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The Cleavage Police Are On Patrol
Sexy ad, huh? Clever, too. I liked it a lot.

suitad.jpg

Unfortunately, it raised the usual howls of protest from the ladies of sexual nonthink, also known as feminists. I have to call myself "an Elizabeth Cady Stanton feminist" (which means I'm for women having the vote and earning equal pay for equal work...and no coddling or special treatment) because I'm always embarrassed to think somebody might assume I'm one of the dour women who automatically follow the feminist marching orders without first running them through their brains.

As was to be expected, when the ad, for a New York clothing company, ran in a Massechusetts legal newspaper, the feminists came out howling. Sacha Pfeiffer writes for The Boston Globe:

"Highly insulting," wrote one reader. "Puerile, tasteless, and offensive," wrote another. "Wrong on so many levels," added a third. Another was even more blunt: "Stop publishing this ad."

About two dozen readers have contacted the paper to complain that the insert, for a New York company called Jiwani, objectifies females and undermines gender equality. It is especially inappropriate, many of them said, for a publication that targets the legal industry, where women struggle mightily to achieve the same respect and status as men.

The decibel level ramped up after the paper's publisher, David Yas, wrote a column defending the ad, which he called "par-for-the-course in the fashion industry." Critics, he suggested, were "a bunch of self-important prudes."

That spurred another round of blistering comments, including some that described his response as "stupid" and "sophomoric." It also prompted the president of the Women's Bar Association to weigh in.

"As lawyers, we are obligated to fight against gender discrimination, in whatever form it may take," Kathleen M. O'Connor wrote in a letter in Monday's issue. "We expect more from this paper."

Being that you're lawyers, I'd expect you'd use your brain to think and uncover the facts instead of simply letting it run on autopilot. It seems I'm expecting too much.

Why, pray tell, is it "gender discrimination" to see a woman in a sexy ad? Because you wouldn't see a naked man in an ad appealing to women? That would actually be gender realism. Of course, it helps to understand this if you don't deny the fact that men and women are biologically different, and their differing psychologies conform to those differing biologies. FYI, women aren't into overt sexual display in men, so anybody who advertised to them with that method would be...a moron, and, if they kept it up (and if their product's success was advertising dependent) they'd soon be out of business.

Who objectifies women? We all do. Men fantasize about women as sex objects, and women fantasize about themselves as sex objects. To put it more bluntly, when women see porn, they imagine themselves as the fuck object. Men imagine themselves fucking the fuck object. It’s very parallel to how men’s and women’s bodies are physically. The guy has the big rod, he does the entering. The woman has the hole, she gets entered. Unless, of course, she wears the strap-on in the relationship.

Think, ladies, think. It'll make reading the newspaper -- at least the legal newspaper -- a lot more visually exciting for everyone.

Oh, and get a sense of humor and a bit of imagination. Just because there's an ad of a woman in a sexy outfit, it doesn't mean the jury will think you, as a woman, are a brain-dead bimbo...of course, not unless you are. In fact, sex appeal can be used for power. You might try it sometime. Start by waxing your power mustache, and we'll go from there.

Posted by aalkon at November 24, 2006 11:23 AM

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Oy Amy, the caffeine is starting to kick in, so I'm ready to tackle this one.

First of all, there is no Great Feminist Collective Hivemind. Really, there's not. No one's giving "marching orders." We don't get a daily talking points memo e-mail from the ghost of Andrea Dworkin. There are feminists who are prudes and anti-feminists who are prudes. (Ever read Dawn Eden???) One of my favorite feminist blogs (Pandagon.net) was recently picked by Playboy as one of their top 10 political blogs. One of the biggest areas of disagreement among feminists is porn, with extremes on both the pro- and anti- side, and a multitide of views in between.

I'm no prude, but certain forms of objectification do bug me. This ad you've shown is not one of them. She's showing some skin, sure, but she's also showing some initiative. The high-fashion ads that I object to are the ones where women look like they have just been beaten or drugged or are posed to look like they're dead. That's woman-hating, and that's where I draw the line.

And if your turn your finely-honed skeptic's eye on some of this evo-psych stuff, you'll find that in a lot of the studies that get the most media attention, what the numbers actually show is that there's more differences within the sexes than between them. (Echidne's blog has done some excellent analyses on some of these.) I personally believe that we're a result of both nature and nurture, and that it's still hard to separate out which is which. In my experience, it's become more acceptable (and even expected) for women to objectify men, and I see a lot of "beefcake" wallpaper on the computers of the younger women in my office.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 24, 2006 6:34 AM

The problem is that feminists don't define themselves very specifically, and I would say that this could fairly be called a "feminist" viewpoint. I would bet you that the women who complained about this ad proudly call themselves feminists. I can't do that -- because it lumps me in with the likes of them.

The mistake people make about "nature vs. nuture" is where does "nurture" come from but our biology? If you're talking about stuff like parental attachment (Bowlby), that's different. And you might read Matt Ridley on genes switching on or off -- genes do not operate in a vacuum, but are programmed to respond to environmental forces (when applicable).

If you read the link, you'll see that women generally objectify men out of a posturing thing or as a bonding thing with other women.

Nevertheless, thanks for waking me up!

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2006 7:09 AM

I would bet you the women who complain proudly call themselves feminists.

And people who set fire to housing developments call themselves "environmentalists." Anyone can call themselves anything but that doesn't mean they get to define the movement. There no longer is one single focus or definition of "feminism" or even "environmentalism" for that matter. Once a movement gains popularity, all kinds of splinter groups and philosophies attach themselves to it. What you're attributing to "feminism" in general is really more of a subset, radical feminism.

I dunno about women not liking to look at men sexually. I think they guy in the ad is pretty hot, and while I don't go in for butt floss, I find looking at a nice ass on a man is a turn on. My sexual fantasies involve the cute guys, not the rich ones.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 24, 2006 7:28 AM

It's feminists, though, who push the idea that "objectification" of women is wrong. What kind of feminists? Well, perhaps the "reasonable" ones should find a new name. I'm actually not for feminism, but humanism. I don't need the word "feminism," because I don't like when men or women are treated unfairly. I don't side with one sex or the other.

And regarding women and the pictures: It's the rare woman who gets a hard-on from a picture of a naked man. Sure, some women find it appealing. But men -- most men -- get physically aroused from looking at the pictures.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 24, 2006 7:33 AM

Unfortunately, it raised the usual howls of protest from the ladies of sexual nonthink, also known as

Ugly women who can't (or couldn't) get a date.

Ugly Women in Spirit, I know many many "C-" and some "D-" lookers who are wonderful people with wonderful (male) partners.

Naysayers, very very Ugly on the Inside.

But you said that.

Posted by: Econ-Scott at November 24, 2006 7:39 AM

Oh and righteous AMY

THIS Sedan -- over 50 mpg.
http://www.autoblog.com/2006/01/08/detroit-auto-show-mercedes-benz-launches-clean-diesels-for-the/

Cadillac has one that does 46 mpg.

Ford & Chrysler right around the corner. Big sedans, big SUV's are here to stay.

Posted by: Econ-Scott at November 24, 2006 7:45 AM

> As lawyers, we are obligated
> to fight against gender
> discrimination, in whatever
> form it may take,"

Now, IANAL... (Though I have nephews that can handle your legal matters in California, Maryland, New York and New Jersey. Don't hesitate to call!)

But as a freelance video tech, I don't feel a special responsibility to fight for the care of the mentally retarded. Or for the rights of migrant farmworkers. Or for cleanup of the Santa Monica Bay. Or for the rights of gays, or Jerry's Kids, or the Animal Protection League. All of these are worthy pursuits that a thoughtful person will support.

But are we "obligated"? And does *every* form of gender discrimination deserve a "fight"?

This lawyer is pretty pleased with herself, but I think she's a dim spirit.

> there is no Great Feminist
> Collective Hivemind. Really,
> there's not.

Agreed. But there is a thin, gruesome strata of self-important shitheels who, early in life, imagine themselves to be singularly righteous champions of fairness. These infantile beliefs solidify in the time of youth when arbitrary, petulent boundaries between self and others are being playfully (but often brutally) redrawn. ("Let's not talk to Sherrie at lunch today... She hid my shoes after gym!") Adults are supposed to move beyond these games: We're not supposed to be intimidated when some shitheel attorney says "You're with us or against us," and we're sure not supposed to say that to anyone else, either. If anyone is encouraging hive-mindedness, it's the lawyer, not her freethinking critics.

> but she's also showing
> some initiative.

Blechhh! Bluggooooooolp plurggghhhhh....

> the numbers actually show
> is that there's more
> differences within the
> sexes than between them

Context, context, context. Masculinity and femininity are very real things.

> Big sedans, big SUV's
> are here to stay.

How about a high-performance sports coupe that gets 40 mpg?

Posted by: Crid at November 24, 2006 8:37 AM

I see a female shedding clothes and pulling a fellow towards her. Not a passive object but an initiator.

The diesel ad doesn't tell me whether or not the criticism leveled at "low emissions" diesel tech in heavy trucks is applicable here. Higher heat of formation reduces particulate quantities while increasing toxicity of the compounds resulting from combustion. Translation : the old emissions were unsightly but relatively harmless. The new, not.

Posted by: opit at November 24, 2006 9:15 AM

> but she's also showing
> some initiative.

Blechhh! Bluggooooooolp plurggghhhhh....

Crid, I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and assuming that it's not the thought of a sexually assertive woman that's making your head explode, but rather that my attempt at being glib didn't work as well as I'd thought.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 24, 2006 10:21 AM

The same tired old feminists who rant and rave about women being objectified for their beauty have absolutely no problem using their self-assigned moral superiority as an object with which to batter the rest of us.

I'm with Amy on this one. When men stop lusting after healthy-looking women of childbearing age, our species will extinguish itself. Perhaps that is what the feminists really want?

Until that day, we can expect men and women to control their instincts for the good of society. And to define themselves properly, too. Try calling yourself an "equity" feminist. At least it puts you at some remove from the nut cases who believe that every man is a rapacious robber baron deadbeat thug, and that every "real" woman's duty is to imitate a sasquatch.

Posted by: AskMom at November 24, 2006 11:01 AM

> I'm giving you the benefit
> of the doubt

My first wife says people must never do that.

> the thought of a sexually
> assertive woman

No, let's review the original passage...

> She's showing some skin,
> sure, but she's also
> showing some initiative

Churchill (who gets credit for every aphorism where the real source is forgotten) once said: "A fanatic is someone who won't change his mind and won't change the topic." If you want to know why young woman won't eagerly claim to be feminists, or will always say "But..." after admitting that they are, this is why. The photo is about:

1.) Tits! Knockers! A rack! Orbiculate sweater-pairs! The Dairy!

2.) Thighs! Gams! Stalks!

3.) Skin!

4.) Jawlines!

5.) Sex! Fucking! Hornitude!

OK? So it's not about her "showing initiative." There's a certain kinda feminist who thinks eroticism must always be an inclusive, sustainable and mutually rewarding empowerment of a woman's self-esteem. Expressions of this belief almost always include an especially confused locution: "...as a person."

These feminists are boring, as well as inane. Sexual feelings aren't necessarily nice and friendly. Sex wants what it wants, and acknowledging that shouldn't diminish our enjoyment of a guileless advertisement. There's a lot of beauty in that photograph. But if she's spunky, it's not in the Oprah "You go, girl!" sense.

Somebody sing the theme to the "Mary Tyler Moore Show," quick.

Posted by: Crid at November 24, 2006 11:05 AM

The same tired old feminists who rant and rave about women being objectified for their beauty have absolutely no problem using their self-assigned moral superiority as an object with which to batter the rest of us.

I'm with Amy on this one. When men stop lusting after healthy-looking women of childbearing age, our species will extinguish itself. Perhaps that is what the feminists really want?

Until that day, we can expect men and women to control their instincts for the good of society. And to define themselves properly, too. Try calling yourself an "equity" feminist. At least it puts you at some remove from the nut cases who believe that every man is a rapacious robber baron deadbeat thug, and that every "real" woman's duty is to imitate a sasquatch.

Posted by: AskMom at November 24, 2006 11:10 AM

"You're gonna make it after all!"

DAMN, that ad makes me horny! And it is a beautiful photograph, too. Thanks for posting this.

Think I'll go "show some initiative" now...

Posted by: Melissa at November 24, 2006 11:10 AM

Spin around and toss your hat, you little slut.

Posted by: Crid at November 24, 2006 11:23 AM

Like I said, Crid, that was just me trying to be glib. What I see when I look at that picture is a couple of good-looking people who look like they want each other, BAD! To me that's a lot hotter than just diassociated body parts. So sue me. Or believe in your head that makes me a dour old anti-sex bluestocking. Whatever.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 24, 2006 11:47 AM

But if she's spunky, it's not in the Oprah "You go, girl!" sense.

You're the one who's ascribed that quality to the word "initiative", not me.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 24, 2006 12:25 PM

> You're the one who's

I'm a cranky little prick.

> diassociated body parts.

That's what Amy was saying also. I think the feminine impulse is to look at that picture and imagine a blissed, holistic union of righteous feeling states (whereas the masculine impulse is to think "She probably looks good from behind, too!"). A feminism based on that girlish appreciation of things is doomed and unworkable. Human nature is just not that pleasant.

Posted by: Crid at November 24, 2006 12:52 PM

A feminism based on that girlish appreciation of things is doomed and unworkable. Human nature is just not that pleasant.

Careful there. One could infer from your dichotomy there that you don't think that "girls" are human.

Posted by: deja pseu at November 24, 2006 1:32 PM

Opit:

Let's be frank; you're not a Chemical engineer.

The Chrysler/Dahmler Bluetec meets the most stringent emission standards -- California's Bin 5.

All previous had been at Bin 10 and at best Bin 8.

Low So2, Low No2, Low No, Low(er) Co2 and lower diesel soot.

Good engineering and companies commitment to diversified fleet to use lots of different fuel sources.

Think about that while you're driving that Toyota hybrid sold at a $5,000 loss per vehicle by Toyota, and why ? Each Prius subsidizes Toyota emission gushing Trucks being sold in California to bring their total fleet under legal emission limits. Prius electricity still is being produced by burning hydrocarbons -- gasoline, not to mention the amount of toxic waste the batteries produce -- you will have to change them out in year 6 or 7.

So you get 54 mpg in a deathtrap Prius ("Unsafe at any speed")with a polluting battery array or 54 mpg in a Saf-er Mercedes or Full Size Chrylser, soon Ford fleet and GM fleet also.

So to the energy righteous -- we're all in the same boat now

-- anything you do that uses electricity is burning coal, wood refuse, natural gas, petroleum, and if not those, you must be receiving Diablo Canyon Nuclear Generated power. Can stand the guilt ? You satisfy your righteousness by moving to the Pacific Northwest and living off of Bonneville Power and all those Salmon killing dams.

"Life's full of tough choices, ... Is'nit"

Posted by: Econ-Scott at November 24, 2006 2:12 PM

Amy, you sure have some fun commentors. I love that all these high-powered lady lawyers have time to worry about suit ads. Aren't they supposed to be churning out the billable hours or doing pro bono work for the transgendered or something?

Posted by: Kate at November 24, 2006 5:09 PM

Mmmm, sexy ad. I think any ad that gets more men to wear suits is a good thing. I'm glad that I got my husband to buy himself a tux for our wedding, as he's worn it several times since then. Hot stuff.

Indeed, women tend to find men sexier when they're wearing more clothes... (ugh, Speedos). Well-tailored clothes. So yeah, I'd agree that a man wearing a suit and tie (oooh, and french cuffs! Yes!) is a sex object. Mmmm.

Anyway, good for Jiwani for getting even more exposure for their ad. I hope they sell more suits as a result of this.

Posted by: meep at November 25, 2006 4:25 AM

I'm with you on men in suits.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 25, 2006 6:29 AM

>I hope they sell more suits as a result of this.


Seems to me they're more likely to sell more women. That's what's on display. The ad industry baffles me, although my exposure to it is minimised -- I tear all the full-page ads out of magazines before reading them, and mute the TV/radio during commercial breaks (I even shrink my browser window to avoid the right-column adshit on this very blog). When an ad does get my attention, I like to imagine the pitch meeting. The 21-year old ad "executive" goes "Are you ready for this, people, because it's hot-hot-HOT? We KNOW how to sell your suits, OK? WE SELL THEM BY NOT SHOWING THEM!!!!!!" He hands over to his 18-year old assistant to display the mockups and leaves for the next bullshit pitch. The suit company people, instead of saying "Get the fuck out of here, you are SO fired", pay the agency their $illion fee and believe they've got a good deal. Amazing. AMAZING.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at November 25, 2006 8:23 AM

Seems to me they're more likely to sell more women. That's what's on display...The 21-year old ad "executive" goes "Are you ready for this, people, because it's hot-hot-HOT? We KNOW how to sell your suits, OK? WE SELL THEM BY NOT SHOWING THEM!!!!!!" He hands over to his 18-year old assistant to display the mockups and leaves for the next bullshit pitch...

Applause, Stu!

Posted by: Jody Tresidder at November 25, 2006 4:15 PM

Selling by not showing seems to be the best form of advertisement, actually. Works for abercrombie,at least. Walk into one of their stores; all you see are half naked guys and girls in jeans. Don't know how badly Id bash the ad when it seems to work.

Posted by: Scott at November 26, 2006 10:50 PM

Actually, men respond to sexy pictures of women in ads, women don't respond well to sexy men in ads. According to research I heard presented at one of the ev psych conferences. And it makes perfect sense if you understand men at all.

And in this ad, I pay more attention to their suit jacket than I would if it were on a man, and I'd venture men do, too.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at November 27, 2006 5:43 AM

Suits me.

Posted by: Roger at November 27, 2006 6:54 AM

I'm a lawyer, I'm a woman, and I think a well-tailored suit is sexy men AND women. The powersuit has come a long way, baby.

Bunk all the bullcrap with protesting a sexy ad. I paid attention to it, I'm amused by it, and I also call myself a feminist. The two concepts are certainly not mutually exclusive. I just don't see sexy as anti-woman.

Had to represent the legal ladies. We are not all anti-porn fanatics. We are not admitted to the Bar with the stated intent of clearing up all the world's real and perceived ills, and anyone who thinks that's a valid reason to become a lawyer has no business in law.

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