The new Bras N Things in-store video has been deemed too raunchy by the Advertising Standards Bureau and the retailer has been forced to pull it.
I watched the video and at first couldn’t understand the fuss.
In skimpy lacy lingerie, the model is doing a bit of the ole’ stand up writhing and come hither pouting. She is doing the hips sway 101, the lean over a table and stick your bottom out a bit move. She’s fondling some curtains suggestively (or she is rubbing some food off her cheek I’m not sure which), but I’ve seen it all before in music videos. Oh, and on amateur Youtube channels. Oh, and on TV and billboards and Instagram and when I catch a perfume ad or an ad for hamburgers or an action movie about one quarter of the way through for a five minute scene because guns and breasts go together like cheese and biscuits.
Basically I can’t help but see women like this. It surrounds my life. Women bending and writhing. Open mouthed and big breasted. Fleshy and hot. They’re everywhere. It’s wallpaper to our daily lives.
Then I thought about that. About my insouciance over women laid out for me everywhere like slabs of sexy meat.
Listen: Mia Freedman explains why she agrees with the ban on the ad. (Post continues after audio.)
The Bras N Things video is simply more wallpaper at the shops. You look up as you clutch the 24 pack of toilet paper because it’s such a good deal. Another woman being sexy, feeling sexy, being wanted for her sex appeal. In her Playboy lingerie.
And that’s when I feel like complaining too. Not because it is “vulgar”, or like “amateur porn” but because we have become desensitised to it. Because we walk past flashing images of flashing breasts as we hold hands with our kids and tell them they can’t have an ice cream. Or we sit with them watching movies where we laugh about the fact Kate Hudson played the mum to Harrison Ford’s dad. Or we wonder since when did deep cleavage tops on 15-year-old girls become a thing.
All the while the message must be sticking to them like sap from a tree: a woman’s value lies in her sex appeal.
In her book Girls and Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape author Peggy Orenstein writes about the fallout for young girls and women from being swamped with sexual images and living in a 24/7 culture obsessed with female sexuality.
“The commodification of female sexuality and the use of female sexuality, and that very narrow, very commercial and superficial idea of “hot” as being the end all and be all of female sexuality so that what young women learn is that what’s important about them is to express and perform sexiness, has been intensified,” she says. “That it’s more important how their bodies appear to others than how those bodies feel to them. That’s what I think the culture has done to young women.”
Peggy Orenstein. Image via Facebook.
Young women - and girls now - who look at their strong, miraculous bodies and wish they could wilt them into something more vulnerable, more fleshy, more pleasurable for men. A body that serves, not a body that lives.
While I had the attention of the Advertising Standards Board, I would also have a word to them about the predictability of this campaign.
"We have a lingerie client, I want all your ideas by 9am?" the advertising account executive asks the creative team.
"Size 0 model in lingerie being sexy."
"Pretty model being sexy in lingerie."
"Lots of close-ups of model being sexy in lingerie."
"Model being sexy in lingerie on a beach in the Caribbean," says the guy who wants to go to the Caribbean.
Amazingly I am a woman and I don't always wear lingerie. Sometimes I wear bras and undies. Sometimes I do wear lingerie - but here's the strange part, I don't usually do it to feel sexy. Every now and then, yes. But overwhelmingly I do it to feel like I'm in control. I do it to feel good about myself. Strong even, confident that my left breast won't fall out of the top of my bra and make that awful flesh shelf against my t-shirt.
As a woman who happens to wear a bra and undies every day of her life, sometimes I don't want to stand around in a matching set all day and bend over in them to pick up clumps of dog hair off the floor and rub myself against the Californian shutters suggestively.
Apart from the fact those shutters are hard and that would hurt, I want to run and jump and lift weights and go for walks and cook dinners and laugh with girlfriends and watch my kids play sport and do all sorts of weird and wonderful things in my bra and undies that don't involve being sexy.
This week Girls star and creator Lena Dunham and co-star Jemima Kirke were photographed untouched and in all their non-model body glory for the journal Lonely girls in New Zealand lingerie label Lonely brand. The campaign hopes to challenge "the traditional lingerie stereotypes".
Scroll through to see more of the Lonely Girls Project. (Post continues after gallery.)
There was a feeling of indulgence, strength and sensuality in the photographs, but not overt sexiness. It was much more interesting than that. It was refreshing, creative, had cut-through and was embraced by women. Aren't they the hallmarks of a successful advertising campaign?
There are so many different, clever, creative, delightful ways to advertise to women that don't involve wallpapering our lives with the same old, same old sexy sexy, I want to be sexy, she's so sexy, all you need is sexy stuff.
Have a look at the woman next to you. We are much more than that. We know that. We live that. We watch our daughters try to live that too.
Surely it's time the entire world helped us live as whole, complicated, divergent women and stopped plastering our lives with the most narrow piece of womanhood imaginable. The piece that, at best, makes us feel loved as we walk out the door to a party and, at worst, diminishes us to nothing more than tits and arse.
I wish taking down the wallpaper was as easy as coming up with a lingerie campaign.