Monday, September 15, 2008

Men on a leash: reverse sexism?

voodoo ad, men on a leash

Several years ago a passing trend emerged in advertising; using sexualised images of men. In 2002, Voodoo produced an ad featuring a woman in a mini-skirt "walking" two naked men wearing collars - an image strangely prescient of the prison abuse images which have come out of Iraq. Is there such thing as reverse sexism? Who cares, as long as it creates a controversy that generates sales.

Voodoo's "men-on-leash" ad generated about 60 complaints to the Advertising Standards Bureau. All were dismissed. The ABS apparently appreciated the humour, reasoning: "This ad clearly intends to depict a tongue-in-cheek view of the well accepted right of a woman to be in control of her choices and her 'accessories'."

Jerry Hall ad, men on a leashCensors in England were not so open minded. A very similar ad showed Jerry Hall holding men on a leash with the tagline: "Twelve get trained, only one gets kept". The ad was banned by London Underground Rail on grounds that it "breaches our advertising code relating to the depiction of men, women and children as sexual objects." A series of bans also saw the ad removed from television.

The fact that this kind of ad was only a passing fad indicates that they do not resonate with women and are not effective advertising. In fact, they probably attract more of a response from men. Is this kind of image offensive and exploitative? Clearly advertisers could not get away with using women in the same way. An image of a man walking naked women on a leash would certainly create an outcry. However, considering the rarity of this kind of image in mainstream advertising, they can be seen as redressing the imbalance to some extent.

There is never a shortage of advertising using exploitative images of women. Putting the boot on the other foot certainly makes commuting a great deal more interesting.


Damon Hager said...

A passing trend? Perhaps you should check out some of Voodoo's later offerings. These feature (for example) a woman walking on a staircase of naked men, women using men as footstools, women sitting on men's backs, etc, etc.

There are literally hundreds of other examples of the objectification men, especially in ads and music videos - often depicted in positions of extreme degradation.

No offence, but like many women, you're acutely sensitive to the sexist portayal of women in media - and utterly blind to similar portayals of men.

Linda said...

No offence taken and I'll have a look for Voodoo's latest offerings; at the time this was published very few images like this showed up in searches.

Sounds like I may not be the only one who is acutely sensitive. The point of the article is; there are very few exploitative images of men in the media, and when they are used by companies like Voodoo it creates a scandal. The Jerry Hall ad was banned as I think I stated.

I'm not against the images used in Voodoo ads; I quite like them. They're humourous and do something to restore a balance.

ektopyrotic said...

a surprisingly rude form of advertising, not to mention socially primitive and decadent. this is the type of stuff that the Western world has allowed itself to create and thus become, a cesspool of inequality in both justice and in idealogy. this is wrong- no doubt about it, and anyone who says otherwise is lacking moral fibre and should pay the price. for shame humans, for shame.

Jessica Rae said...

I agree with Linda and also since when do ads treat women with respect? Music videos and all they do is to "glorify the penis", degrade the women. Such double standards.

Just a silly, humorous image and I imagine it's the men getting their knickers in a bunch?

Linda said...

Good point Jessica (excuse the pun!).
Yes, strangely enough images and discussions such as this seem to be threatening in some way to many men. I wonder why that is...

Anonymous said...

Ladies, there's a difference between a woman being objectified and a woman being walked around on all fours by a man with a leash.

You say men seem threatened by such ads, but to compare something like this to a scantily clad model on a billboard is not reasonable. Most men don't mind a shirtless guy on a billboard, but this is taking some of the excesses of "empowerment" pretty far. I think I speak for many men when I say that the media today has become obsessed with the empowerment of women, and that whenever men try to fight back, the women simply point to the past and throw accusations of past sexism as a get-out-of-jail-free card.

Point being, if you ladies can honestly say that you would be comfortable images with a man walking a couple of naked women on a leash, then ok, sure, fair is fair. Otherwise, don't compare it to a modelling job.

stash said...

>does something to restore a >balance

I know of no corporate advertising that would allow the depiction of women to walked on leashes by a man.

Anonymous said...

personally i don't believe sexism for either gender should be allowed like this, im a feminist, which really means equality of the genders but i believe that too often feminism simply becomes a way of justifying misandry. "o they did this so i can do this." It's like little kids arguing back and forth