The other day, I watched an Australian primetime advertisement for tampons. This ad was designed to create a furore. Controversy is always lucrative for the ad agency in question, which is why the most effective means of countering such dross is to:
a) Complain to the advertising standards bureau in your country (in Australia, the ASB);
b) Email your local MP and ask what they propose to do about the ad in question;
c) Write to the company’s board of directors;
d) Encourage all those you know to do the same; and
e) Don’t mention the product’s name on social media.
But back to the advertisement.
In it, the genitals of adolescent girls were described as “holes”. Consider this: we are living in an era when it is not only acceptable to discuss the genitals of teenage girls during primetime, but to describe them in the language of pornographers – that is, as an assortment of “holes”.
The creative director responsible is, of course, a woman.
Solicitors have long assigned female counsel to the most notorious rapists, sex and child abusers, if only to engineer an impression of innocence. As a child, a female barrister I know was sexually molested by a neighbour. As an adult, she defended a paedophile she privately believed to be guilty. Why? Because the win would strengthen her legal reputation, and it did. Convinced by this woman’s performance, the jury allowed the paedophile to walk free.
A male barrister told me a similar story. A female solicitor he knew asked him to represent her client, a man accused of a number of brutal rapes. The evidence was incontrovertible: skin fragments under the fingernails, DNA, the works. Inspired, the female solicitor proposed they argue that the police planted the evidence. It was at this point that my friend pulled out.
I asked another barrister how these women could live with themselves. “Easily,” he said. “You have to understand that it’s academic – it’s all about the LAW. People don’t come into it.”
The advertising industry is no different. It’s all about the AD – the buzz, the outrage, viral marketing. The creative director in question justified her actions by making them all about warmth, honesty, truth. The impact of the ad’s language on children, adults, and the culture at large was irrelevant, as was the denigration of women inherent in the term. That there may be a relationship between the understanding of female genitalia as a series of “holes” and the indiscriminate desire to fill them with any object at hand – nature, after all, abhors a vacuum – was of no interest. It was, she insisted, all about “keeping it real” and “breaking taboos”.
Her palaver reminded only of the standard Nazi practice of rebranding obscenities.
Stealing the property of Jewish people was reframed as “voluntary surrender”. Denying Jewish children an education was made possible under the “Law Against the Overcrowding of German Schools”. The murder of mental hospital inmates was allowed under the “Law for Granting of Special Help”. And the defamation of female sexual organs is now permissable when the words “real” and “comforting” are used to justify it by a woman.
You know what? I am really, really tired of the cultural ratification of pornography. I am really, really tired of girls and women being promoted – and here I quote Melinda Tankard Reist in Mama: Dispatches from the Frontline of Love – as “sexual service stations” for boys and men. And I am really, really tired of the normalisation of pornographic terminology.
For the record, stupid creative director, the receptive, sensitive, miraculous and infinitely beautiful female genital is not an inert cavity or void. This is what a hole looks like:
I don’t know about you, but my sex looks nothing like that.