An open letter to everyone enjoying a good SU FemSoc pile on Re: West Quay cars advertising campaign.
First to address the idea that SU FemSoc is leading some sort of hate campaign against West Quay cars. Obviously the answer is this is not the case. So far everything said has been said by individual members discussing this. This is the first time SU FemSoc have actually said anything official about this.
The female version of the “If I look sexy…” advert was posted on our public discussion group on the 1st of January 2015. Seeing an advert from your home town on the very first day of 2015 enforcing policing of female bodies and fatphobia upset people, understandably we believe. Some members then got in contact with West Quay cars to raise the problematic nature of this advert.
What is problematic about this advert?
This advert is a form of body policing and an example of fatphobia. It is making fun of someone because of the way they look. This objectifying, judging lens is something we are well aware of in the media, for both genders, but especially for women. Therefore seeing the female version of this advert by itself, as it first was, some members branded it sexist. It was only later that the male version was posted. Members immediately voiced their dislike of the male version also, noting again that it was an unacceptable form of body-policing. Individual members of FemSoc have a right to discuss these sort of topics on our Facebook page as long as it is in line with our safe space policy.
So what does SU FemSoc say?
We think that the taxi poster campaign’s message of don’t drink and drive is good one and are glad West Quay cars want to promote it. However the posters, both male and female, are offensive and in bad taste. Both are a form of body-policing and the female one is obviously fat-phobic. Feminism is about acceptance and how someone looks does not and should not define their worth or attractiveness. This sort of body policing and stereotyping happens every day in the media and society and that is why this is not “just a joke”. One can be funny without feeding into patriarchal, objectifying stereotypes. As one of our members pointed out (Shout out Heather Cartwright!), an advert with “a mop with googly eyes” would have been very funny with the tag line “If I start to look sexy, call a taxi”. Perhaps West Quay cars could consider this for their next campaign.
We would like it if West Quay cars removed these posters and issued an apology. An apology “for any offence caused” is not enough. They need also to acknowledge the damaging nature of these posters. One can unconsciously play into patriarchal values, but when it is pointed out you need to acknowledge it. Currently the manager, Mr.Haynes, says he does not think it “discriminatory in any way” and is “humorous as befits the festive season”. It IS discriminating against different body types and personally our festive season does not include making fun of people for the way they look. And we are not the only ones thinking like this. Union president, David Mendoza-Wolfson commented that: “We are aware of the advert in question, and in forming our partnership agreement with West Quay Cars we agreed that this campaign was not suitable for use within our venues or outlets. We are currently in talks with West Quay and have asked them to remove it from wider use.”
To the commenters on the Soton Tab who think we have deleted posts, hidden our group or whatever else, this is not the case. Our group has always been and still is, public. And as for the fact you think we have time to go through and orchestrate a cover-up during revision, well, you overestimate us there I’m afraid.
Your favourite local feminists,
Soton Tab’s previous articles on the matter: