‘Offensive’ billboard creates a stir

Date: November 13, 2009
  • SHARE:

This article may be used to:
– Provide an example of gender insensitive language.
– Illustrate gender stereotyping in the media especially bill boards.
– Show negative patriarchal attitudes that just refuse to die and have hindered progress as far as the fight for gender equality is concerned.
– Draw comparisons with other media articles that make reference to South African athlete Caster Semenya’s gender testing ordeal.

Trainer’s notes:
The writer of the story has done well by putting a photo of the billboard next to his story. This brings out the importance of visuals to put emphasis on certain arguments. If the writer had just described the billboard and not provided the picture, the effect would have been different. The word offensive used in the headline seems appropriate especially looking at the exaggerated size of the woman’s breasts. This is couple with the posture she has taken, lying down naked with knees bent. The writer is however careful in his use of the word offensive as he has put it in quotes.

This billboard coming just hot on the heels of Caster Semenya’s gender testing by the International athletics Federation is even more offensive. The line “no need for gender testing” evokes emotions and seems to be implying that the girl in the billboard looks woman enough, with her super sized breasts and there is no need to subject her to any gender tests. Caster Semenya is a South African female athlete whose career has been marred by controversy due to her body features which have been seen by many as “masculine.” This has raised questions about how one should look in order for them to be deemed woman enough especially.

In response to the gender testing line the owner of Teazers chain of clubs Lolly Jackson says, “I do not want anyone coming here (Teazers) with the idea that we do not have women. We have women, 100% women here. I did a test on them.” The writer of the article misses out on an opportunity to find what kind of test the girls are being subjected to. He should also have asked how one gets to the “100% woman” conclusion and what it means. Does portraying women with extra large breasts define their womanhood? Those with smaller breasts are they less of women?

Jackson’s assertion that his is honest and does not lie when he puts out billboards does not justify having the line on gender testing. He even uses insulting language when he says “some religious freak complained, only a religious fool would complain about that.”
This insulting language is even extent to the woman who is described as a “wonderful specimen.”

The article does well by soliciting comment from the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa. Some readers may not even be aware of the existence of such a body. This helps in terms of lightening audiences of the platform that exist for media redress.

Discussion Questions:
– Is this advertisement offensive? Should the ASA take action?
– How does this advertisement compare to trends in advertising generally?
– Discuss the coverage of this story? Is it fair and balanced? Are there other angles you would have addressed?

Training exercises:

Exercise one: Underline the language within the story which is insensitive. Discuss the following:
– Do you find the language degrading? How and why
– What does the language used by Lolly Jackson tell us about his attitude towards gender issues?
– Comment on the pay off line ‘No need for gender testing’.
– Comment on the headline of the story.

Exercise 2
Research the role of the South African Advertising Authority is and what it does. Identify other possible advertisements to bring to their attention.

Other training resources:
Picture our Lives, Gender and Images in Southern Africa, Chapter three: Sex, Gender and Stereotypes

Related GL Commentaries

Download : Teazers club billboard deemed offensive

Comment on ‘Offensive’ billboard creates a stir

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *