Why bother complaining about media at all?

Look at that Lynx ad featuring Sophie Monk encouraging guys to “clean their dirty balls”. This is just the latest along an ever unraveling string of sexist, racist, ageist ads by Lynx (or Axe in the USA), who by the way is owned by Unilever.

You know the one. The same company that sells Dove products, which are supposed to encourage women to celebrate the skin they are in. Unless of course you have dark skin, then you would first need to purchase one of their skin lightening products before you could truly love yourself. As, “skin lightening creams are the preferred mode of skin care in almost all Asian countries, just as anti-ageing creams are in Europe and the USA.”

It is often said that the resultant outrage unleashed by critics is precisely the fuel that advertisers aim to employ. It fans the flames of the free publicity that their controversial ad may attract. This is worth more than any calculated loss they may incur, I’m told.

Really? I hadn’t thought about that at all. Silly me.

So why do I still urge parents to complain about ads, even if speaking up and making a complaint to the Advertising Standards Board and having the complaint dismissed, as many are, could occur?

Firstly, it will still be recorded. (See an example of that here) Moreover, when the ASB produce their statistics and end of year reports, the number of complaints about advertisements is important. (See an example here)

However, there is a second and possibly greater reason for this. When complaints are coupled with school-based programs around media literacy, as well as parental engagement in repeated discussions at home about WHY we feel strongly about the messages behind adverts or products, we begin to engage the use of critical thinking skills about the messages we are being fed by the media on a daily basis.

Now before you begin writing to me about my living in la-la-land or believing we live in utopia, let me say that I am completely aware of where I live.

However I do not believe that this should cause us as parents to throw up our hands in despair and say,  “Ah, too difficult, just raise yourself child… Que Sera, Sera.”

Nor do I believe that we should ‘helicopter parent’, thereby creating a generation of children that are so removed from any challenge to their physical or intellectual development that when the inevitable fall does occur, it has a huge impact, rather than a small one.

Isn’t it interesting though, that we have become so over-protective of children on one hand that we fuss about having fat-free schools, jungle-gym free playgrounds, dirt-free homes and insist on imprisoned-trampolines in the garden. Yet when I raise the idea around freedom to parent a psychologically healthy generation of children, without the suffocation of an over-sexist, objectified wallpaper surrounding their lives, some critics will go on about what a crazed-feminist-nazi-nutcase-wowser I am. Don’t I recall that us 30 to 60 somethings grew up with sexist advertising too and look how well we all turned out?

As a mother of 3 I think that my children need to be exposed, under guidance, to certain things they are likely to encounter in the world and be prepared in how to deal with them. (No, I don’t mean sitting down to watch porn with my kids.) Debating about and developing awareness of the facile nature of ads like Unilever’s, can assist young people in understanding that this type of thinking about others is flawed.

Especially in light of a study revealing that the public find it difficult to differentiate between the language used by convicted sex offenders and mainstream magazines. The quotes for the study were taken from The Rapist Files: Interviews With Convicted Rapists by Sussman & Bordwell and four titles: Zoo, Nuts, Loaded and FHM.

Dr Miranda Horvath, a senior lecturer in forensic psychology at Middlesex University who specialises in researching sexual violence explains, “They (the public) clearly had considerable difficulty making quick decisions about where these quotes came from.”

Empathy may be important in understanding the relationship between objectification and relationship satisfaction. When one person objectifies another, it is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to treat that person with empathy (Herman, 1992), an important predictor of satisfaction and stability in intimate relationships (Davis; Oathout, 1987; Long; Andrews, 1990).

So the point of reporting is to practically demonstrate how we feel as parents, about popular media’s portrayal of women, men, other races and the elderly.

It is a further opportunity for talking with our sons and daughters about how their mother, sister or friend may feel when placed in actual situations like those on the Hockeyroo’s team when their image was put up on the Lynx facebook page with, “These girls sure know how to handle balls.”

It is through many avenues that kids become critical media consumers, learning about themselves, their peers and the opposite sex.

The option of silence is unacceptable. To be silent is to display acceptance of the message. Silence has never changed anything and never will.

Author: Collett Smart

Registered Psychologist & Educator

website: www.familysmart.com.au

blog: www.thefamilyfactor.com

facebook: www.facebook.com/familysmart


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