Thursday, 20 September 2007

Here's some tits - now buy our product

Londoners (and possibly those further afield - I'm not sure how far this campaign has spread) can't fail to have noticed that The Sun is now 20p. The reason they can't fail to have noticed is because of the advertisements emblazoned across the side of buses, featuring a topless woman whose tits are covered by two giant 10ps.

People have understandably been up in arms about the vile objectification inherent in this, but I don't think I've ever heard anybody mention, with regards to this or to similar such campaigns, what really pisses me off about it: the assumption that the consumer is a heterosexual male.

To be honest, I'm not that bothered about the assumption that I don't read The Sun. But sexualised images of women's bodies are used to sell so many products and services that have little or no male bias. I was living in Reading a couple of years ago and once saw a billboard at the train station that made me shriek with rage (actually shriek, on a train platform...nobody took any notice though - there are a lot of nutters around these days). It was an advertisement for a local printing company, featuring a woman whose modesty was concealed by strategically placed bits of paper, with the suggestion that she might remove them if you were to use this company for your printing needs.

Uptight types might have been appalled by the idea of any flesh on show at all, liberal types might have been appalled by the idea that impressionable people such as teenage boys are subjected to such blatant objectification, but what I found so unbelievably offensive was the idea that this company was only marketing itself to heterosexual men. The implication was that a woman (or indeed a gay man) couldn't possibly have responsibility for deciding what printing company to use, because women just file things and answer the phone. Or indeed pose as bait for men, who are of course ruled entirely by their dicks.

I hope the company went out of business - they certainly deserved to. Even if they provided a good printing service, I'll bet that even men who appreciated the aesthetic qualities of the advertisement and weren't bothered by its sexism would have been turned off by the idea that they made no mention of how great their products or services were, instead using the cheap shot of a naked woman.

I actually fail to see how a campaign such as this could possibly be effective. Heterosexual males comprise less than 50% of the population. Unless you are actually just selling porn (and even The Sun doesn't fall into this category) it's utterly, incomprehensibly stupid just to target this one group. What are they thinking? WHY does this sort of thing continue?

Friday, 14 September 2007

Barbie execution

Okay, so it's not exactly politically correct. But this is rather amusing.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Men like women with curves

I cringe every time I hear this. It usually assaults me from the pages of some trashy publication, the latest being the news pages of Cosmopolitan, which advised me that, since nine out of ten men would rather shag a size 10 glamour model than a size 0 supermodel, it was now okay to eat doughnuts.* Thanks for letting me know - I will now allow myself several of those yummy custardy ones with a side order of deep-fried mars bars without feeling guilty. Goodness knows why I still read women's magazines - perhaps I just enjoy defacing them with my red pen. But what really annoys me is when this statement comes from men themselves. Nice, thoughtful men who think they're being really helpful.

"Men like women with curves, so why should you diet to achieve a size zero? Hey, don't worry, eat that chip butty if you want it, because I don't mind if you have a lardy arse. Men like something to grab hold of."

This isn't exactly breaking news, much as it is treated as such every time some dodgy survey corroborates it. We all know that most men have a preference for women with rather more flesh on them than the average Hollywood actress. If women were motivated by wanting to please men, nobody below a size 12 would ever think about dieting. But they do. And it pains me to hear well-meaning men try to solve the problem by telling their female friends that hey, a few extra pounds don't matter to the average bloke.

By suggesting that women should have curves, you are not making an enlightened pro-feminist statement - you are simply perpetuating the idea that women have an ideal to which to conform in order to please men, whatever the nature of that ideal may be. Women's bodies do not exist for male gratification. Women do not shun cake in favour of low-fat low-carb no-taste diet food in order to impress men with their jutting collarbones. The female obsession with weight loss will not be solved by men giving us permission to eat. It's such an arrogant attitude and it really, really annoys me.

An unnaturally (for most women) slim figure is associated with wealth, status, social mobility, stylishness, femininity... There are even crazier factors than that at play - like the fact that skinniness is a trump card for female competitiveness, and that moaning about the size of one's hips facilitates female bonding:

- My hips are so huge!
- Noooo, they're tiny! Mine are enormous!
- Noooo, you're so skinny! I have a jelly belly!
- No you don't! You're tiny! Look at my muffin top!
- Pssshh - if you've got a muffin top I've got an entire wedding cake!

This is repeated ad nauseam, with the slimmer party becoming gradually more and more smug, and the porkier party becoming more and more distressed. But crucially, it gives them something to talk about. There are of course two clear-cut rules: 1 - One must not admit to being happy with any part of one's anatomy; and 2 - One must violently disagree with anything the other party says. Then there's the fact that, since breasts are supposed to be at least medium-sized, any woman who does have a skinny physique can moan about her lack of boobage. See - nobody's left out. It's rather clever really. Of course, there's always the chance that the slimmer woman will attack her peer by saying, "But you've got such a lovely figure! So curvy!" which is as backhanded as compliments get.

Believe me, the body image issue is a frickin' minefield. And if you go in armed only with, "But men like women with curves," don't expect to get out of there alive.

*By the way, this was BLATANTLY an advertorial for Krispy Kremes