Friday, 26 December 2014

Sexism in advertising should be boycotted

(First Published in New Era Newspaper - 15 October 2014)

I have been married (for the second time) now for 2 and a half months and still really enjoy having a better half. It is quite pleasing to note that some of our leaders in the musical and political fields are also following this route and legalising their union.
Since being married I have had the pleasure of having four of my five daughters come over and visit with my wife and I. Obviously, the change in my marital status means the children now come over and we spend quality time. The discussions are now more gender friendly as I now have the better half participating too.
This led me to an interesting observation regarding advertising and the sexist attitude of many advertisers who portray woman as subordinate to men. That’s right: women are still being sexualised to sell products. At this point in the history of Namibia we have come a long way in woman’s rights issues – just look at the zebra style nomination lists – but somehow still ignore the sexist attitudes being portrayed to our consumers. I don’t wish to generalise, but I believe this is also playing a role in the way some men treat women. According to the 2013 Namibia Demographic Health Survey it was found that forty percent (40) of men and 35 percent of women in Namibia believe that it is okay for a wife to be slapped by her partner for reasons such as burning the food, going out ‘without permission’ or refusing to have sex.
Looking at international studies of women’s magazines, it was found that more than 50% of the advertisements portrayed woman as objects. In these adverts, women are portrayed as submissive and the men as strong, dominant and aggressive. Media (especially visual media) plays a very strong role in how we view each other and ourselves. This images that sell a product or service are indirectly influencing what we believe to be the “right way of doing things” without us taking a critical look at whether these images are the best we wish to portray of ourselves.
According to an article in New Era in February 2014, “over 1 200 men and 240 women have been murdered in the last five years in gender-based violence cases recorded with the police. On average 204 men and 48 women were murdered each year as victims of gender-based violence (GBV). Most alarmingly, the actual number of murders in the period under review comes to 1 565 when juveniles are included in GBV cases.”
I am not so na├»ve that I believe advertising can make a man slap a woman, but I do believe advertising messages can reinforce our incorrect actions towards others by selling us the idea that this is what a “man does”.
Advertising companies worldwide spend over N$ 60 billion a year attempting to tell you how to think or act. You should be critical and not allow yourself (or your children) to become consumed by these media stereotypes. You are not only the consumer of products and services, but also of the advertising messages carried by the various media outlets. If you find anything offensive on television, radio or printed media, contact the Namibian media ombudsman and make your complaint heard. In this way we can ensure that our stereotyping in race, culture or gender does not get carried over into future generations.
“Heavy exposure to media alters the viewers perception of social reality in a way that matches the media world." - Levin & Kilbourne

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