MediaWatch announces worst portrayals of women

WINNIPEG (CUP) — A Canadian media watchdog group has published its annual report card on the best and worst advertising portrayals of women in 2001.

MediaWatch, a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the representation of women and girls in the media, released its report March 8, to coincide with International Women’s Day.

“This is our chance to offer the advertising world a lighthearted reminder of the influence and concerns of female consumers,” said Shari Graydon, a MediaWatch spokesperson.

More than 1,000 women, men and youth across the country cast their votes for the satirical review of the worst media portrayals of women. The report card tracks industry performance and consumer concerns each year.
“Once again, Canadians demonstrated their eagerness to tell the advertising industry how they feel about media portrayals that antagonize, as opposed to persuade, them,” said Graydon. “When given the chance, consumers speak up loud and clear.”

MediaWatch’s audience research has previously found that although the vast majority of women (74 per cent) are sometimes or often offended by advertising portrayals of women, very few (eight per cent) ever take the time to express their concerns in writing.

The MediaWatch report gives voice to women’s concerns and celebrates advertisers who are attentive to reflecting women in a more progressive and effective way.

The report’s highlights include the “Skip the Loo” award given to Banana Magazine for publishing a juvenile photo of an Asian woman with her pants down in the toilet.

“Puerile bathroom ‘humour’ belongs to the pre-adolescent set who think seeing someone on the can is a giggle,” said the report.

The “Pinch an Inch” award went to Vichy for using clothes pegs on a woman’s thighs to highlight the need to remove “dimples.” That Vichy used the thinnest of thighs for this painful test belies the statistics and growing public awareness about the relationship between media images and eating disorders among Canadian women, the group said.

Other awards such as the “Multiculturalism Run Amok,” the “Keep it to Yourself” and “Been There, Done That” awards went to Brown Shoes, Kahlua Black Russian and Calvin Klein.

Brown Shoes used an image of a black woman, stereotypically depicting her as an ice-age savage wielding a spear to skewer shoes; Kahlua used its vision of an ultra-modern man with a giant tongue stuck out to lick female snowflakes; and Calvin Klein used an image of a thin, naked woman lying in a provocative manner.

Congratulatory awards went to the Body Shop for creating “Ruby” to acknowledge that only eight women in the world look like supermodels. The Body Shop was honoured with the “One Size Doesn’t Fit All” award.

Also gaining a favourable award was Dasani for producing an ad that managed to reflect the life of an urban woman without sexualizing, stereotyping or demeaning her. It won the “I Wanna be in Her Shoes” award for a cartoon drawing of an Asian woman looking relaxed and comfortable in running shoes and casual clothes, sitting on a patio with her laptop and cell phone by her side as she watches the rest of the world rushing by.

The Breast Cancer Society also won an award for its “They’re your breasts, you do it” campaign. Their award was called the “Health in Your Own Hands” award. Many consumers, including breast cancer survivors appreciated the humour and message of empowerment.

Graydon said the research for the report card takes a few months, for people need to fill out and return the survey. The advertisements that are used in the survey are found in magazines such as Flair and Cosmopolitan. Consumers and other media watchers also contribute ads they find meaningful or offensive.

Graydon noted she would prefer it if her group wasn’t needed to point out what is wrong with the media.
“We’d like to make our job obsolete, but we haven’t got to that point, so that’s our goal.”

Until then, awards will continue to be given out to offending and empowering advertisers.

“What we know is that although many people are offended by advertising, very few take the time to complain and when they do, that’s what has the most power. So we do the report card to draw attention to the involvement that consumers can have, and we also do it to celebrate and acknowledge advertisers who have, in fact, gone out of their way to create positive alternative portrayals of women,” said Graydon.

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