Thank you for playing, but you’re wrong!

My university has an on-going series of quirky ads, presenting young people as innovative and fresh-thinking and deeply interested in ideas and technology and science and study. Some of the creative material puzzles me a little, but I figure I’m not really the target demographic.

The latest ad features a young woman walking on water.


I love it. The young woman in the ad is Catherine Cater, a Massey university student. She looks like so many of the young women I see around campus. Happy, confident, focused on their own work, doing some extraordinary things. In the ad, Catherine is very much absorbed in what she is doing. She looks reflective, and deeply engaged. She is not there as decoration to sell something: she is there as an active part of the narrative about the university.

But of course, there’s someone who thinks that the ad is a travesty.

She came to me as if in a dream. She was beckoning and calling to me like a pixie vixen, tempting me to move away from the House of Waikato. She wanted me to surrender and be with her kind. But where was she from? Was she real? A fantasy? A sorcerer’s trick? What game was she on and how could mere mortals play?

She was tempting and titillating. She was feminine and full of grace. She appeared to be from the House of Massey and she was perfect.

My fairy queen appeared as a deity, an academic goddess, the perfect maiden of Massey. She is the temptress. And I was caught by her charms.

Without saying so in as many words, it’s clear that the writer thinks that this ad is sexist, and that it’s all about using sex to sell Massey. He carries on to worry about the way that universities advertise themselves, but it’s curious that he’s only chosen to engage with this advertising campaign now, when it has been running since sometime last year (as far as I can recall).

So, thank you for playing, sir! But YOU”RE OUT!

The writer has totally eliminated the young woman in the ad from his analysis, and dreamed up a fantasy woman instead. Where I see a young woman who is doing exactly what we hope young women will do, that is, focus on their own hopes and dreams, focus on the extraordinary things that they can achieve, focus on achievement, the writer turns her into some kind of sexual object. The objectification going on here is done entirely by the writer. From the writing, it seems that the only way he can react to the young woman is by casting her in a sexual way. He focuses entirely on her as a sexual object, in a way that I think is well beyond the image in the advertisement.

The only problem here is the writer.

Catherine Cater herself puts it so well.

University is evolving, students are changing, and perhaps if you were to step away from the games you seem to enjoy – judging by your use of language – you yourself would see that too. But what would I know? I’m just a stereotypical ‘hot chick’ with no real intelligence and use besides marketing ploys, why would my opinion matter?,” she wrote.

Your aim was to call Massey out on a sexist ad, but in doing so have shown your views to be outdated and sexist all on their own.

For the record, I’ve written this post entirely on my own, my employer has nothing to do with it, and I was only alerted to the opinion piece because a story about it popped up in the local newspaper: Massey University’s new “I am” ad sparks debate. That is where I found Catherine Cater’s own defence of the ads.

No girls allowed

There’s a new man in the Vatican, and he seems to be a humble man. He’s not interested in all the pomp and glory, not does he want to lead an isolated life. So instead of living in the grand (grandiose?) papal apartments, he’s going to live at St Martha’s House.

Pope stays put in St Martha’s House

His reason for doing this? He likes living in community.

Pope Bergoglio’s fondness for community life in St. Martha’s House is quite obvious to everyone. The chance of meeting people, sitting down for meals with them, sharing parts of his day with the other residents and celebrating mass in a chapel that is able to hold a good number of people: all these reasons contributed to Francis’ decision to stay, which he communicated to the other guests of St. Martha’s House, first of all to the fifty priests and monsignors who work in the Roman Curia and were able to return to their rooms following the Conclave.

Isn’t that nice? The Vatican Insider certainly thinks so, saying that:

Bergoglio has essentially chosen normality. A normality and approachability that has struck representatives of other Christian denominations in recent days, particularly the Orthodox delegations representing the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow, who were glad to have had the opportunity to sit down to table with the Pope.

It’s all about “normality”.

Except there’s just one critical facet of “normality” that Pope Francis and the Vatican Insider have overlooked.

St Martha’s House is a no-girls-allowed zone. The hostel is for priests and prelates. And in the Roman Catholic church, those priests and prelates are all men. So there will be no chance meetings with women, no possibility of a casual conversation that might give the pope an insight into women’s lives and women’s realities, no passing the time of day with members of half the human race.

Mind you, it’s not quite true that there are no women in St Martha’s House. The House is run by members of the order of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul. That’s right. There are women there, to do the housework.

And that’s normal, isn’t it?

Singing our song

Women in Australia, and all throughout the world have been chortling with glee today, delighting in every word of Julia Gillard’s truly wonderful speech calling Tony Abbott out on his appalling misogyny.

For nearly three years now, Abbott has used the most sexist epithets against Gillard, and against women. He has tolerated the use of words such as bitch, witch, “that woman”, allowed his supporters to use vile language against her, told Australian women that they ought to get back to doing the ironing, that they just don’t have what it takes to be a leader.

Gillard has simply taken it all. She has had to. We know what happens to women who dare to fight back. They are simply subjected to a further round of abuse, derided as shrill harridans who can’t take a joke. Abuse, followed by dismissal. She simply could not afford to fight back. She had to (pretend to) ignore it all.

How demoralising that has been all of us. When Gillard took power, my daughter and her friends raced around the oval (playground) at their school, thrilled that a woman had become prime minister. It was a tremendous moment of liberation for them. They could aspire to anything!

And then they watched. And I watched and other women watched, as Julia Gillard was attacked for the sin of being a woman. Each time my daughters watched, and each time I watched, and each time women in Australia watched, we learned the lesson that to be a woman in a public role is to invite abuse, for the crime of being a woman in public.

Finally, Gillard hit back. Hard. In a forum where her chief tormentor was forced to sit and listen. Just for once, a woman could tell a man exactly what she thought of his despicable beahviour, and he couldn’t simply walk away. At last, he was being held to account for his misogyny.

Didn’t he hate it?

It gets so wearying, day in day out, watching and listening to women in power being derided simply for being. So often we just shut the rhetoric out, try to let it not get to us. But it is so very, very tiring.

And this is why women everywhere are cheering for Gillard. Just for once, a woman has had a chance to tell it like it really is, and the bloke has had to sit and listen. And be held responsible for the hate he has been spewing.

Today has been a good day.

Should you not have watched the speech yet, make yourself a cup of coffee, or pour yourself a glass of wine, and take 15 minutes to enjoy it.

Julia Gillard’s speech in the Australian House of Representatives, calling Tony Abbott out as a misogynist.

Or you can read a transcript: transcript of Julia Gillard’s speech on the Sydney Morning Herald site. But seriously, if you have time, watch it.

Mum, you will *love* this. And so will you, my beautiful daughter, who was so pleased when Gillard became Prime Minister.

Cross posted

Really, Met Service?

The NZ Met Service has a new app out, and very pretty it is too. It uses location data to give you local weather forecasts, for the current day, and for 10 days ahead. Very nice.

You can get it in two versions, the paid version, or the free advertising-supported version. Paying with your eyes instead of cash. That’s a fair enough trade of value. Unsurprisingly, they’re advertising the paid version on the free version. Here’s a screen shot.

Met Service forecast for Greenhills

(Description: weather forecast for Greenhills, showing clouds, and rain, all on a pretty green leafy backdrop, with a banner ad at the bottom.)

But take a look at that banner ad.

Banner ad from the Met Service

What do we see? A long necked, sultry brunette, eyes half closed, fully made up, against a dimly lit black and white floral newspaper, that looks very much as though it’s one of those touchable papers with the black flowers made out so some velvety sort of material.

And the words: “Extremely hot. Frequent stormy conditions.”

Oh yes. The best way to advertise weather forecasting is to imply that you need to be able to forecast a woman’s behaviour too. And not just any woman. A very beautiful woman, who could be described as smouldering. Yes, it’s good to be able to predict what a woman’s going to do.

It gets better. Or worse. After the advertisement banner has been on the screen for a few seconds, it flips to a new ad.

Another Met Service banner ad

There’s the same shot of the woman, but this time the words are: The best forecasts. Personalised.”

Geddit? Geddit? Hyuck hyuck hyuck.

It’s pathetic. The image I am left with in my mind is some middle aged advertising executive scratching his balls and thinking that he’s being very clever.

It’s not clever at all. It’s tired, and completely unoriginal. And yes, it’s demeaning to women, suggesting that they are things about whom forecasts should be made, so that people (that would be men) can plan their daily activities. It’s plain old sexism.

Perhaps the advertising people will say that it’s supposed to be ironic, and it’s just a joke, and don’t I have a sense of humour. Whatever. But for irony and humour to work, both people have to be in on the nuance and the joke. And even if I got the joke, that wouldn’t make it any less objectionable. It still relies on objectifying women, and peddling nasty tropes about us.

Here’s the wretched thing. I’ll be getting paid version as soon as I’ve topped up my iTunes account. Their advertising has worked on me.

On being an un-person, otherwise known as a wife

Cross posted

I like to think that on the whole, New Zealand does reasonably well when it comes to gender equality. We’ve had two female prime ministers, two female Governors-General, a female Chief Justice, numerous female Cabinet Ministers and MPs, and although it could be much better, at about 33%, the proportion of women in our Parliament is not too shabby at all.

But it turns out that all this representation at high levels is all very well. Undercutting it all is a deep-seated belief that women can’t be leaders, can’t have opinions in their own right, and are really just a subset of their husbands. A couple of weeks ago the Prime Minister of Australia was told to get on the wives bus, and on top of that, the MC at the opening ceremony for the Pacific Islands Forum, told the spouses of the national leaders there that “they could come up and join their husbands now.” Clearly it was simply inconceivable that a woman could be a leader. Mere slips of the tongues, perhaps, but nevertheless gaffes that reveal an underlying attitude of disbelief that a woman can be a leader.

On top of that, the New Zealand Herald, in its Herald on Sunday incarnation, decided to take a leftwing politician and activist to task for not having the same political views as her husband, who is standing for the Labour party. The horror, the horror! The HoS headline was revealing: “Labour wife predicts losses”. Julie Fairey, long-time left wing politician, former candidate for the Alliance, member of the Puketapapa Local Board of Auckland Council, to which she was elected in her own right, not a member of the Labour party, was reduced to being a “Labour wife”. It seems that if your husband is a member of the Labour party, or standing for the Labour party, you too must be Labour, just because he is.

In a society which regarded women as equals, which truly believed that women had minds and talents and abilities of their own, it simply would not be possible to assume that a woman should be on the wives bus. There would be no such thing as a “wives bus”. A woman could not be a “Labour wife”, because everyone would know that women in fact have opinions and political commitments of their own. There would be no such concept as a “Labour wife”. It simply would not make sense.

Check out what Julie had to say about the whole affair herself, at The Hand Mirror. And ponder the irony of right wing blogger David Farrar supporting her, while left wing blogger Bomber Bradbury at Tumeke attacked her. (Don’t read the comments at DPF’s place.) While you’re at it, you might like to read Anthony Hubbard’s article at the Sunday Star Times, trying to work out why there aren’t many women in politics. He speculates that part of the reason may be that:

women candidates still get a lot of flak that men candidates don’t. People want to know how women MPs will care for their children, but not male MPs. Women MPs have their looks, dress sense and sexuality discussed more commonly than men. It’s possible that women are less likely to want to be MPs, and not just because of the sexism they face. Perhaps the whole lunatic life of the politician is less likely to appeal to them. Perhaps fewer women have that particular kind of ambition. If this is true, why?

Perhaps part of the reason is simply that women know that no matter what they do, they will forever be relegated to the wives table.

As for me, I’m off to check which way my husband wants me to vote. After all, I’m a wife, and I couldn’t possibly think for myself.