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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La pub nous tire vers le bas !

by Florence Montreynaud

Advertising is dragging us down!

How can we combat sexism and violence in advertising?

Translated Monday 8 March 2010, by Karen Grimwade and reviewed by Henry Crapo

By Florence Montreynaud, chairwoman of Chiennes de garde [1]

The cause – preventing smoking among young people – is laudable but to promote it the anti-tobacco organisation Droits des non-fumeurs [2] used a dangerous method: three posters featuring a cigarette used as a sexual symbol with a man forcing a young girl, in one scene, and a young boy, in the other two, to perform oral sex. Shown in public places (on the display stands for free cards), these images serve to reinforce the link between male violence and sexuality typically seen in pornography.

Comparing nicotine dependence with the rape of minors is outrageous. Displaying pornographic images in public places is an act of aggression, and a particularly cruel one given that millions of us have been the victims of sexual violence. This campaign has been condemned virtually universally: a rare occurrence and one that indicates a new level of awareness among the public necessitating a political decision.

French advertisers currently wield excessive levels of power: they invade our world, manipulating us in order to create desires that will change our behaviour. This is proof yet again of their irresponsible use of a power that is exercised without control. The French advertising regulator (ARPP, Autorité de régulation professionnelle de la publicité) only steps in once the campaigns are in circulation, except in the case of television commercials. It can demand that an advert be removed if complaints are received, in other words when the harm has already been done. Its ineffectiveness is thus blatant.

We demand the right to live without being permanently subjected to sexist clichés, mind-numbing slogans and images of violence, in particular sexual violence, because for feminists like us sexuality is about two consenting adults (in the legal sense, i.e. over the age of 15) desiring each other. We demand that a body responsible for examining all advertising before its release into the public domain be created. Led by an independent figure, half of its members would be representatives of the people (elected representatives, associations) and half would be professionals.

Films cannot be released in France without an official visa, and yet nobody is obliged to go to the cinema or purchase a DVD. Why, then, are advertisers free to subject the public to degrading, belittling and dehumanising images? For ten years now the pack of Chiennes de garde have been insisting that enough is enough!

It is time for politicians to act!

[1Literally ‘female watchdogs’ in French

[2Non-smokers’ rights

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