The latest uproar is over this ad from Tasmanian livestock company ShearEwe, featuring Norwegian skiier Kari Traa. She's sitting on the floor of a barn, legs parted, looking like she's enjoying being restrained and treated like an animal.
After a complaint to the Advertising Standards Body, ShearEwe issued a statement in defense of the ad, saying it was art.
Ah, but of course. Art. That changes everything.
Provacative ads -- oops, I mean works of art -- that demean women aren't anything new. They've been around since the beginning of advertising. Do you remember this ad, by Canadian hair salon Fluid, which caused a stir last year?
It depicts a woman, sporting a black eye, posed next to (actually, make that beneath) her partner. The message seems to be, even if you're getting the shit beat out of you, it's nice to have fun hair!
Not surprisingly, the ad was met with considerable outcry and the company issued a statement in defense of the ad. I bet you can't guess what they said. What's that? You guessed art? Ah, you're quicker than I thought.
"The ads were our interpretation of a particular art form," read a press release issued by the salon.
Fluid Salon actually released a whole series of artsy ads. Here are just a few:
Again, none of this is uncommon. A quick search on the internet produced the images below.
|Sisley has a long history of offensive ads.|
|Duncan Quinn. Leaves me speechless.|
|New Zealand company Superette 'Be caught dead in it' ad campaign|
|Dolce & Gabbana pulled this ad after complaints that it glorified gang rape|
Dolce & Gabbana again. Apparently gang rape is not just for women
|From a window display at Barneys, New York|
|Jimmy Choo thinks you should wear nice shoes when being transported in a trunk to a remote gravesite.|
Do we need to take a short break so we can all go dry retch in the corner?
Provocative ads like these do more than just raise ire. They raise awareness of the company, which suddenly receives free press via all the indignant tweets, Facebook updates, blog posts (like this one) and mainstream media articles responding to the controversy.
What's the old adage? There's no such thing as bad publicity?
In addition to the art defense, what else keeps coming up in these statements?
You're overreacting and making such a big deal out of nothing
"I am not really clear about how she is being depicted as an animal while seated comfortably and clearly not odjecting, [sic] to treatment, guess it depends on your point of view." ShearEwe response
"If survivors of abuse interpret this ad to make light of any abusive situation, we sincerely apologize, that was never our intent as there are people that worked on this campaign who are survivors of abuse. To the rest of you who this has so deeply affected, we truly hope you do something to help stop domestic violence. Truly honor the survivors that you are standing up for. Unfortunately boycotting a hair salon will not accomplish this." - Fluid Salon press release
It's all in fun
"It does not represent rape or violence, but if one had to give an interpretation of the picture, it could recall an erotic dream, a sexual game." - Stefano Gabbana, in response to the 'gang rape' ad
She's enjoying it
"Again depending on your point of view, who is being taken advantage of? You could argue that Miss Traa is taking advantage of the shearer, though I see it as a mutually beneficial arrangement." ShearEwe
It's for her own good
"...we will be actively setting up partnerships to generate donations with appropriate organizations in this community. To kick things off any person that comes into Fluid from now on and mentions this ad we will donate proceeds from all services booked to the Edmonton Women’s Shelter." Fluid Salon press release
Ooh, look over there! Someting shiny!
"Edmonton is presently the murder capital of Canada. Media’s energy and time may be better spent boycotting dangerous areas, gangs, guns, otherstreet weapons, or a sick justice system, which unfortunately is still sadly lacking when it comes to punishing abusers or any kind." Fluid Salon (again)
Hmmm...I'm feeling as if I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place. If I speak up, the company gets more exposure and issues a condescending statement trivializing my concerns. But if I don't, then I'm condoning what they do. Either way, they win.
Hang on, why does this all feel so familiar?
Wait. A. Minute.
These are the same characteristics found in psychological abuse!*
What's that you're saying, Mr Ad Exec? I'm being dramatic? Over-sensitive?
Maybe you're right. Maybe my friends and I should stop getting our panties in a bunch over something that is obviously meant in fun, and let you get back about the business of creating your uber-edgy art.
Silly, silly us.
As you were.
*For information on domestic violence and the characteristics of psychological abuse, see this.