How many times a day do you see some advertising in all our varied forms of media that is really stupid at best, or horribly offensive at worst? Probably really quite often, unless you live in a cave in Outer Mongolia. How often do you speak out and try to do something about it? Probably not very often. You might have tried once or twice and become discouraged at how hard it is to find someone responsible for the ad to listen to you. Or maybe you're just so overwhelmed by the enormity of this issue and don't know where to start.
I want to give a HUGE congratulations and thank-you-for-fighting-the-good fight to Lucy from the wonderful blog Lulastic and the Hippyshake for her her fantastic response to an incredibly stupid AND horribly offensive ad for Weetabix in the UK. Bonus points for sending Barbie through the mail. Really, have a look, it's gorgeous.
I must admit, only twice have I ever bothered to actually put my outrage into a formal complaint. The first time was about six years ago, when I noticed a sign in the front window of a shop saying 'No Fat Chicks.' Yes, really, it's true. I complained to the shop manager, and the manager of the shopping plaza which hosted this shop. I was told it's just a joke, get over it, and actually, the people I spoke to seemed to be angry with me for complaining. I rang the local council, the police, and Equal Opportunity. The response I got from these agencies was, basically, well yes I agree that's terrible, but we can't do anything about it. Equal Opportunity explained to me that unless I am actually refused service in the shop on the grounds of being overweight, they can put any sign they like in their front window. The sign stayed up, and I altered my path when walking through town to avoid going past that shop ever again. Eventually, it packed up and moved to another suburb. I got the message from that experience that there's really not much point complaining about injustice, it's just a waste of energy.
Well I found a renewed wave of energy today when I was walking past a Michael Hill jewellery store, actually in the same shopping plaza as the No Fat Chicks shop had been. Now I have never seen an ad that manages to combine fat-shaming with Easter-merchandise-promotion before, but someone had managed it. The sign said 'Put it on her hand instead of on her hips this Easter.'
Cough choke splutter.
Let's look at what this message is implying. Firstly, that all women are concerned about the size of their hips. Secondly, that all the husbands, partners and assorted loved ones have some kind of vested interest in keeping their women's hips smaller. And also, that it's a bad thing to eat chocolate at Easter, because it will make your hips too big. There a lot of individuals who happen to have large hips and will be choosing to eat some chocolate this Easter weekend. This message at the jeweller's was just piling the shame onto these individuals.
How is it any business at all of a jewellery store to comment or have an opinion on the size of their clientele's hips?
I was still feeling pretty annoyed about it when I got home. Maybe I was inspired by Lucy and her campaign to educate the Weetabix company. So I looked up the store's phone number, and gave them a call. The woman who answered the phone wasn't at all sympathetic. She told me that it was just put up as a bit of humour. She really didn't see what my problem was, but she told me rather grudgingly that she would pass my feedback on to the manager, and hung up.
So next I called the management of the plaza that the store is in. At last, I spoke to someone who listened to me and didn't treat me like a lunatic for complaining about a silly little sign. She was sympathetic, and assured that management would talk to Michael Hill about it, but pointed out that they had no power to force any shop in their plaza to take down any signs. All they could do was pass on my concerns.
The next step was to find the Michael Hill website and send them an email expressing my feelings about this cruel attempt to use people's concerns about obesity to sell them jewellery. I really wasn't expecting to get any further than that, so next I sat down to write this blog post and share my outrage with you all. I'd only gotten three sentences down when my phone rang. It was a regional manager from Michael Hill. He'd just read my email and rang me straight away. Yay, an intelligent, competent person! We discussed the issues involved here and he said he completely agreed with me. And he wasn't just saying that to shut me up - he made it clear that he really did have an awareness of the issues I was concerned about. He agreed that that was not the sort of environment they wanted at Michael Hill, and assured me that the sign would be coming down very soon, certainly before the day was out. He also said that they would take care to edcuate the staff who had put up that sign as to why this was inappropriate.
How many kinds of awesome is that? Wow, I actually changed the world today, just a tiny little bit. Thanks heaps, Mr. Regional Manager. Michael Hill is no longer on my List of Mortal Enemies.