In the Blog
I have wanted to blog about this forever, and was finally reminded when the new issue of Herizons arrived in my mailbox. A little front-of-book item recounts a rare victory over sexist advertising (the rest of the magazine is pretty good too! Full disclosure: I write for Herizons).
A while back I was asked to give a talk about violence against women and the media and was looking for some visual accompaniment. I found the perfect (read: most horrendous) advertisement, for Moosehead beer, that exemplified how explicitly violent advertising can be towards women. The text-based ad featured the beers logo and the words The Average Woman Speaks 10,000 Words In a Day. Roughly 9,950 Too Many. Absolutely disgusting, right?
And because actions speak louder than words, Ms. magazine ran the ad in its No Comment section, a powerful back-of-book feature that showcases some of the most appalling, sexist ads out there, along with contact information for the companies. Several Ms. Readers wrote to the brewery and, lo and behold, got a response! The letter, printed in the Winter 2006 issue of Ms., is worth reading. It apologizes for the ad (which originally ran in The Onion) and explains that it was created by a Chicago ad agency on behalf of Mooseheads U.S. distributor, based in Texas.
Thats a pretty weak excuse, but the Mooshead exec went on to say that as soon as we heard about this ad we made our displeasure known and demanded that our distributor in Texas pull the ad and never use it again. We aso demanded that they take disciplinary action with the ad agency they hired. However, it is my understanding that the ad agency clearly understands that Moosehead Breweries WILL NOT tolerate this type of sexism and tasteless work again. I have been told that the creative team in question now fully understands what they did and that their lame attempt at humour was not amusing. I dont think they will ever try something like this again for us or any of their other clients.
While its sad that the sexism needed to be pointed out to the nitwits at the ad agency, just hearing a beer exec use the word sexism is like music to my ears. Beer ads are notorious for their cheesy, sexist ads, even though women make up about 40 percent of beer drinkers.
This reminds me of the time when Bell Canada sent out a really awful flyer that featured a textbook image of a female body with her breasts and ovaries cut out. The ad read, You’ll do anything to protect your kids from inappropriate content. So will we.” Bell said it was just a joke, but the ad clearly wasnt funny. After feminists inundated Bell with letters, phone calls and e-mails, the company apologized publicly.
Stories like this give me hope. We should be excited when women can act on images that are damaging and abusive, get a written or pubic apology from a company and get sexist advertising pulled, one ad at a time.