#womennotobjects

Old Jan 27th 2016, 6:33 am
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Lots of people have been posting things on social media this week talking about this as an issue of gender empowerment and the role of advertising in driving (or perhaps reflecting) societies views. However I'm going to venture that in many ways this view is simplistic and misunderstands the issue of gender equality.

People have been fascinated by the shape of other peoples bodies since time immemorial. Amedeo Modigliani created art that celebrated the female form making his paintings very appealing but when a large advertising house uses the same form it's considered exploitative? What's interesting about a lot of advertising is that it's actually targeting largely heterosexual consumers with images of their own sex often. There are more conservative societies where such advertising would not be allowed but few would argue they have more enlightened views of the roles of women. Advertising isn't driving a problem, it's a reflection of peoples innermost thoughts and desires. The desire for the elation of sex and that feeling of being important, loved and wanted by another person. You can argue advertising sets unattainable standards but the Greeks would also exaggerate muscles and curves on their stone statues so predating PhotoShop by over 2000 years. I'd argue one of the reason women get used more often in advertising is society is much more comfortable with female nudity than male. In some ways men are still just as constrained by social taboos as women.

Of course women face major challenges and are disadvantaged but I think focusing on advertising is the wrong route unfortunately, as a society we need to have a more sincere discussion about our innate conservatism and role rigidity. Of course roles and expectations are slowly changing in society and women are needed at all levels of management including the in the C suite (and it can't just be pushing the tea trolley in and out) but society is frustratingly slow to adapt.

We should be very optimistic however, to date most of what we've achieved as a species from inventing the wheel to a person setting foot on the moon has been done only exploiting about (some would say less than ) one half of our intellectual potential. Let's make sure the discussion we are having addresses more than the cosmetics and aesthetics. A woman in this country still earns only about 84% of what a man earns and even in 2016 is pushed into service of others by the roles cast in society.
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