Ok, you might notice this is filed under ‘rants’ so heads up on lots of italics for emphasis, as well as a *LANGUAGE WARNING*. (Not too much, just when it really really really fucking needs it.)
This is our local Rip Curl surf store down in Burleigh. Notice anything?
I crack the shits every time I drive past it, which is often. This is for two main reasons:
- The females are practically naked while the males remain fully clothed with modest boardies and sensible rasher vests because they are also being sun smart.
- The women aren’t DOING anything, just posing and making their bodies the focus. All of the males bar one, however, are pulling some seriously hero moves as well as looking awesome.
Women are depicted as passive, while men are depicted as active. Which has implications for how we view female skills and competence in this sport… you might be wondering are these women even surfers?
I hope not to sound like I’m personally hating on Alana Blanchard, who is in fact a very talented American pro surfer on the ASP World Tour. She’s stated her preference of wearing high-cut Brazilian style bikini bottoms, and in fact has designed a line of them herself with Rip Curl called Alana’s Closet. That’s really cool! But why can’t we see her togs in action on some actual waves? Reveal the function in the form, so her ads aren’t just about showing off her bum? (Which is certainly worthy of its own photo shoot.)
I know this is hardly a new opinion, but man, I’m getting so sick of seeing women getting a raw deal in the media, my eyeballs are getting RSI from constant rolling. But despite awareness and condemnation of sexism, raunch culture continues – seems to me it’s getting worse. Do guys just turn around and say ‘nah thanks’ when asked to take their kit off? Or are they not asked to? The ‘Mirage’ poster in particular infuriates me as the tagline reads “like wearing nothing”, yet the guy is fully clothed. Yet where women are involved, the slightest excuse is enough to strip them off! Skincare. Animal rights. Jeans. Calvin Klein is one of the worst offenders and it just stinks of desperation. Sneakers. Perfume. Bloody hell, name me one perfume ad without a naked woman in it! Even worse are men’s cologne / deodorant ads where the male model remains fully dressed and in-charge-looking and it’s still the woman who ends up naked. Even fucking real estate! It just goes on and on.
We are constantly bombarded with this shit. Hence this rant! Seeing one sexy ad is no big deal but endless streams of it of course has an impact. The main impact on ME is being pissed off at being force fed this unimaginative crap then being told to lighten up and stop being so uptight about it.
Ew. I’ve come across even more blatantly sexist ads than I was expecting when I started writing this post and I feel all seedy now. I know they say ‘sex sells’, but that doesn’t mean that upping the bar on gratuitousness will sell more. It’s actually kind of boring and formulaic, but with the added bonus of being offensive as well… I know I’m not buying if they’re selling it like that. Mind you, my experience with advertising is limited to updating my resume.
A recent promo for the Roxy Pro in Biarritz really bunched my undies, because, well, here’s the ad:
…Here’s the main publicity for a prominent women’s surfing competition, where the competitors are world class athletes –their model is one of the best female surfers in the world, and this is how they think best to promote it.
But…but…there’s no surfing in the ad! It’s not promoting surfing! It’s promoting undies and mobile phones and hot water systems! Sure, AFTER rolling around in her undies on the bed and putting on a seethrough shirt – only to drop it provocatively on the floor as she gets in the shower – she does finally dress and head off with her surfboard to the beach. Then there’s a close up of her arse as she carries her board, some more shots of her (admittedly stunning) boobs, bum and awesome hair before she hits the water, confidently paddling out. Then the video ends with ‘Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013’ and a bunch of sponsor logos.
It stirred up controversy, like all the other ads that objectify women, so at least it’s good to know a lot of people think it’s not ok. One online news source said Roxy was criticised for “its ‘voyeuristic’ promotional video which reduces a young female surfer to a body without a head.” And this is what Roxy said in reply, after saying they didn’t show the surfer’s face because it was part of some stupid competition:
Today, Roxy answered its critics by saying “women are complex and multi-dimensional”.
Well. You wouldn’t know it by watching your advert.
“To ignore this fact is to ignore who we truly are,” Roxy said in a statement on its Facebook page.
Stop trying to bullshit me. Are you saying a woman wrote this? Am I now supposed to feel female solidarity? Fuck you.
“Obviously, there’s been much conversation around the video we recently released. We believe all athletes are naturally beautiful, in and out of the water.”
Tell me more, o wise one.
“You certainly don’t have to be sexy to be an athlete, & we also believe it’s not wrong to be an athlete and to be sexy, if you choose to be. We don’t judge one to be better than the other and we don’t believe in excluding one for the other.”
Isn’t that a pretty bunch of words? So soothing and inoffensive and uplifting as they try to whitewash the fact that the video is blatant sexploitation.
Hmm… “…we also believe it’s not wrong to be an athlete and to be sexy, if you choose to be.” That’s absolutely right. So – the surfer must’ve come up with the idea for the promo on her own then. She must have said, I want to take my gear off and have the camera ogle me, and never even look at my face. Just focus on my arse, and my boobs, because that’s what I want. Yeah I bet that’s what happened.
The following day a second video showcasing surfing highlights was posted, announcing five-time world champion -our own Stephanie Gilmore – had joined Roxy. Why not do that to begin with? Why show us an artsy fartsy montage of body parts and coyly tell us to guess who she is? They made her a nameless naked woman; as if the person isn’t important, the talent and dedication aren’t important, it all comes down to what her body looks like in a tiny bikini. Why can’t they get some awe inspiring footage of her tackling waves, showcasing the moves that won her those FIVE World Championships? That’s the kind of thing I want to see.
According to most surfing advertising I’ve seen we have the same surf culture as 40 years ago. We’re stuck in the novel Puberty Blues. Where the girls weren’t allowed to surf and just lounged on the beach as accessories to entitled male surfers. It’s still happening on the billboards at my local Rip Curl store, and probably many others. I can only remember a couple of times I’ve seen women actually surfing in a surfwear ad. And yet the girls ARE out there now, in a big way, ripping it up! Look, I managed to find SIX surfwear ads of women actually surfing, as opposed to posing on a beach / boat / holding a board etc…
I’d much rather see Steph in the ad going off on some waves and be thinking, “Sick! That looks like awesome fun, I should have another crack at surfing” than just “Wow she has great hair.” (Though she does have great hair.)
I see this woman and think: gorgeous and feminine. But also fit, talented, and a free spirit with some mad hang ten skillz.
“Leave a message” … and that message is, “WATCH OUT, COMING THROUGH!!”
I really wish I’d been a grom. What do you call a grom approaching middle age? A Grmom?
Woohoo! Go you good thing! Make the skills the focus, surf brands!
Great surfing but I’m a little distracted by that extremely uncomfy-looking togs wedge.
Am I ‘slut shaming’? I really dislike the term but at least you know what I’m talking about when I use it since I am making an issue of female nudity and sensuality.
To be clear, I am definitely NOT calling any woman who shows off their assets that name!!! But I can’t criticise these kind of ads without by association criticising the women in them. I’m sorry Stephanie, and Alana, I’m not trying to have a go at you. I’m ok with women wearing and doing whatever they like because it’s THEIR CHOICE. What I have a problem with is that so much imagery of women seems to have the default setting of sexy/ look at my gorgeous mostly naked body / look at my mostly naked body next to this fully clothed, dominant-looking male. And with that constant exposure (pun intended), it becomes the norm, and more entrenched. It’s like telling a little girl they can wear whatever they like, but the store only has dresses. In pink. (Which is a whole separate rant; don’t get me started).
When mums ask their little girls what they want to be when they grow up, how will they see their options?
I wanna be a forensic scientist like on CSI (with sky high stilettos and a push-up bra).
I wanna be a computer programmer (with sexy glasses and a push up bra).
I wanna be a nurse (naughty).
I wanna be a footy player (lingerie).
I wanna be a dancer (pole).
…I might be going overboard just a bit.
Apparently Steph’s had a bit of a laugh at it all, and the Noosa Festival of Surfing poked fun at the controversy as well by creating a spoof promo for their event in 2014. Which I thought was brilliant but seriously people got offended by it? Get real people! Don’t be sexist and ageist! If a 50 year old guy with a dodgy knee and daggy undies wants to flog a surf comp, fine; if a young woman can do it, so can an old codger. But while they re-created some of Steph’s ad shot for shot, it wasn’t the same. It showcased a sense of humour for a start; a positive quality that is also very attractive …but requires a different sort of cheek.
So…in conclusion. (Finally!) The main goal of feminism is to ensure women have the same rights and choices as men, right? But if young girls don’t see women depicted as anything more than sexy or as sex objects, if they aren’t consistently shown the alternatives – confidence and competence without baring your butt cheeks – how do they know they have that choice? Meanwhile, I’m emailing the store to suggest changing up their billboards as regards female surfers; I’ll let you know how that goes.
Update: Just watched Miley Cyrus at the American Video Music Awards trying to prove she’s a woman now by stripping to her undies, thrusting a giant Coles foam finger between her legs and groping and licking a married man 16 years her senior who should definitely know better. Cringe… look away… Girls, you have many many choices; please don’t choose THAT.
P.S. And if you’re thinking, but that’s so two weeks ago! Well yes. I had this all written and ready to go, but didn’t quite get round to posting before going on holidays. Which will possibly appear in a later post and be much more fun than this rant.
Update February 2014:
Available to rent; one slightly used surf shop.
Update October 2014 (different surf shop, one where I am much more inclined to spend my money):