All It’s Cracked Up to Be
Tell us about a time when everything actually turned out exactly as you’d hoped.
A women’s rights group here has got its knickers in a knot over a popular (German) eatery’s ad campaign depicting a well-endowed wench in low-cut lederhosen serving beer, accompanied by the slogan ‘Wunderbra’ – a play on the German word ‘wunderbar’ (wonderful) for those who aren’t familiar with it.
Objectifying women! they cry. Opening staff to sexual harassment!
Oh come on, ladies, get real! Women and men have been objectifying themselves and each other, busting a gut to make themselves attractive to the opposite sex (or the same one, if they’re so inclined) since we swung down from the trees – and before that, the apes no doubt did it too, but without the financial cost.
Do you seriously think thousands of women every year have breast enhancements (and parade them) ‘to make themselves feel good’? It might be what they tell themselves, but ‘good’ in what context? The same context, I venture to say, that requires them to spend zillions a year on ‘beauty’ products, botox, hair dyes and fashion wardrobes – the innate imperative to draw attention to themselves, in order to find/keep a partner. The same context that has men sweating away at the gym, sticking socks down their jocks (or whatever the modern equivalent) and getting hair transplants on their bald noggins.
This current piece of feminist angst has the added irritant for me of perpetuating a blatant double standard. Every day in every way we are bombarded by women and men in various stages of dress and undress prancing their sexy selves through every aspect of the media, and nobody raises an eyebrow. From red carpets to Justin Bieber in bed – and, of course, KK’s adorable backside – our daily dose of human sexuality is shoved in our faces whether we want it or not.
And I don’t, if you’re asking. Not because it offends me, either personally or behalf of the sisterhood, but because a) it’s so same- same-and-not-even-different it bores me rigid, b) it’s often just plain tacky, and c) because it’s a preoccupation that suggests current society has all the depth and wit of an image-conscious puddle, which seems to me infinitely depressing.
So don’t try to kid me that this particular ad is going to wreak any more havoc on male hormones, female self-image or the propensity for sexual harassment than anything else either gender might have clapped eyes on in the course of their day, including women flaunting their cleavages and men with their pelvises almost horizontal as they sashay down the street.
Unless you’re advocating that everyone be desexed, thus wiping out the human race (which I find quite an attractive thought, some days) – or that we return to the Victorian era where even tables had to cover their legs, but nobody dared mention that men behaved like randy goats as and when the mood took them… Unless we somehow manage to erase sexuality from the social consciousness one way or another, men and women are going to go on with this ‘objectifying’ thing until we’re all popping up daisies.
I’m sure there are innumerable learned treatises out there just itching to tell me that every ad of this ilk does terrible things to a female’s self-image, but might I just point out that in my own very far away adolescence, when women still wore hats and gloves, cleavages were the province of music halls, billboards said God is able not Viagra! and television didn’t exist, my self-image was down the gurgler with the trap nailed shut not by demon males or suggestive ads, but by my peers already gearing themselves up (consciously or unconsciously) to reduce the numbers in the mating game. And I’m sure it’s the same for boys: the poor weedy, acned male adolescent disempowered by the derision of his peers.
And in the interests of brutal honesty, here’s another little something we ought perhaps to consider before we do the knotty knickers routine: we set this up, ladies, and now we have to accept the result. We were ones who burned our bras (well, not me personally – always seemed a bit eh, what? to me) embraced bikinis and plunging necklines, and insisted on ‘freedom’, and this is what it looks like.
So how about we stop pretending to be Victorian virgins and put out minds to the serious issues confronting women – like domestic violence, for example. Which you can link to the young lady in lederhosen if you insist, but since family violence has been around a lot longer than titillating ads, it seems to me it’s time we started enhancing our hearts and minds with the same fervour we’ve been devoting to the glory-or-not of our physical image.