Was listening to The World Today on the BBC while doing laundry this afternoon; two journalists, one a British woman and the other an American man, were discussing world news with the host. A story came up about an advertisement in Brazil:
Apparently feminists in Brazil are giving it a thumbs down for its blatant sexism.
The American journalist on the show, when asked his opinion, said he didn’t see why anyone was making a big deal about it; he didn’t find it offensive, after all.
Classic. White Western male finds nothing wrong with sexism.
“Well really, what is wrong with the ad after all? It’s kind of funny, isn’t it?” I’m so glad you asked. Couple of points there. First of all is the degrading portrayal of female sexuality, as women are “humorously” encouraged to use their sexuality as the “correct way” to appease their husbands. Women, after all, should be sexually available to their husbands at any time, but at least if a woman needs to deliver bad news she can get something out of it by, uh, distracting him with her feminine wiles. The American journalist aptly pointed out that this ad therefore stereotypes men, too, as “thinking below the belt”. It also frames women’s sexuality as their only leverage: the only way to win an argument is to present oneself as a sexual object available for the pleasure of men. The American journalist decided this was okay because it was her husband in the ad, “it’s not like she’s taking off her clothes for her boss”. So sexual exploitation between spouses is legitimate and not an infringement on the autonomy of the body, of sexuality, or upon human rights. Tell me again, BBC, why did you invite him on air? >_<
Another point: using sex as a way to resolve conflict. In the various spots, the Brazilian model wears lingerie to ameliorate the bad news she has to deliver to her spouse (a crashed car, a maxed out credit card, an annoying in-law). Obviously that is degrading to female intelligence and ability to communicate, among other things, but it also distorts the concept of interpersonal communication, in general. Unless it is the subject or source of the conflict, sexuality shouldn’t factor into the resolution. The ad encourages women to use their “charm” to their advantage. And we wonder why women are still viewed as fuck objects… Teh win, BBC, teh win.
This reminds me of a story BBC did not too long ago about Catherine Hakim’s latest bound garbage on “erotic capital“. The main debate on that particular show was not the legitimacy of the concept or how it reinforces patriarchal values, but rather if “erotic capital” wasn’t just “sex appeal”, after all. I agree, it’s not a new concept– so why the hell are we caught up in the redundancy of someone’s choice of words? Sexism is redundant, let’s talk about that.
BBC, if you weren’t the only English-speaking radio station in Phnom Penh, I’d probably stop listening to you. >_<