I think I did a walk around the high street blog about two years ago. Today, after being faced with Mary, Abby and Jane, I thought I’d do one again. As we recover from the Danny Dyer ‘scandal’ – in case you missed it, this is where that lovable cad Danny, in his agony column in Zoo magazine, advised a correspondent to ‘cut the face’ of his girlfriend, I mean ex-girlfriend, in order that no-one else will want to have her’ – the prevalence of this sort of image of women seems ever more ubiquitous and it’s not just the Zoos or Nuts of this world that love to exploit it.
So – who are Mary, Abby and Jane? I have no idea, but rest assured, once you’ve had a shower with new Lynx ‘Rise’, they could be yours. There is a distinct aura of Zoo about them. And by the looks of things, they’re available. Aren’t all women supposed to be? But of course … it’s all a bit of harmless fun. Isn’t it?
What bothers me about this image (it’s HUGE by the way), is how symptomatic it is of the current and growing acceptability of plastering the majority of our public spaces – spaces inhabited by me, my kids, their mates, with suggestive images which objectify women in order to sell products. And no, this is not about giving the consumer ‘what they want’. No consumer ever asked for this. It was created, in order to shock, titillate and sell more shower gel.
When I walk through quaint little Blackheath village, there’s a fashion shop, which sells only men’s clothing, but which currently sports a huge image of a woman in Calvin Kline underwear all over the front window. I didn’t ask for that either and it’s certainly not advertising anything that is available inside the shop because they don’t sell women’s underwear. So tell me, why is it there?
Diesel recently plastered huge, neon ‘ironic’ Sex Sells signs, all over their shop windows. It’s our cue to laugh when we read the small print ‘but unfortunately we only sell jeans’. Well I didn’t ask for that either Diesel. I’d rather just see the jeans and I’d also rather my seven-year-old son wasn’t confronted with these images, compounding the likelihood that he’ll be desensitised to what he sees around him and conditioned to think that the objectification of women is not only acceptable, but it’s normal.
Manufacturers, publishers and retailers are fond of arguing that they only sell what people want – supply and demand – but that’s rubbish. I just don’t buy it. Because I know that behind the scenes is a sophisticated mob of marketers, advertisers and profit hunters. They create and shape the market. However, we believe they REALLY DO have a responsibility to ensure they don’t promote images which are damaging and offensive – either to me or, most importantly of all, to my children. Why is my public space for sale to the highest bidder?
And it seems, we’re not the only ones who take issue. Yesterday, a top United Nations
Zoo might only give the punters what they want, but it’s been recently proven, and not before time, by the hideous Danny Dyer incident, that that doesn’t make it right or acceptable, or just a bit of saucy innocent fun. Says Kiyo Akasaka to the advertising industry, “Imagine what you could do by combining your ideas, technology and entrepreneurship to the mission of eliminating violence against women.” Just try.
So next time I walk past the men’s shop in Blackheath, I might just pop my face through the door and challenge it, because until we do, that tired old argument that we’re only giving people what they want will get pulled out again and again. And eventually we’ll hear it so many times, that we’ll start to bloody well believe it ourselves.