My daughter is a pre-teen on the verge of becoming a true teen. (Is there a term for that? An imminent-teen??) It’s been a sometimes-tricky and very interesting time in terms of parenting, with the importance of boundaries and consistency being thrust into the spotlight, as she questions and challenges us on just about everything.
But it’s also been a wonderful stage of her growth. It’s as if she’s awakening to the world around her. Questioning things anew and with a more grown-up perspective and understanding of the answers. We were watching the Australian Open this weekend together, when this ad appeared.
She looked to me as she often does for a reaction. She was frowning, puzzled. “Mum, what was that?”
How do you explain this kind of advertising to a 12-year-old girl? On the cusp of not just the teenage years, but of the development – physically – that comes with it, and of figuring out her place in the world as a young female. “Honey, it’s just a really stupid ad”, I said. “It’s sexist. It’s trying to be funny, or get noticed. People will think it’s dumb mostly. But it is offensive. It shouldn’t be on TV.” And then we promptly saw this ad.
If it’s at all possible, it was even worse. She again looked to me for my reaction. “Is that really bad Mum?” She was wide eyed, waiting for a response.
How could I explain to her that at the crux of it, these ads insinuate that a) women are sex objects and that b) women are intrinsically stupid? We can’t drive, we can’t tell the difference between reversing and accelerating. Oh and we love to have sex with men. You can see it in our eyes. PS: look at our boobs.
I told her that in the 80s when I was growing up, ads that made fun of women or sexualised women were the norm; they were acceptable. (She was incredulous at this.) I stumbled through more explanations – women weren’t taken as seriously back then… Ads were made by men for men… But this is now, this is 2016 and this doesn’t belong on our TV screens anymore. I emphasised that.
“It’s really wrong, actually, and pathetic that this company made this ad and that Channel 7 screened it at all.” She looked at me and simply said, “Well do something about it Mum”.
I didn’t expect that from her. But she was right. Was I just going to roll my eyes from my seat on the couch and do nothing? So, I did do something. I reached for my phone, still furious from the stupidity I had just seen, and I sent out a Tweet about it, followed by another. I tagged the brand and actually asked them what message their ads were sending to my 12-year-old daughter. (They have still failed to respond to my question.)