Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sexy Sexist Ads in Sweden

The other day I wondered if it was sexist of me to give more weight to a study about Swedish boobs done by a woman than a man. I’m going to argue that it had more to do with the end result, one had ties to cancer while the other with how boobs sagged, than with the fact that the cancer study was done by a woman while the sagging one was done by a man.

Luckily though, in Sweden, you usually don’t have to think about these sorts of things. Because there is always someone else to tell you if something is sexist. Especially when it comes to advertising. And the list is long and distinguished.

Etiska Råd mot könsdiskriminerande reklam, lovingly known as ERK is big on getting the names of discriminating companies out to the public. The organization loosely translates to the Ethical Council against Gender Discriminatory Advertising. Kind of. After my own translation. Without all of the särskrivning. The Local translates it as Sweden's Trade Ethical Council against Sexism in Advertising. But that’s just no fun using someone else’s translation.

Anyway, the other day the ERK came out with a list of companies that insulted their senses. The two that really caught my attention were Lego and Ryan Air. Lego of course is known throughout the world for its sexist overtones. I mean come on. The little yellow Lego characters all start out as men. You have to put a wig on them to make them women. It doesn’t get much more sexist than that. Or so I thought. Until I read why they were listed as a company that used sexist advertising.

Lego had the gall to print in their advertising catalog pictures of girls playing with princesses and castles. In a pink room. Disgusting. But it gets worse. Lego also printed pictures of boys playing with a police station and a fire station. In a blue room. Oh the horror. Clearly, Lego, in its attempt to brainwash children everywhere, has printed the catalogs in hopes of cementing centuries old gender roles. Because Lego wins when girls like the color pink and boys the color blue. Obviously. Lego defended itself by noting that there are boys and girls throughout the catalog playing with each other.

Ryan Air, the low-fare airline based out of the UK has also fallen under attack. For an ad campaign that came out in conjunction with the new school year. The ad showed a girl in the classic school girl outfit. And by classic I mean the sexy costume that college girls throughout the US will be donning in just a couple of weeks for Halloween. So of course, this was sexist.

Ryan Air responded by saying they believed women should be allowed to take their clothes off. And if women are allowed to take their clothes off then Ryan Air should be allowed to show them in various stages of undress. Who am I to argue with that sort of logic? No one, that’s who. The beautiful thing here is that Ryan Air referred to the ERK as “anti-funsters” and “old farts.” That’s good stuff.

After these comments one of Sweden’s leading feminist politicians called for people to boycott Ryan Air. Birgitta Ohlsson said it was her duty “to name and shame companies” like Ryan Air. Or in other words, to tell people what to do and how to think. Ryan Air responded. Of course. I mean, a company who refers to the ERK as anti-funsters and old farts won’t sit idly by as their company is subjected to a boycott. And their response? Classic. “‘This really is a storm in a D cup!’” Even referring to the aforementioned politician as “Boring Birgitta.”

This turned out to be an old fashioned mudslinging contest. And I’ll be honest. I think Ryan Air won. So while some people might boycott Ryan Air, I just can’t turn down roundtrip airline tickets to such exotic locales as Poland for only 94 SEK. And with the dollar pushing 8 SEK now in exchange, well, you can’t steal it for that price.

Granted, I won’t be boycotting Ryan Air, but luckily I have found a different sexist cause to rail about. The other day I saw a commercial for a vitamin that was specifically for women. The ad said that women get home they have all kinds of other responsibilities. Like taking care of the kids. And cooking. And cleaning. I was disgusted. As a man who cooks and cleans I have never felt so discriminated against. Clearly this company should be called out for its blatantly sexist ad campaign. I started dictating an angry letter in my head. And then remembered that I’m not an idiot. I am capable of living my life without being insulted by everything that doesn’t fit into that extremist world of political correctness that so many people try to push.

Advertising should be taken with a grain of salt. It is aimed at specific groups of people. A target market if you will. Of course it will discriminate. Now if only the crazy bastards at the ERK could figure that out and let people think for themselves. If I am offended by something I won’t support that cause. Like Socialdemokraterna. I don’t need someone putting out a list that tells me what I can and can’t support. What is and isn’t sexist. What should and should not offend me.

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  1. haha, helt rätt men vad har du emot sossarna? Margnalierna mellan blått och rött är ytterst små, vilket betyder att du isåfall inte tycker om moderaterna heller?

    Sexistisk reklam är födjävlig, slug och skrattretande - oavsett vilken kön de vänder sig till.

    Löljigast är ju ändå reklam för tjej-raklödder, ta Venus tex. där det sitter 20 snygga modeller under ett vattenfall och rakar bena i takt?
    ibland undrar man verkligen vad det är för människor som hittar på sånt här..


  2. Now I shouldn't aswer for hairy but my guess would be he doesn't like the moderates either since he's a republican and the moderates are kind of a socialist party aswell compared to how it is in the USA.

    Anyway, I kind of get annoyed when I look in the children's catalouge for toys and all the boys play with stuff relating to war and cars, and the girls with dolls and pretty pink stuff. On children those things have a big impact. Or why do you think girls wants to wear pink and boys never ever would want to wear pink? Is it in the genes?

  3. Hi you Hairy (sexist) Swede...
    this whole discrimination hysteria happening in Sweden remembers me of a guy called.. well, you know how... Marx. with his Orwellian way of dealing with anything that is "conservative". Also remembers me of thinking that if you state that a girl is a girl, a boy is a boy and "black" is not "white" is right-wing stretched to fascism.

    Reading The Local, which it's supposed to offer a balanced view on things in Sweden (and, once a week, a series of photos that shows some Shinny Happy hedonistic Swedes getting drunk during the weekend), I remember about the hard-core Marxism (communism) in which my grandparent and parents have lived all their lives, Marxism which despised anything that is remotely common sense.

    Then, ocasionaly, I read what this Norvegian guy called Fjorman is reporting about the Hyper-Brand-New World called Sweden:

    "Mona Sahlin, leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party, confirmed that her party and the Greens want to form a coalition government in 2010. What kind of policy will such a government follow? Miljöpartiet de Gröna, the Swedish Green Party, state on their official website that the education system should start working for "gender equality" at an early age; children need counterweights to the gender roles which girls and boys are raised into. Therefore teachers and personnel in child care services must finish an education in equality before they are given their exams. They also want to abolish grades in schools"

    Sweden: The Triumph of Cultural Marxism

  4. I read that text and in my opinion it gives a very wrong picture of sweden. It brings up the extreme examples over and over again, giving you a very distorted picture of how sweden works. To me it seems they mixed up the greens and vänsterpartiet (the lefts??) aswell. Their using blogs as their sources and just gives a very one-sided ciew on the whole thing.

    Why I like hairy's blog is becasue he writes about things he has actually seen with his own eyes, that gives a fair picture in my opinion.

  5. @p – as I usually do with the Swedish Ill give a quick translation:

    Exactly right, but what do you have against sossarna (the social democrats)? The difference between blue and red is so small, which would suggest that you don’t like the moderates either.

    Sexist advertising is horrible, sneaky and laughable. Regardless of which sex its targeting.

    The most ridiculous is for womens shaving cream, Venus for example shows 20 good looking models under a waterfall shaving their legs in unison.

    Sometimes you wonder what kind of people are coming up with this stuff.

    Hopefully that’s an acceptable translation for our friend p.

    Anyway, to respond, the social democrats are just a bit too liberal for me. But really I just needed something to throw in there and they came to mind first. I suppose there is something to be said for that whole top of mind thing.

    But you’re right, that’s the thing with sexist advertising, sometimes its just so damn ridiculous that you cant take it seriously. Like women under a waterfall shaving.

    @izi – since Im in Sweden Ill definitely take the moderates. If only for the fact that they are lowering the tax burden a bit. But you’re exactly right, even the conservatives in Sweden look pretty liberal to the US. Which at times is good and at times bad.

    When it comes to advertising, I guess I just don’t give advertisers that much credit. Because I have a hard time believing that people are that easily swayed by fancy catalogs and copywriting. But as Im sure we’ve all realized from reading this, you should never listen to me.

    @costin – hello, hello. There are some things that are so politically charged that if you state the obvious, it becomes unacceptable. Like the immigration issues that came up when Billström wrote his article in DN. If you say immigration should be reformed you are clearly a racist. The problem with that attitude is that no good debate can ever come from it, and nothing will ever be fixed.

    @izi – thanks, Im actually going to throw out a caveat here though. Because you’re exactly right, I write what I see and experience. So it is very much real. But it is also seen through my eyes and experiences, so someone else going through the same experience may have a completely different opinion. But that’s one of the nice things about blogs as a medium, they allow you to see the same thing through different perspectives. And they can lead to good discussion very quickly because of the ability to interact with others.

    You bring up a good point too about using blogs as a source can most give a very one-sided, and sometimes downright false, impression of something.

    Well said.

  6. Floridian in FinlandOctober 28, 2008 at 6:09 PM

    You have valid points, but I think that the reduced sexual imagery here is more healthy especially for females. I've definitely noticed a difference since I've been removed from all that. I don't know how much of it is mandated by the government or just self inflicted by the culture here.

  7. see and thats the thing, I will never be able to know what that is like from a womans point of view. so I can give all the opinions I want but when it comes down to it thats all it is, an opinion.

    what are the laws regarding sexist advertising in finland?

  8. Floridian in FinlandOctober 29, 2008 at 3:44 PM

    I actually don't know very much about it. I should educate myself on that. It took me some time to find something somewhat proper in English. I hope this is the right organization (maybe Smek can shed some light):

    There also seems to be a Council of Ethics and Advertising.

  9. some interesting articles. brings up some good discussion. it seems though that it is a little more lax in Finland than in Sweden. Which, honestly, I believe to be a good thing. Because when Lego gets in trouble for having two pages in their entire catalog that shows boys playing with a blue backgroud and girls with a pink one... that's just a bit much for me.

  10. hi there from Greece.Do you happen to know the official website of ERK?I have my thesis to prepare and this would be of help.Thank you !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  11. since I wrote this things have changed, now the website you are looking for is here:

    and in English: