Following up on a post I wrote a couple of days ago about the Swedish ban on advertising that targets children I thought I should write a quick post about the current issues surrounding sexism in Swedish advertising.
First, a quick side note. Sweden considers itself a country full of feminists. Good things have come out of this with Sweden having one of the smallest margins in pay scale between the sexes. But sometimes it goes too far. A woman was hired to be the sexual discrimination ombuds(wo)man. Her starting salary was less than her predecessor, who was a man. Clearly this was a sign of rampant sexism in the most ironic of forums. Or seeing as how her predecessor had been at the post for years and this woman lacked the same experience she was started at a lower salary. But that would make too much sense.
Anyway, Sweden tries to fight sexism in all aspects of life. And what better place to fight sexism than in advertising where scantily clad women tout the newest products? Sweden could find no better place and is now thinking of banning sexism in advertising.
The idea is to ban anything that someone might be offended by that can be construed in a sexual way. That leaves a lot of things up to the imagination. As my buddy JRH often says, “I’m offended every day,” but he also says “I don’t give a fuck.” He has managed to combine the two and lives a happy life where offensive actions, words, behaviors roll off of him like the mascot of his alma mater.
Ads displaying H&M’s winter lingerie line were attacked because they featured a super model. Are they sexist? Women wear lingerie. Women buy lingerie. I imagine that women buy lingerie in order to look sexy. Is it sexist to show a woman (who happens to be a super model) dressed in lingerie? And who gets to decide what is offensive? Of course this example brings up deep rooted sociological issues of why this should even be considered sexy.
What about male underwear ads? Personally, I think it is an affront against all men when I see a Hanes advertisement with Michael Jordan prancing around in underwear or asking people “Boxers? Or briefs?”
Or ads in which ripped men are flaunting the newest cologne by Calvin Klein? Or beautiful women showing how easy it is to wash a car in a bikini? As my mother always used to say – “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” (Rumor has it that my mom reads this, so as an aside… she never said that. I lied. I apologize. But you get the idea.)
Honestly, I’ve never seen an ad, with men or women in it, that I have felt was so outlandish and sexist that I thought that there was a problem with sexism in advertising. Most of the time, those ads that are seen to be sexist are so ridiculous that you can’t help but laugh. Or you should. Unfortunately, a symptom of APC (Acute Political Correctness) is being unable to laugh at anything that could be turned into some sort of egregious slight against all of humanity. Or at least one distinct group. Unfortunately, this view often wins out, to the chagrin of people thinking with a clearer mind.
Complete political correctness eliminates everyones differences and takes away what makes life so interesting. People are different. Some people are smarter. Some people are better looking. Some people are more athletic. Some are even women. And some are even men. But political correctness wants to make sure that everyone is the same. Ridiculous.
Ideas of what is offensive are vast, a United States Supreme Court Justice, Potter Stewart, was quoted as saying in response to a case involving a movie that was considered obscene “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced . . . [b]ut I know it when I see it.” Which simply means to me that it is up to the interpretation of the individual.
Banning ads that might be deemed sexist by a neo-feminist, and banning ads that might be deemed sexist by a 93 year old woman, and banning ads that might be deemed as sexist by the common person is going to be a very difficult task. And who wins? Is political correctness so important that something as benign as a super model modeling lingerie could be deemed as sexist? Or an ad touting underwear shows a butt, in underwear, with the tag line “We love bottoms?” That’s not sexist. That’s targeted marketing. An underwear company sure as hell better love bottoms. Otherwise they are in the wrong branch.
The banning of ads that some people might be offended by smacks of Big Brother. Which I always find entertaining because for some reason Big Brother is often interpreted, at least in Eugene, as the conservatives spying down on, and controlling, everything a person does. Yet here it is, in the social welfare state that is Sweden. An attempt to control what the people are exposed to. Maybe a bit extreme. But no more extreme than completely banning something as difficult to define as what may or may not offend an entire country.