A Woman’s Place

Saturday, June 9, 2012, 12:31

Women who suffer – and I use the word judiciously – from diabetes insipidus and other conditions that involve incontinence know how embarrassing this could be.

And yet… and yet… a British clothing chain has issued a series of advertisements that feature women (and men) with wet trouser crotches – because the excitement at the forthcoming summer sale was too much for their already-taxed bladders. And could not ‘contain their excitement’.

Talk about crass.

Unfortunately the executives of this (high-end) firm, and the advertising agency responsible for this campaign, have said that it was only meant as “light-hearted fun”.

Again, women who felt offended are being told they have no sense of humour, as has happened with hundreds of advertising campaigns the world over.

This happens again and again for the simple reason that people – mostly women – protest… and yet continue to purchase the products backed by insults because they are ‘good’, or even because they are ‘a bargain’.

Just for the record, this is not the first time this company has been blatantly sexist.

A number of us have been in situations where, for one reason or another, we spend the night away from home. Not all of us manage to get home in clothes different from the ones we would have been wearing.

I, for one, remember going for an interview in the (fairly conventional) clothes I had been wearing when we took one of our children to hospital, and I spent the night sleeping on a chair.

However, this particular company arbitrarily decided that women who spend the night away from home would have done so for nefarious reasons; their ‘walk of shame’ was not shared by the woman who – as luck would have it – had worn one of the chain’s outfits, and therefore blended in perfectly with the rest of the commuters. For her, at least, casual sex did not have all the repercussions one usually associates with it.

I find this type of advertising both distasteful and sexist; however, some of my friends find them “true to life” and “funny”. These women, by the way, have never had to refrain from drinking at least for six hours before leaving the house, or use incontinence pads, or even have surgery because of their problems.

It is high time we go beyond complaining, either privately or in the press, whenever we feel insulted by the attitudes and the resulting campaigns of advertising agencies.

If enough women stop purchasing these products, either for themselves or for their families, the companies involved would soon get the message and employ more gender-sensitive tactics to get their merchandise across the counter.

The perfume and toiletries business is particularly obnoxious in this department. At least, though, we are not being cajoled into using douches or fountain syringes to kill specific body odours that rarely occur anyway… although of late there has been a rise in new-fangled, misogynist and patronising replacements for them.

But look at those bumphs for male deodorant sprays that are supposed to “turn us on” (actually they turn my ‘sneeze reflex’ on), if a man walks past us having first doused himself in them. This ruse is supposed to work even if the woman is a police offer and the man is a bank robber, albeit an attractive one.

At this point I suppose I must be thankful that most advertisements on Maltese television are insipid to the point of being soporific.  This is why we never got to see the soft drink marketed in gunmetal grey and silver canisters, and advertised as “not for woman”.

There are also women with impeccable hairdos and makeup, who manage to bake a perfect pot-roast…. wearing stilettos, and an apron, besides a pretty dress.

The point, most of the time, is that our purpose in life is to be useful – and remain attractive whole being so. We must cook cordon bleu dishes that will only turn out right if we use specific products.  We must make sure that there are no germs at least in the kitchen and bathrooms.  We must freshen, nay sanitize, the air our family and pets breathe lest their lungs get congested.

Certain phrases like “having fun” and “to the point” get repeated ad nauseam.

Local law precludes doctors and lawyers from taking out advertisements in the papers; but that does not stop those of them who are guests on media magazine programmes to insinuate that they specialise in “women’s issues”.

Then there are all those infomercials that play on our insecurities, telling us that women would “look and feel better” if certain procedures are undertaken. A man with wrinkles is ‘interesting’, whereas a woman is just ‘dowdy’. But the woman in the advert that was who was practically a gang-rape scene did not have a wrinkle in sight, to begin with.

On Italian television, women appear unable to get their intestines to work properly unless they down yoghurt by the fridge-ful. Alas, they might not have the “great body and fine character” that a particular brand of whiskey has, if they do not.

We must spritz away halitosis and slosh rejuvenating cream on each square centimetre of skin, and sprinkle fibre on our soups, and wear lingerie that makes the best of our assets, in order to remain desirable not only to our actual partner, but to any testosterone-producing male within a five-mile radius. It helps if we pop pills or attend weight-loss centres to… perish the thought… end up looking like the stick-insects in the pictures or clips.

It goes without saying, of course, that little girls just love dolls’ houses that come equipped with pink washing machines and vacuum cleaners.  Nobody thinks of adverting pink ninja and pirate outfits.

Similarly, everyone knows that women want to be wooed with jewellery, expensive cars, fur coats and cruises. Respect has nothing to do with keeping a relationship strong.

And since elections are in the air, how long will it be before we get “Vote for Sancho; the Man who understands Women” campaigns?

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