Women are used to sell everything from eggs to rum

Women are used to sell everything from eggs to rum

Date: January 1, 1970
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Media activists are ready to take on the advertising industry in Mauritius which continues to churn out adverts containing sexist images and messages which reinforce traditional gender stereotypes.
Women are being paraded as commodities to sell everything from eggs to rum in Mauritius. Whether one tunes into the television, reads the newspaper or takes a good look at the adverts on billboards, women clad in mini-dresses or almost no dress at all jump out at consumers.

These advertisements are far from innocent images enticing one to buy goods. The majority carries implicit and explicit negative gender messages. And, advertisers use sex in a number of ways to sell their products, even when the products have nothing to do with women.

Selling sex and women in adverts perpetuates a very subtle form of gender violence in a country where the level of violence against women is reaching epidemic proportions. Elderly women are assaulted, robbed and raped. Young women are brutalized, raped and murdered.

This cheap portrayal of sex and of women in adverts is used to appeal to men. But surely men too must tire of being typecast as participants in the ‘male sport’ of gazing upon women only as sex objects.

The influence of adverts on our attitudes and beliefs is more powerful than the majority of consumers realize. Our young are learning early in life that women’s bodies are their only assets.

Many adverts also promote the gender stereotype that a woman’s place is in the home, and reinforce, rather than challenge, male dominated patterns. Take for example an advert, which shows Mr and Mrs Professional returning home from a hard day at work. The first thing Mr Professional does is to sit on a sofa and read the newspaper, while Mrs Professional heads off to get the chicken ready for the ‘professional family’ to eat. The message conveyed here is that women may become educated and enter the work force as equal professionals, but when they return home, they must know their place.

Mauritius’ advertising industry is growing by leaps and bounds and it is booming with new and innovative talent. Sadly however, the industry is full of mixed messages. Several news ad campaigns have been launched to encourage young people to avoid alcohol and drugs. But at the same time, the young and the old are bombarded with images of a woman in a topless bikini to sell a bottle of rum.

Gender sensitive codes for advertisers must be matched with outrage from women and men consumers if the power of the advertising industry is to be challenged. Advertisers need to be put on constant notice that some of us are no longer immune to the sexist images used to entice us to buy the myriad of products that we do not need or want.
Mauritius’ Media Watch Organization has successfully had a gender insensitive advert removed from the public’s glare. The slate of new adverts continuously gracing our view highlight that a lot more needs to be done. Let the battles begin!

Loga Virahsawmy is the President of  the Media Watch Organisation, the Mauritian Chapter of the Southern Africa Gender and Media(GEM) Network

This article is part of the GEM Opinion and Commentary Service that provides views and perspectives on current events.

janine@genderlinks.org.za for more information.


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