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Advertising and #NotBuyingIt

Super Bowl advertisements; at $4 million for 30 seconds it’s almost possible to justify the hype that surrounds them each year. Whether artistically spectacular, creative and clever or simply funny; whether kept under wraps until the big night or teased relentlessly in the preceding weeks, there’s always a large degree of anticipation to see what will fill the premium spots.

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Last year, however, GoDaddy caused a stir for seemingly the wrong reasons. The website design company’s advert spawned an anti-sexist social networking campaign by the organisation ‘MissRepresentation’ to call out sexist adverts with the hashtag #notbuyingit.

On first viewing, the GoDaddy advert seems fairly innocuous. A model-esque woman sits next to an overweight, nerdily-dressed manchild with a laptop. They kiss. For a long time. The camera zooms in to nothing but their intertwined mouths. This, explains the advert, represents the GoDaddy hybrid which combines sexy-looking websites with excellent technical capabilities and support.

The advert is a lot of things. It’s weird. It’s eyewateringly weird. Maybe it’s offensive to IT professionals. One thing it simply isn’t, however, is sexist. It isn’t hard, watching it, to predict that so-called ‘Social Justice Warriors’ would pounce on it, but when all it does is describe a sexy woman as sexy and show her kissing a not-so-sexy man; it’s hard to justify their outcry. They pick the low hanging fruit – nearly any advert that shows an attractive woman – and missappropriate it to their cause, ignoring the fact that just as many adverts, if not more, use similarly unrealistically attractive men in their marketing.

Unfortunately, they are missing the wood for the trees. The force most damaging to women is, simply, themselves. Their self image. Fear. Just look at the eating disorders blamed on runway models being skinny. The makeup adverts making girls feel ugly if they don’t cake themselves before leaving the house. Girly magazines! Christ, Cosmo does more damage to girls and young women in one issue than any Super Bowl advert; “Not putting out for your boyfriend? You’re 13 now, he’ll just dump you! Oh you ARE putting out? Well okay, but your technique is probably bad and he’ll dump you anyway. Try rubbing Tobasco on your downstairs to really spice things up #YOLO.”

Recently the same celebrity bikini photo was printed in a ‘lad rag’ and a ‘girly’ mag. For the boys? “Phwoar, hot celeb shows off her curves!” For the girls? “10 worst celeb bikini bodies!” Which one is more damaging?

The problem is that in essence Social Justice Warriors, a lot of feminists and a lot of men’s rights activists are going out of their way to be offended. A Lynx advert showing hot women flocking to the scent isn’t objectifying women, just as a Diet Coke advert showing women tricking a man into stripping off his shirt to reveal his chiseled torso isn’t objectifying men. The word sexism is used too liberally and it devalues the label to lash out at innocuous things like this.

Personally, this writer’s #notbuyingit.

11/02/2014

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Joel Taylor