Last week JC Penny removed a TV add that was a man addressing men by objectifying women. Many people protested the ad and it was removed. I have a couple of thoughts about
1. the ad
2. the protest to get JC Penny to pull it, but first, here’s the link.
So, my thought about the ad. It’s not the worst I’ve seen, but it’s not good either. The ad is to sell clothes to men, but has a sexy bikini clip of Phoebe Cates. She doesn’t speak or do anything relevant to the sale of the clothes. She is there to be a sex object. People like to have sex, but that’s not the point. The point is that she is turned into an object rather than just being a person. The more women are seen as sex objects, the more danger women are in as targets of violence. That could be your grandmother, your baby daughter, your girlfriend, mother, wife, partner, sister, friend… It’s a commercial against women and the men who want to respect them. Eventually it makes our society unsafe for all people.
Among the people who protested the ad, and possibly the majority of people who protested it were from the group One Million Moms. I had never heard of that group so I looked it up. It’s actually a part of the AFA (American Family Association), a Christian based sort of morality media watch group. They describe themselves as: “Pro-family action site (that) promotes traditional family values, focusing primarily on the influence of television and other media on our society.” As I read more about them, I realized how anti-gay and anti-gransgendered people they are. The “morality” they push is certainly not pro-all families, just some. They sadly seem to be organizing Christians to not be Christ-like.
But, the reason I’m bringing them into this isn’t about who they are, rather it’s about how they have organized to take action against things they don’t agree with. The moms said the TV ad was sexist. It is sexist. They called and did their activism work and it made a difference. That is moms speaking up. Mothers have used their activist voices throughout history throughout the world. Another example, among many, are the Argentinian Mothers who march every Thursday in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The Madres of the Plaza de Mayo is an association of mothers whose children disappeared (were disappeared) during the war and military dictatorship there between 1976 and 1983.
You don’t have to be a mother to speak up and use your voice to make a difference. The Madres will probably not get their children back at this point, but their presence has made an enormous impact on Argentina and the world. The One Million Moms, an organization with members who are women, (though it isn’t clear whether the activism is spurred and pushed behind the scenes by men), made an impact on TV and TV watching. Women can make a difference about how women are treated, portrayed, and defined. We can speak up for each other, for the things that put us in danger or put us down or make us less than.
Grrl Code: Where we can speak up for women or against anti-women things (TV ads, stereotypes, jokes, the way other women are treated), we should. If we feel like we can’t or are afraid to, can we talk to another woman about it? Can we blog about it? Can we email others? What does another woman think? Would there be a way to tackle it together? Together we can make change.