Tag Archives: sexism

Back to the Present: Canadian #Education Minister ‘Orders #School to Turn the Clock Forward’!

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Minding the Gender Gap: Is Protesting #Weswap.com’s Advertising a Good Use of Resources?

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Our Creative Director & CSO recently took the opportunity to reread key sections of David Ogilvy’s classic Ogilvy On Advertising, and so it could be said that he was primed for the scandal that is the talk of the London startup bubble: WeSwap.com‘s summer 2015 publicity campaign. The two most striking commercial messages of the blitz – which have been on display in London Underground carriages – respectively feature a fictitious Swedish supermodel and a real model outfitted in the ‘French maid’ working dress typical of female domestic servants in nineteenth century France. Both adverts are accompanied by slogans which play on the desirability and inaccessibility of the ladies pictured, and contrast these modalities with WeSwap.com’s realistic and realisable value proposition.

The (social) media response to these advertisements has been little short of a lynching: accusations of antediluvian sexism and objectification abounded, and WeSwap.com – after initially defending the messages as ‘eye-catching’ and ‘energetic’ – effectively disowned them and unveiled a new (and much less eye-catching) campaign.

But after some contemplation, we at Mediolana remain unsatisfied by the entire affair. Objectively speaking, the commercials are undeniably naff; it is safe to say that this company would not have seriously considered running them. But naff (and even downright weird) is not the same as evil. There are countless advertising campaigns which grossly objectify and degrade women in a way that the WeSwap.com ads simply do not; in the world beyond persuasive commercial messages, pornography, domestic violence and gendercide are far bigger issues that have not generated anything like a reaction proportionate to that received by a mere social currency website.

WeSwap.com’s biggest crime may have been to touch a raw nerve: despite plenty of sobering evidence to the contrary, we like to think that we are sophisticated, egalitarian, cool and postmodern, so anything that reminds us of our former selves – such as an advertisement which arguably echoes some 1970s sensibilities, whatever those may be – acts like a lightning rod to our present collective sense of self and all its attendant insecurities.

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24-7-52 Sexism: Is Women’s Equality Heading Towards Oblivion?

Screen Shot 2013-12-17 at 18.29.07One of the more sobering developments that we at Mediolana have come across in recent times is the revelations of the Everyday Sexism Project, an Internet initiative headed by the British writer Laura Bates. Bates, an alumnus of the University of Cambridge, where she read English Literature, had the simple idea of setting up an online portal where people – in practice mostly young women – could send in their experiences of sexual discrimination; a little over two years after it went live, everydaysexism.com has garnered over 50,000 submissions.

The content of many of these submissions is truly horrifying, and paints a picture of a contemporary culture positively dripping with violence and genuine contempt for women purely on account of their gender; while some of the contributions may not be representative of everyday existence, there are simply too many qualitatively profoundly troubling ones to dismiss this project as sensationalist.

But why is this happening? Sexism was meant to be a problem which had been ‘solved’ in various successive ‘waves’, notably those in the first and third quarters of the twentieth century; now, even basic human rights which previous generations of women would have taken for granted, including the right not to be assaulted, are seemingly not universally viewed as such – and somewhat ironically, in supposedly sophisticated and progressive countries such as the United Kingdom.

Without wishing to pretend to be able to proffer an instant solution to a problem that must concern us all, after some contemplation we at Mediolana believe that addressing the following points would go some way towards resolving certain structural issues within both the contemporary feminist movement and wider society:

1. Back to the Future. Feminism’s golden age saw concrete, big-ticket gains for women, notably in the economic sphere: the right to inherit and own property was something that was broadly denied to most women in the West until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Feminist writers during both this and earlier periods were able to convince large swathes of men through the moral strength of their case; reading what is arguably the greatest feminist tract in the history of Western thought, Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), it is impossible not to admire the intellectual brilliance, eclecticism and ethical clarity of her vision – qualities sorely lacking in most contemporary feminist works.

2. Confusion. Contemporary feminism as a body of thought appears to suffer from basic problems of orientation which render it much less convincing. For example, on the issue of pornography the movement cannot seem to decide whether porn is dehumanising or liberating – despite apparently overwhelming, consistent and interculturally-valid evidence for the former position. When the waters are being muddied on a topic as basic as this, it becomes that more difficult to take the ideology as a whole with the seriousness it should deserve.

3. Complacency? The parameters of the debate surrounding the presence of topless models on prominent pages of European tabloid newspapers such as The Sun and Bild seem touchingly naive given the ubiquity of Internet pornography. This continued focus on material which, although perhaps problematic, is practically-speaking predominantly of symbolic value, arguably illustrates the complacency of contemporary feminism – or perhaps this escape into a pre-digital world represents nothing more than the fear that dealing with this issue is now almost impossible.

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