Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's Not Just an Ad: Unite in Sisterhood to Stop Sexist Advertising

A fellow intern here at the Feminist Majority Foundation headed a facebook campaign to protest a recent Burger King ad shown in Singapore. Because I have been surrounded by strong, intelligent, feminist women for the last few weeks, I forgot, for just a moment, how much misogyny still exists in American culture. A simple request to stop Burger King’s ad resulted in a multitude of comments from readers about why women need to ‘get over themselves’ as well as a number of excuses for the perpetuation of female objectification.

If you are a woman who wishes to express concern regarding the exploitation of women in advertising, expect to be called too sensitive, uptight, or even anti-sex. As Gloria Steinem said, “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon. She will need her sisterhood.”

Sadly, I do not always feel the power of sisterhood. Some of the loudest voices defending sexism often come from women. As consumers, women have a tremendous opportunity to take a stand against misogyny. If we keep buying sexism, companies will continue supplying it. And we do buy it: we read Cosmo magazine which is always eager to tell us how to intensify HIS pleasure, we listen to music that encourages men to "smack that," and we buy clothing from companies that objectify women in their advertisements.

When I say 'we', I do not mean to offend those who do take a stand against this kind of sexism. I’m talking only about those who continue to make excuses. And trust me, I’ve heard them all. From the idea that men are just more visually stimulated to the excuse that ‘sex just sells’, it seems we will go out of our way to defend what American culture is doing to women’s bodies.

What exactly is it doing to women’s bodies? After all, isn’t an ad just an ad? The sad reality is that women are being affected in ways we don’t always realize. According to objectification theory, when women are viewed in terms of their bodies, they internalize an outsider’s view, objectifying themselves. This self-objectification may lead to eating disorders, depression, and self harm.

The attitudes of men must also be considered. Increased exposure to material that degrades women has led to an overall acceptance of viewing women only as sexual objects. Consider the tradition of hiring a stripper for a bachelor party,the acceptance of going to a strip club, or the prevalence of pornography that portrays women violently. When men are constantly exposed to material that degrades women, they are more likely to be accepting of it.

Women cannot gain full equality until they are treated with respect in every facet of society. We cannot do this without our sisterhood. It’s not enough to recognize that a problem exists, we must come together to change it. Be the one who refuses to pay $10 to see a sexist movie. Be the one who boycotts Burger King because of an offensive ad. Be the one who dares to challenge a society that is harmful to the lives of women.


Jenna said...

thanks danae!

Lily said...

Great post.

It's so true-- If women speak out, we CAN end offensive advertising, and we CAN stop the degradation that has become normal and routine in our society.

We just need to work together.