Eliminating sexist advertising

Editor, the Gauntlet,

I’d like to commend you on your apology in the Sept. 18 issue of the Gauntlet, regarding your decision to run an ad for the Whiskey nightclub that, as you admit, both objectifies women and makes the highly problematic link between "getting [women] drunk" and sexual violence. That is why I am baffled by your recent decision to re-print the ad, having only replaced the text on the button with a "smiley face."

This move has left me, along with many others, asking what exactly we should be smiling about?

An understanding of the politics of representation helps us see that advertising’s role is to activate meanings already known by viewers of the ad. The particular ad in question thus works to activate the sexist meanings already known by its viewers. Furthermore, as a system of images, this particular ad contains multiple symbols that, when read together, create a message about women’s relationship to alcohol and sex. Given this, the words on the button only served to anchor the otherwise floating chain of symbols that perpetuate sexism.

It is, therefore, somewhat naïve to think that simply removing the words on the button will somehow cleanse the ad of its highly suggestive connotations.

If, after all this, we are left with anything to smile about, it is in knowing that over the past two weeks, both individually and collectively, women and men on campus have been engaged in thoughtful critique of the advertising in this paper. These discussions have raised questions about the Gauntlet’s commitment to its policy of "refus[ing] any submissions judged to be racist, sexist, [and] homophobic" (pg. 3).

Those of us working for change will keep smiling as we seek out new and creative ways to resist advertising’s sexist, racist, and homophobic meanings.

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