Tag Archives: Unilever

Roshini Muniam Goes to Space Camp … and It’s Not a Fairy Tale

Debbie says:

Once upon a time …

a deodorant for men sponsored a Global Space Camp for winners of a contest. Really.

Axe is a commercial deodorant from Unilever that, in its copywriters’ own words, “helps guys smell good, feel great and look their best!” To say that their presentation and advertisements are sexist is to, well, reflect their image.

In keeping with what they would like to think is their hyper-masculine image, and to promote their new “Apollo” deodorant, AXE sponsored sixty Facebook contests, where voters pick their favorite candidate and the winners get an expense-paid trip to the Space Camp in Orlando, Florida, where participants go through training exercises. Of the 60 campers, 22 will actually participate in a space flight. Of course, the genius promoters at AXE/Unilever could be confident that their contest could only appeal to men. Slogan: “Leave a man. Come back a hero.”

After all, Sally Ride never went into space. Or Valentina Tereshkova. Christa McAuliffe didn’t die there. And there’s never been an all-woman space crew. Go AXE!

Among the countries AXE chose for its testosterone contest was Malaysia. And in Malaysia, Roshini Mumiam entered the contest … and won. Although she garnered a huge plurality of the votes (thanks in large part to Jaymee Goh and the #Rose4Space hashtag), victory didn’t come easy.

 

(Jaymee Goh is an acquaintance of mine, and a valiant activist for people of color in the science-fiction community; it’s great to see what other good work she does!)

Initial comments on Muniam’s entry in the contest included the argument that women should not be allowed to go into space, because we menstruate. To AXE’s credit, they pulled the offensive comments and refused to be sucked into the morass. To the voters’ credit, the backlash against Muniam, plus the social media campaign, seem to have been the reasons she won.

To recap: Corporate masculine product unwittingly orchestrates feminist/people of color social media victory and sends Malaysian woman to space camp, where she may very well get a chance to go into outer space.

The ending may not be quite “and they all lived happily ever after.” Still, the vicious sexist commenters got silenced and caused exactly what they hoped to prevent, the heroine goes to space camp, and her supporters chalk up an unqualified victory for the best of social media.

Fighting the Pornification of Christmas (and Almost Everything Else)

Lynne Murray says:

Collective Shout is a small group of activists in Australia who got together about a year ago aiming to:

…name, shame and expose corporations, advertisers, marketers and media engaging in practices which are offensive and harmful especially to women and girls, but also to men and boys. Collective Shout is for anyone concerned about the increasing pornification of culture and the way its messages have become entrenched in mainstream society, presenting distorted and dishonest ideas about women and girls, sexuality and relationships.

Collective Shout’s latest target is the pornification of Christmas. Advertising has increasingly tried to grab customers by the lapels and in the last decade or so it has aimed with more and more precision at both stimulating and raising anxiety around sexuality.

Another Australian commenter, Steve Kryger, points out that the MTV videos he sees during workouts at the gym amount to soft core pornography

Sex has been so shamelessly and thoroughly grafted into video clips, that it’s hard to find a clip without highly sexualized imagery.… “It’s just video clips”, I hear you say. But for me, this is just the straw that’s broken the weary camel’s back. I’m sick of turning to the left and to the right and at every turn to be confronted with the same depiction of women – they are sexual playthings, who exist to live out my fantasies and satisfy my desires. Women need to be given far more respect, and men need to stop being manipulated. Our sexuality is far too precious to be treated with such widespread contempt.

As Collective Shout points out, unrealistic body images and videos framing sexuality as a predatory activity do genuine damage. Anyone who watches can be influenced, but the most vulnerable viewers, young girls and boys, absorb the distorted messages with few real world experiences to contradict them. Along with the products, viewers learn to buy into a damaging model of human behavior that guarantees them body anxiety, unrealistic social expectations and, oh yeah, a miserable sex life.

If consumers swallow this distorted presentation of reality without protest, the advertisers will have succeeded in grooming another generation of anxious buyers, stimulated by toxic fantasies that only find release in hapless spending.

It’s been a successful year for Collective Shout, gaining 2,000 supporters and joining forces with other groups to expose, for example, the way Unilever Corporation goes after the “empowering women” market with their Dove “real beauty” campaign and simultaneously goes after the “women as sexy prey” market with their commercials for Lynx, known in the US as Axe, a men’s deodorant. (Body Impolitic has been writing about the Campaign for Real Beauty for many years: a couple of key posts are here and here.

Collective Shout counts among their successes

• “Getting Bonds to withdraw bras for 6-year-old girls
• Getting supermarket chain Woolworths to disassociate itself with a sexist Lynx promotion
• Getting Calvin Klein billboards suggestive of sexual assault removed

We’ve reminded companies of the importance of corporate social responsibility. We have put them on notice that if they do the wrong thing, they will be exposed and boycotted. The bodies of women and girls should not be seen as fodder for companies to exploit for profit. We’ve had great media coverage. Just this month, we’ve appeared in everything from Harper’s Bazaar to the Tumbarumba Times.

Dove’s “Campaign for Real Beauty” was paired with the company’s charitable sponsorship of self-esteem programs through the Girl Scouts,, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and Girls Inc.

Some people see a a moral dilemma because Unilever’s Dove “healthy self image for girls and women” campaign is contradicted by its Lynx/Axe “hunt those bikini-clad wenches through the jungle” ad campaign. But we live in the real world and charitable sponsorships come and go. Personally, I think the Girl Scouts, etc. should take the money while it’s offered (which is unlikely to be forever, since charitable campaigns are regularly rotated by large corporations) and keep their eyes open.

Speaking of partnerships, I’m encouraged by the way that Collective Shout has joined forces with other organizations such as the Women’s Media Center: