‘This advertising campaign is in very bad taste…its blatant exploitation of women is tasteless and base, and quite simply unacceptable.’ Padraig Power, IRFU

It has been a very busy day at soisaystoher. The spike on my stats graph has peaked so dramatically it makes all the others days look like a very flat little line. That has happened as a result of a couple of interested journalists showing that they are willing to invite a feminist voice into a debate which is usually dominated by the ‘don’t spoil our fun’ brigade. Many thanks to Amanda Poole from the Belfast Telegraph who took the story on and the folks at the BBC who invited me in to chat. Wendy Austin is my new favourite person right now.

I’m a little exhausted, not least at having taken the time to read all the comments both here and on the Bel Tel site, and believe me, I suddenly got a smack of the backlash right in the face. When someone comments on a website that I must basically be the most unattractive person in Northern Ireland because only someone who was a fat ugly beast would find sexual objectification offensive, there’s no way they’re expressing their heartfelt opinion. That is a bullying tactic designed to make me feel like I shouldn’t have spoken up. Luckily I am a bit of an expert in bullying (day job…for anyone who knows me) so I’m not falling for it. Water. Duck. Back.

I’m far too tired to deconstruct all of the points people raised today but there are a couple I would like to comment on. Firstly, the accusation that I am displaying double standards by raising this issue, with the most commonly cited examples being David Beckham and the Diet Coke ad. At no point have I denied that there are images in advertising that also objectify men, demean men, treat men like they are idiots who don’t know how to do simple household tasks. All true. All pretty irritating (especially to my fiance who loves doing our weekly shop and wonders why supermarket ads are never targetted at him). When I talk about sexism however, I am referring to the fact that women are used in this way disproportionately more than men. The vast majority of blatantly sexualised ads feature women, and that’s not just my opinion. It’s a well researched, validated and UN-legislated-for fact. And equal amounts of objectification of both genders would not be progress. Progress would be seeing both genders depicted in diverse, interesting roles, which funnily enough is exactly what CEDAW demands we should be doing.

The next issue is that I got all the usual ‘you must hate beautiful women’ bullshit that comes out of the assumption that women are all sharpening their claws ready to tear each other to bits at any given moment. My response to this is from a comment I made in reply to someone on my previous blog post:

Next, that I have a problem with ‘beautiful’ women. Actually I love beautiful women. I love the women I see walking down the street every day who are beautiful and intriguing and radiant in lots of diverse ways. The women staring down at us from billboards may well be beautiful also but that airbrushed pornified version of beauty is not the only one. And it’s not what MOST women look like.

Also from the same comment, my thoughts on the dilemma caused by knowing I am giving the Hunky Dory’s campaign a bit of a boost:

…you think it hasn’t dawned on me that I’m giving the company some extra publicity by speaking to the media about this. Give me a little credit please. Actually I don’t care about that because this ad campaign is set to last 2 weeks after which it will be forgotten about. But the people who have heard me offer a feminist critique of this aspect of our culture and have connected with that will continue to do so. Of the 2300 people who have read my blog so far today, many will go on to get involved in all the great feminist conversations and activities happening in NI so it’s worth it.

So now I’m completely done. I’m going to close my computer for the night, watch the Daily Show and have a vodka and tonic, so if you comment on the blog I am apologising in advance for the fact that it won’t get approved until tomorrow morning.

Thanks for all the support today from everyone who took the opportunity to make their voice heard too. Isn’t it great when we all work together? If you fancy a bit more of that you should come out on Friday night for a Feminist Friday protest. It’s like today, but with lots of us in the same place, doing stuff and hopefully getting kicked out of shops and maybe even shouting a little. For more info visit the Belfast Feminist Network facebook group.

nite all

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