I feel as though I have written about this topic too many times for it to continue to be an issue. Is that possible? Apparently not. A quick reference to the post on Catcalling from last summer:
“…Out at dinner recently, a male friend disclosed an experience during which he was uncertain of how to react, and the situation was weighing on him. While at a gas station, a woman filling her car received unwanted calls from a man passing on the sidewalk. My friend described the words and tone of the passerby as aggressive, making him uncomfortable, and he perceived that it was clearly making the woman uncomfortable as well. He did not know what to say or do, did not want to make the situation worse, did not want to take away her feeling of owning the situation and choosing to say something or nothing on her own behalf.
What is happening in those moments when a woman is verbally attacked for her flaw of being out in public? For looking so good that others are not able to control themselves in their comments? Guilty of walking while female?
A friend forwarded this satirical article in The Onion which describes a strange office day in which a Woman Wasn’t Harrassed: no obvious undressing-with-the-eyes stares, no misogynistic jokes, no belittlement in being asked to smile by those she’s passing in the hall. And, per usual, The Onion gets it perfectly right: it’s funny because it’s a total opposite, an example of the non-norm, that makes us laugh because otherwise we cringe.
Women working in offices, in rural America, in urban downtowns, in restaurants, in maintenance, in factories, could tell the story of why verbal harassment is terrible in their particular communities. Why it is individually offensive, cumulatively detrimental, endlessly exhausting. Each story or example would likely have a hint of fear: of “it” not stopping there. And by “it,” let’s call it what it is: harassment. Concerns I personally have felt, as the receiver of vocal tactics, typically revolve around the danger of the situation to escalate further….”
What causes me such frustration to reference this post again? Two instances by large organizations, bareMinerals and Lego, that thanks to the Twitterverse I have been privy to find out about before they disappeared into the bustle of media coverage.
A quick review:
- bareMinerals product promotion at the Nike Women Half Marathon in Washington, DC utilized “DC fraternity boys” (their own words) holding signs with sayings such as “You look beautiful all sweaty” and “Cute running shoes”
- Lego’s sticker set to go with its construction worker figures that includes a photo of one presumed male construction worker with the words underneath written, “Hey Babe!” as first noted and then followed up on, and then again, by JC Stearns.
Whew. Where to begin?
The bareMinerals campaign patronizes the women who participating in the marathon, diminishing their work to the beautifying of them as objects to be admired, to be presented and then called out on the street. During a marathon in which they paid to participate, spent time training, and busted their athletic butts to do, this is appalling advertising procedure. It utilizes what most consider catcalling, the epitome of devaluing a woman to mere objects for men to observe and upon which to lay comment. As an advertisement. To sell products. Which typically only women use. Sigh.
Would such a campaign have happened at a co-ed race? I would be curious to know if it has.
The Lego campaign does nothing more than to teach children, as Lego advertises from “ages 1 to 101,” about the act of street harassment if they have not already witnessed it firsthand in our culture. What explanation would occur if the child asks the parent, “What does that say?” Lego, by pushing the responsibility to a third party manufacturer, has indirectly institutionalized street harassment, which rightly sits on the frightening spectrum of violence against women. Again, is street harassment, catcalling, so integrated that children may learn about it and thus integrate it into their learning how members of society appropriately communicate with each other?
Here, I’ll reference Amanda Hess at Slate.
“LEGO’s depiction of construction workers definitely has a gender problem — in addition to the cat-calling, the set reinforces the idea that the field is exclusively for “men at work!” LEGO’s bizarre occupational sticker set is also classist. The old stereotype of the construction worker lounging around, whistling at women, obscures the fact that sexual harassment is a problem in all fields.
I’ve been cat-called and groped by men in hard hats and guys in three-piece suits, and I’ve yet to meet a woman who hasn’t experienced a similar diversity of street harassment incidents. (I also know plenty of men who’ve been sexually harassed for just walking down the street, though their harassers generally dropped the pretense of a “compliment” and went straight for the gay-bashing.)…”
As Amanda rightfully points out, a door is being opened to learn about harassment of all people through the (somehow acceptable?) cultural phenomenon of harassment against women.
From Legos’ boy-targeted ads to bareMinerals’ frat boys-holding signs, companies are teaching people that street harassment continues to be an acceptable way to advertise products, speak with women, and promote a culture of support and equality. Try again, y’all.