Walter Iooss Jr., the sports photographer behind Hunky Dorys’ new advertising campaign has described it thus, “Entitled, "Football", the campaign presents a unique take on the kicking, passing and tackling in a football match.” To paraphrase Iooss, it’s sexy when women bend over.
We’ve all seen the new Huky Dorys ads featuring scantily clad women playing GAA plastered on billboards and bus-stops. We’ve thought, that’s a bit cheeky Hunky Dorys…wasn’t your last remarkably similar 2010 campaign banned by the Advertising Standards Authority? Of course, sex sells and advertisers are constantly churning out images of scantily clad women. What is so bad about these Hunky Dorys campaigns?
Two diametrically opposed images of sport dominate in Ireland right now. Both involve Gaelic football but differ in the gender of the players featured. The men’s All-Ireland Final which took place on the 18th of September generated a plethora of images of male GAA players, the most striking of which was produced by the league sponsor, Ulster Bank, and shows a Dublin and a Kerry player going head to head. These ads urge us to consider the men shown as honourable sporting heroes, deserving of respect and admiration.
The images of the female GAA players, featured in the current Hunky Dorys campaign invoke a wholly different response – a seedy ogling on the one hand and a righteous indignation on the other. Countless forum threads are again riddled with comments like, ‘maybe if the players looked like this, more people would watch women’s sport’. Maybe more people would watch, but would they be spectating or ‘starring’, as per one Hunky Dorys tagline, ‘Still Starring?’ This echoes last year’s ‘Are you staring at my crisps?’ printed under the ample bust of a young woman bend forward into the camera.
This is the ‘unique take on…tackling’ that Iooss has captured in these campaigns. It’s the idea that female sportspeople don’t deserve the same respect and admiration as their male counter-parts. In fact, the only thing they have a chance of inspiring is sexual desire, so they might as well strip off and start posing. Still sexism? Yes it is.
The juxtaposition of the All Ireland Final and Hunky Dorys ad campaigns obviously sends worrying messages. It’s in this context that we should call on the Advertising Standards Authority to ban the Hunky Dorys campaign yet again. In the meantime, if you’re interested in seeing female GAA players portrayed with the respect they truly deserve, log onto http://ladiesgaelic.ie/
Sitting in the front row of a café-style theatre, I stared dumbly at the first burlesque act I had ever seen. Honey Wilde aka ‘Maggie Thatcher’ was strutting around onstage toying with a small whip. Gradually, she started to strip and when at last she was down to just her curly wig and diamante thong, she posed with a union jack and promptly left the stage.
Feminists have divergent opinions of burlesque. Some denigrate it as little more than glorified stripping, saying that adding a corset and feather boa to a woman’s objectification doesn’t make it any less objectifying. Others, such as Caitlin Moran in her recent autobiography ‘How to be a Woman’, describe it as utterly different to stripping and even empowering. Since my recent experience of burlesque at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, I’m still trying to make up my mind.
Wilde’s act involved nakedness, but it was very tastefully dealt with. There was no grinding or humping. The compere made the audience promise to whoop and cheer encouragingly when we saw a bit of flesh. We were thankful for some suggestion of how to repress the momentary awkwardness…WOO! Furthermore, the nakedness wasn’t the point of the act. The point lay in some combination of humour, subversion and charm.
The second burlesque performer of the night had recently and controversially been described as ‘somewhere between a crack addict and a blow up sex doll’. The compere assured us that Vendetta Vain took pride in the review, ‘she puts it on her posters!’ Unlike the previous act, hers was a routine full of seductive wriggling, but low on satire. And yes, her expression was deliberately and comically vacant. The show was a straightforward sexual tease. After the big reveal she lingered awhile to flex her pectoral muscles to the beat. I felt it drew dangerously close to objectification then.
The third and final burlesque performer was 78 years old! Lynn Ruth Miller appeared onstage in a sexy dressing gown, elbow-length gloves, hold-ups and very low high heel shoes, all white. She sang songs along the lines of ‘you think I’m too old to be sexy, but I’m not’. She stripped...just down to her nighty and bare arms. She danced very carefully and the compere took her hand to guide her down the steps into the audience, where she sat on the knees of terrified men of all ages. By the end of her act I had nothing but respect for this woman, old enough to be grandmother but with more sexual confidence and joie de vivre than I could shake a stick at.
Clearly, some burlesque acts would classify as nothing more than glorified stripping. However others truly celebrate female sexuality, encompassing charisma, wit, passion and yes, the naked female body, as an exclamation mark at the end of the show rather than its content. The question that remains is which type of act dominates burlesque. While I am totally unqualified to answer it, I can only hope that it is the latter.