Ten years ago, I was crammed in the back of a small car with my sister and her friend, driving to Punchestown race course to see our favourite rapper live in concert. During the drive down, we blasted the Marshall Mathers LP with the windows open, rapping along to all that vitriol. In my defence, he was super-talented. A further excuse is that I was 15. Eminem was rebellious because he used curse words and his CDs had parental advisory stickers. I won’t lie – his music was a vehicle for my teen angst. We knew that his lyrics were a bit off. Like he wasn’t serious about murdering those women right? He...he...that stuff was unreal. We didn’t read into it.
A few days ago on Twitter I noticed a phrase that was starting to crop up. It was the hashtag “Inspiring Women”. People were tweeting the names and histories of women who inspired them. Some of the women were overtly feminist, while others were leaders or pioneers in their particular field. I started to wonder who I could pinpoint as my own feminist inspiration. There was no clear key moment when I began to identify as feminist. I thought maybe it stemmed from my interest in the music of Destiny's Child in my younger years. I enjoyed their lyrics espousing female financial and emotional empowerment. Looking back on it now it seems hard to argue the relevance of these things to a 12 year old living in a pink and white bedroom lovingly furnished by their parents. But I felt that I could identify with the songs anyway, and their image of female friendship and fun.
There’s definitely a time and a place for a video released as an attempt by the EU Commission to get more girls into science. The time for “Science: It’s A Girl Thing” a 53-second cringe featuring overly-sexualised minors strutting around in safety goggles and minidresses , salivating over how bubbling flasks and chemical formulas always lead to neon make-up is never, and the place is nowhere. By Naomi Elster
As one blogger put it "The EU Commission may as well have put a lipstick on a string, and filmed 18 year old models doing a belly crawl after it from the nail parlour (or wherever they would normally be) to the lab bench." I’ve never seen a video so ill-received – a barrage of response videos have appeared on YouTube, and Twitter and Facebook are awash with criticisms, from both official sources, such as Ben Goldacre (author of Bad Science), Nature (the most prestigious science journal), and most of my friends – fiercely intelligent female scientists who I have studied and worked with and learnt from are rightfully angry. As one friend put it “It’s nice to know Marie Curie slowly irradiated herself to death so we could watch a bunch of fashion models play with molecular models while not wearing lab coats.” (Marie Curie was the scientist who discovered radiation, paving the way for a number of important developments including chemotherapy).
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/.
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