Hey, advertising?

What the hell is your problem?

image

It’s too early in the morning and I am too grumpy for this rubbish staring across at me from the side of the train tracks.

What this ad says to me:

“Buy Calvin Klein jeans and be a creepy, exploitative, Justin-Bieber-lookalike!”

But sure. Sure, let’s pin down a half naked chick in order to sell product. Because that seems like a great and not at all screwed up idea.

Goddamnit, capitalism.

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The Hate-Song of Prof. Barry Spurr

I suppose Universities by their nature are almost always both hotbeds of left-wing radicalism and bastions of conservative traditionalism. Unfortunately my Alma Mater, the University of Sydney, seems to be trending more towards the latter.

One of my old English Literature lecturers, Professor Barry Spurr, has placed himself in rather a lot of hot water by using his University email address to send messages which insult practically everyone under the sun, with the possible exception of educated upper-class white gentlemen such as his distinguished self. He almost deserves a round of ironic applause for the sheer breadth of his bigotry. You can read it in all of its linguistic glory on the New Matilda website, which has released transcripts of the emails to show his quotes were not taken out of context.

Have a read, then you might want to take a shower. It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Now, from my memories of Prof. Spurr and his English lectures, he did always think he was God’s Gift to Poetry and treat his students with thinly veiled contempt, so this whole kerfuffle does have an element of schadenfreude for me. My strongest recollection is his habit of stopping his own lectures to go on a five-minute rant whenever someone showed up late and snuck in quietly through the back door. Apparently this was ‘rude’ and ‘disrespectful’. It wouldn’t have interrupted anybody’s lecture if it weren’t for the Professor’s fragile ego and his need to impress on us all just how important his analysis of T. S. Eliot was.

(Look, I very much like Eliot’s poetry despite having encountered it through Prof. Spurr’s classes, but… they did use his poetry for the libretto of Cats. I’m just sayin’.)

This probably would have resulted in a somewhat more minor embarrassment for the University of Sydney if it wasn’t for Prof. Spurr’s involvement in the National Curriculum Review. ‘Cause the guy who talks about ‘Abo’s’, ‘chinky-poos’, ‘fatties’, ‘darkies’, ‘harlots’, ‘sluts’ and ‘muzzies’ is DEFINITELY the guy you call on when you want a balanced, non-biased appraisal of Australia’s teaching Curriculum for young and impressionable school students.

… Yeah.

Spurr (and I’m going to drop the ‘Prof’, as it’s a mark of respect that he doesn’t deserve) is now playing the part of a wounded victim, saying that the emails were between himself and a close friend and his privacy’s been invaded – despite the fact that the emails clearly contradict the University’s IT terms of service and despite the fact that many emails were sent to multiple high-ranking Academics and officials of the University. The thing that really makes me mad, though, is that he’s now trying to pass the whole thing off as a ‘whimsical game’ between himself and this friend.

Excuse me, did you just say… whimsical?

Dude, there’s a difference between being ‘whimsical’ and being ‘an enormous horrible douchebag’. I should know; it’s in the title of my blog. ‘Whimsical’ is at least 50% of what I do.

Whimsical would be using Eliot’s famous ‘Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock’ to examine the life and times of Mr. Spurr:

He has measured out his life in coffee spoons – a dollop of superiority, a dollop of narcissim, and copious heaped tablespoons of racism and misogyny.

Does he dare disturb the universe? Nope, it all looks like basic run-of-the-mill ignorance and prejudice to me.

He grows old, he grows old – surely he must have been born in the 1800s to hold these views? – and he shall wear the bottoms of his trousers rolled.

 

Anyway, he’s been suspended from the University, pending ‘investigation’. I can’t really imagine him having much of a professional career after this, no matter what the ‘investigation’ turns up. Who would want to sit in a lecture theatre and look him in the face and wonder what he’s really thinking about them? Even if this was all a linguistical game to him, who’d want to be taught the importance of words by someone who thinks this kind of crap is funny?

I’d like to think that people like Spurr are a dying breed. This is the way the world ends, you see. This is the way the world ends.

This is the way the old world ends; not with a bang, but with the whimpering of washed-up, out-of-touch has-beens.

Time’s up, bigots. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

The Festival of Stupid, Bad Ideas.

In the space of about 24 hours, Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas announced that it would present a talk by  Muslim activist Uthman Badar titled “Honour Killings are Morally Justified”, announced that the talk would actually in no way promote the idea that honour killings were morally justifiable, and then announced that the talk had been cancelled.

My goodness. How deeply embarrassing.

Considering the accusation commonly levelled at this Festival – that it is a Festival for comfortable middle-to-upper-class-intelligentsia types – it’s clear that the title of this talk was FODI’s idea of free publicity, an effort to reinforce their edgy, ‘dangerous’ credentials. Of course, they’ve got the free publicity, but their plan has backfired spectacularly as they’re now being nicknamed ‘The Festival of Not So Dangerous Ideas’ and are looking rather silly.

It appears that the title of the talk was simple, unapologetic clickbait, as the organisers have stated that the talk itself was not going to reflect its title at all. Hopefully this will help them to realise that cheap gimmicks and shock tactics are not the way to draw in an audience.

There are actually a couple of different kinds of ‘dangerous’ ideas. The first kind, which is the one that FODI have generally held talks on in the past, are ideas that are ‘dangerous’ because they challenge the status quo and accepted ways of thinking; dangerous because they are progressive, because they may push a society to change. Some examples from this year’s FODI include ‘Russia is a Penal Colony’, ‘The End of the World as We Know It’, and ‘Cat Videos Will Save Journalism’. (To be honest, I have no idea what that last one is about, but it sounds spectacular.)

The other kind of ‘dangerous’ ideas are, more simply, bad or stupid ideas. These ideas are dangerous because they are illogical, regressive, and may cause direct harm to people. Potential talks that could fall under this heading would include ‘Toddlers Having Fun With Power Tools’ and ‘How to Beat Up Icky Black People 101’.

“Honour Killings are Morally Justified” would fall into this second category.

I suppose I may be a member of the so-called ‘intelligentsia’, but I’m not going to fork out upwards of $25 for the privilege of listening to someone talk about completely idiotic ideas. Idiotic ideas are only provocative in the sense that they provoke intense annoyance at the waste of my time and money. If I want numbskulls, I’ll tune in to Fox News or Alan Jones and save my money, thanks.

The sad thing is that the proposed talk could have actually been quite fascinating, if it was an examination of the mindset or culture of those who perpetrate honour killings (rather than a promotion of murdering women, which is what the title suggested). But based on the title alone, I have no idea why the FODI organisers thought anyone would want to attend this talk. The idea that women are less than human, and that the murder of women can be morally justified, is really the opposite of a cutting-edge idea. In fact, it has rather been the default position of the majority of human societies for the majority of human history. And what’s so ‘dangerous’ about reinforcing already well-established power structures?

Ultimately I think most of the fault lies with the Festival organisers, for insisting on such a ridiculous title. However, Uthman Badar agreed to the title of his talk and hasn’t really done himself any favours in his reaction to the cancellation, blathering on about “Islamophobia”, “baseless hysteria” and “freedom of speech”.

Buddy, the title of your talk was Honour killings are morally justified. Now I’m sorry that you were silly enough to agree to give a talk under an incorrect and misleading title, but based on that title itself, how exactly can you qualify the reaction as “baseless” hysteria? There is, quite clearly, a base. The reaction has been entirely baseful. And if disliking the horrific murder of women makes me an Islamophobe, then I guess I will wear my Islamophobe badge with pride.

I have a problem with the invented word ‘Islamophobia’ itself. It is obviously drawing on antecedents such as ‘homophobia’ to try and present opposition to Islam as a blind, irrational reaction. It ticks me off when religious types try to equate themselves with persecuted groups such as LGBT people or people of colour. You are not born with your religion; it is an idea and a way of life that you choose for yourself, in a way that your skin colour, sexual orientation or gender clearly isn’t. I do acknowledge that many in the western world seem to have a knee-jerk problem with the idea of Islam and with people of Middle Eastern appearance; but rational criticism of Islam is not Islamophobia, any more than criticism of the Catholic Church is Catholicphobia (Catholophobia??).

Okay, cool, you don’t actually promote the idea of honour killings. Good for you! Have a cookie! However, you represent an organisation that wants to institute Sharia Law, so you’re obviously not the brightest crayon in the box.

Your ideas are not dangerous, except in the literal sense. They’re really just crappy. And entirely rational criticism of crappy ideas is pretty much the opposite of a ‘phobia’.

Unfortunately, Badar seems not to understand the concept of “free speech” either. He seems to think that it means he has a right to have paid speaking engagements, and a right to force people to attend his speaking engagements even when they have no interest in what he wants to say. He’s free to stand on the street corner and spout nonsense, and free to post nonsense on websites and social media; but freedom of speech in no way implies that FODI is obligated to pay you and give you a platform from which to speak, or an audience to speak to. A paid speech is almost literally the exact opposite of free speech, anyway.

Rather than calling on the convenient haze of ‘cultural relativity’ and wallowing in a manufactured sense of victimisation, Uthman Badar could have simply admitted that the title of his talk was a shameless publicity stunt, FODI could have changed the title to something that wasn’t completely misleading and inaccurate, and the talk could have gone ahead without all this kerfuffle. A poor show all round.

By Christ, Allah, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster… people sure are stupid, aren’t they?

~

P.S. The Richard Dawkins Foundation website recently published a fascinating article on the evolutionary purpose of honour killings in certain cultures. As it’s not written by an apologist for religious fundamentalism, I’m sure it’s much more enlightening than Mr Badar’s now-cancelled talk would have proven to be. Highly recommended reading.

Roxy’s Nonpology for the Surfer-Butt-Bingo promo

Roxy has released what sounds like their final statement about their porn video surfing promotion, which I originally blogged about here.

… How disappointing.

Missing-the-Point

It’s basically just a crappy nonpology where they wank on about how awesome they are, and those mean nasty people just don’t understand how awesome they are, because they’re really awesome, didn’t you know??

Roxy, the problem is that we do think you are awesome. Many people are already aware of the history of Roxy and its attitude to female empowerment in sports. There was a reason you were one of my favourite brands, you know, I didn’t just pick you out of a hat. Don’t you know what you mean to young female surfers? Don’t you care?

That’s why people were so upset by your advertising campaign in the first place – they expected better of you. And now you come out with this:

“We are disappointed by recent mischaracterizations of the Roxy brand…”

You could have just come right out and admitted that you made an honest mistake. You severely underestimated your audience, you screwed up, and it won’t happen again.

But you didn’t do that, did you, Roxy?

Instead of taking responsibility, you try to blame the very people who pointed out your mistake in the first place, thus clinching the fact that you see your customers as complete idiots. We didn’t mischaracterize your brand; you were doing a perfectly adequate job of that all by yourselves when you created your porn video woops, I mean, promotion. This whole saga was of your own making and it was easily avoidable. Stop trying to pretend that it’s someone else’s fault. There’s nothing uglier than not being able to admit to and learn from a mistake. Don’t just dig in your heels and bluster on about how spectacular you are. You have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. You have to stand for something. It’s the one thing you can do to differentiate yourself as a brand in a sex-saturated marketing world.

Until Roxy realises this, I don’t feel much like giving my consumer dollars to an organisation so lacking in the ability for self-reflection. The problem is that their products are, well, really damn nice. Can anyone recommend some other surf brands that respect women as human beings? I’d love to give them some of my hard-earned moolah.

Summer’s coming, and I need to buy a new bikini. Preferably one that’s not so skimpy and flimsy that it comes right off as soon as I get on a wave.

I’d rather be a Surfer Girl than a Sex Toy – Roxy’s advertising Fail

I have been trying to learn to surf (with varying degrees of success) for the past ten years of my life. I’d like to think of myself as a surfer girl, even if only an aspiring one.

Here are some of the words that I, personally, associate with surfing:

Surfing
According to Roxy – clothing brand and supposed supporter of female athletes and active women everywhere – it looks like I’ve been going about this all wrong!

The Roxy twitter account has this brief mission statement for its bio: “We bring inspiration to girls to dream big and have fun in and out of the water.”

Well, as long as they’re dreaming big while rolling around in bed being scantily clad, I guess…

This is Roxy’s recent promotion for their Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013 event (“an original blend of elite surfing & top class music”):

 

… Yeah. Where to begin.

A summary of shots would go something like this: scene-setting beach exterior, ocean view, ass, ass, ass, product placement, legs, ass, legs, back, ass, hand, legs, a bit more ass… mix and repeat. ‘Elite surfing’? Not so much.

It takes until 42 seconds into the ad before we see a surfboard – and thus, a hint of what this ad is supposedly about. I don’t know about the average advertisement viewer, but there’s no way that I’m going to be bothered sitting around for more than 40 seconds waiting for an ad to actually get to its point. Apart from anything else, this promotion has already failed purely on the basis of effective advertising.

It takes 63 seconds before we get our next glimpse of the ocean.

And it’s not until the 1:27 mark that any actual surfing takes place – and that’s only if you count paddling out, since this promotion for an ‘elite surfing’ event doesn’t bother to feature any actual, y’know, surfing.

It’s scary to think about how many professional eyes must have seen this ad before it went public. How many dozens or scores of people watched this and didn’t bat an eyelid? Was there not a single person in a boardroom somewhere who thought to say “Hey, wait a minute, perhaps we shouldn’t be quite so blatant about our objectification of a female sportsperson?”

This promo was not designed for women. This promo was not even designed for people who are interested in surfing.

Surfing, according to Roxy, is not actually about standing on a board and catching a wave, anyway.

Surfing is about being a faceless sex object.

I know, I know – it’s not like Roxy are the first brand to hit upon the spectacular idea of using sex appeal for promotion – but this is one brand that I actually liked, damnit. Generally I will refuse to wear anything that is clearly ‘branded’ with a logo or symbol. Roxy is one of the very few that I would make an exception for; after all, it’s pretty cool that they were the first dedicated female surf brand.

Now it seems that they’re just like any other boring, unimaginative, exploitative fashion line. Sigh.

The cherry on top of Roxy’s cake of fail was their reaction. When the social mediasphere blew up in their faces, instead of recognising their ludicrous mistake and apologising, they had this pathetic piece of PR spin to say (taken from their Facebook page):

‎#DAREYOURSELF. It’s our mantra. Whether you are athletic, smart, funny, sexy, daring, confident — we support whatever combination you choose to be. Women are complex and multi-dimensional. To ignore this fact is to ignore who we truly are. Obviously, there’s been much conversation around the video we recently released. We believe all athletes are naturally beautiful, in and out of the water. You certainly don’t have to be sexy to be an athlete, & we also believe it’s not wrong to be an athlete and to be sexy, if you choose to be. We don’t judge one to be better than the other & we don’t believe in excluding one for the other.

Thank you for the passionate thoughts shared on the video, & for expressing how much you respect women in surfing. Oh yeah, & for the parody, thanks for making us laugh.”

Women are “complex and multi-dimensional”?

You could have fooled me.

Hey Roxy – that sanctimonious, holier-than-thou bullshit really doesn’t make me feel any better, or any more keen to invest in your products. Try again.

~~~

The identity of the faceless woman in the ad is not yet confirmed (we’re supposed to guess, teehee, isn’t this fun, let’s play surfer-ass-bingo), although I’ve heard rumours that it might be 5-time women’s world champion, Australian Stephanie Gilmore. To scrub the blah-ness of that promo out of your brain, here’s a video of Gilmore doing what she does best:

 

Strength. Grace. Peace. Release. Natural. Joy. Courage. Power.

 

Why I Get Angry

I get angry about some things.

And I don’t just mean ‘a little bit pissed off’.

I mean spitting, hissing, frothing, screaming, wanting-to-hit-something furious.

And I’ve only just figured out where the anger comes from, when people talk about things like how gays should burn in hell, or that feminism is evil, or that there is no such thing as racism in Australia.

It’s because I am fucking terrified.

I find it deeply, deeply frightening that the human brain can fail so spectacularly, can spit out such utter illogical bullshit. It truly scares me, because I like to think that we as a species are better than that.

And all of a sudden my fear goes through this metamorphosis, this  strange alchemy that so often happens when we are confronted with something frightening, and it crystallises into anger. It’s a rage that makes my hands tremble and my stomach feel nauseous. It makes my throat block up and my eyes sting. It’s the left-over adrenaline surging through my body, adrenaline that spikes because my very self has been threatened. It is self-defensive anger.

… Which doesn’t necessarily make it misplaced or undeserved, of course. But still, it’s strange to realise something that I think has always been true about myself but I’d never quite put my finger on before. So thank you, I guess, Internet People, for being so fucking scary that you led me to a personal epiphany. Much obliged!

“But why do you bother responding to those no-hopers? Why do you get stirred up?” I can hear some people say. “They’re fundamentalists/rednecks/idiots, you will never change their minds.”

I respond because of natural selection. I have been endangered – okay, perhaps not my life itself, but my basic understanding of the framework of the world (that people are generally decent, and moderately intelligent) has been violently assaulted. And even if it will not make a difference, biology wins out. I instinctively (and furiously) defend. I think, sometimes, that my blood might actually fizz with it. It is the primal scream of SIWOTI Syndrome.

Xkcd does it again.

I could write a whole ‘nother blog post titled ‘Why Anger is a Legitimate Reaction To Things That Are Clearly Bullshit’. In debates these days, people tend to treat anger as something that should be avoided at all costs, almost like it is something embarrassing. Like if you’re angry about something, then you shouldn’t be taken seriously. Like we should all be calm and civil and smile and nod when people say things that are blatantly ridiculous.

But when someone makes some textbook racist statement (“if you don’t like it, then go back to where you came from”), then I believe that loudly-voiced disgust is a perfectly valid response – maybe the only valid response. Let’s face it, if you’re not outraged by an outrageously prejudiced statement, then you are probably doing something wrong. (On the topic of righteous anger, Greta Christina comes to mind as a great example.)

As I’ve been writing up this post I’ve also been sporadically continuing the facebook debate on racism that I was involved in, the one that sparked my epiphany. I considered mentioning in this post that I was just waiting for somebody to point out the fact that I was female, and use it to devalue my anger (the classic “Oh, she’s just moody cause she’s a woman!” gambit). And I thought to myself, nah, that’s unecessary. That just makes me look like I’m feeling sorry for myself, playing the victim. It’s too much of a stretch to bring it up in this particular scenario.

Welp, my friends, someone just referred to me as a “softly lunatic feminist”.

LOLZ. YOU CANNOT MAKE THIS SHIT UP.


You laugh or you cry, I guess. Or you play prejudice bingo! That’s always fun. My views are also apparently less valid because I have a University degree. From Narnia. (Because I “don’t live in the real world”… geddit?) And everybody knows that The Intelligentsia are evil!

Anyway, generally speaking, I guess the trick is to let the anger be a fire but not a poison.

I am still working on this trick but I will definitely let the internet know when I figure it out.

#MenCallMeThings

I feel like I should keep a record of this. #mencallmethings is a Twitter hashtag that made it big enough to get in to mainstream newspapers recently. It’s both empowering but also disturbing to read the kind of abuse that female writers/bloggers/journalists regularly receive online.

Today, I (along with the rest of my gender) was called “a physically inferior specimen”.

Can I get a ‘WTF’ please?

Thanks.

– Pissed off second-class citizen, signing off in order to go and drown her sorrows in vodka.

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