I don’t often get involved in letter writing campaigns or take a stand for much. But as a Christian writer who thinks about the world she sees and is immersed in, I realise that this has been a bit of a cop out. We were taught in an ethics class years ago that it is important to get your viewpoint out there as a Christian, because if we say nothing, then our worldview is not being represented. I get upset and angry about some things I see in the world, but don’t often act on them. I might talk about it with mum or some friends, maybe even blog here, but I don’t often write to politicians or corporations or the newspaper.
But only those who speak up get heard, right? I have many brave writers to inspire me, from my dear friend Hendry whose thoughtful, Christian-perspective letters are regularly published in the SMH and local paper, to people like Melinda Tankard Reist, who is a most outspoken advocate for women and girls (and must have an incredibly thick skin!).
Today I wrote a letter.
Lately I’ve been reading a lot on Twitter, on Melinda’s blog and on the advocacy site Collective Shout about an extremely distasteful promotion for Lynx deodorant, involving a competition for men to win a trip to the Lynx Lodge, a place that purports to fulfil every male’s fantasy of being surrounded by buxom women who want nothing more than to please them. This was further promoted by a ‘pop up hot tub’ in Martin Place, where women in string bikinis cavorted in a hot tub and offered massages to passing businessmen on their way to work at 8 in the morning.
As I’ve been thinking about youth ministry at college this year, I’ve been thinking more about what it means to provide good role models for girls and boys about how to treat each other. Unsurprisingly, this whole Lynx thing is pretty much the exact opposite of the lessons you would want to teach to young people these days, and yet it’s just out there, insidious and yet supposedly humourous, slowly bleeding its image and attitude into peoples’ brains without people even being aware of it.
So today I wrote a letter of complaint to Unilever, the company who makes Lynx. Here’s what I wrote:
Whether or not the Lynx Lodge is an actual place is irrelevant – your advertising for this product is degrading and humiliating to women, who are being portrayed as little more than sex toys available to fulfil male fantasies. It is also insulting to men, appealing to the basest level of intellect and suggesting they believe that women are happy to be treated this way. Neither of these things has anything to do with the product itself, and although the advertising executives you hired may have thought the idea that a body spray or deodorant could attract women was funny, as it has gone on, the advertising campaign has become tasteless, demeaning and shameful.
The Lynx Lodge may have been conceived as a joke, but the sexist attitude behind all the advertising for Lynx products speaks of something that definitely is not amusing. It is teaching boys and men to view women as little more than sex objects, and suggests to girls and women that the only appropriate way to behave around males is to be scantily clad and always available for whatever sexual activity the male desires. Without trying to be alarmist, it doesn’t take a genius to see that this sort of thinking can lead to dangerous and frightening outcomes, ranging from women being leered at, to sexual attacks and rape.
As a result of this campaign, I have no hesitation in boycotting all Unilever products, and know many others who will do likewise.
Although I don’t expect much of a positive response from Unilever (it will probably be along the lines of this), I’m starting to understand through reading about recent campaign wins on the Collective Shout website, that every voice counts, and if you have the ability to say something, it’s worth a shot.
PS. Oh and also, I used to share a flat with a guy who used Lynx liberally. Let me just say that, from a woman’s perspective, Lynx is more successful in its repelling qualities than anything else, much as this clip says: