoidable, however, have to be called into question somehow. this is where i see some benefit in a body like the asa.

ok i’m waffling now, so i’ll stop. thanks for the feedback. you’re making me think, which is always a good thing! :o)