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Written on January 30, 2008, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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Budget airline Ryanair are refusing to apologise for an advert which shows a “provocative” model dressed in school uniform on the grounds that this is “censorship”.BBC ARTICLE

This is an interesting moment because I am a big fan of sexual openness and expressive freedom, but I can hear the fnaar! fnaar! of popular protest resounding loudly up and down our prurient land, as people jump on the non-PC bandwagon to defend Ryanair’s right to use the image.

It will be nigh on impossible to have a measured debate about this – in tabloid Britain, we either snigger or scream when it comes to sex. Rational discussion of the issues is rarely an option. I remember left wing MP Clare Short once wanted to ban Page 3 of the Sun newspaper, with its time-honoured bare-breasted working man’s titillation, and how viciously she was derided for being an ugly and unattractive killjoy with no attention to her socio-political argument at all. She was victimised along traditional male lines even by women – but that should not surprise us, after all, look at Thatcher – for daring to question the traditional view. Yet, this tradition sustains perfidious prejudice and ongoing female disenfranchisement.

We decry the national lack of success in prosecuting for rape, yet we defend the continual objectification of ever younger women without conceding that they are intimately, causally related. More and more cases of long term systematic abuse of women (and children) come to light, yet we do not make the connection between this widespread behaviour and our ingrained and hardened attitudes towards women as sexual commodities. This is a massive failure of thinking on the part of our culture, and our nation.

My view is that this is a human rights issue, and the way to show that is to translate the image from sex to race. In racial politics, over 200 years, the arguments have been won. Even Australia is finally apologising for the appalling treatment of its Aborginal inhabitants. If this image used ethnicity to illustrate “HOTTEST” in a similarly seaside cartoon fashion, using a native black women with, say, a bone through her nose, it would never have got past the ad agency drawing board.

We cannot legislate for respect, but we can show it, and we can demonstrate it to our children. I say, ban the advert, and kick reactionary Ryanair into the 21st century.

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This thing has 4 Comments

  1. charlieh
    Posted 30 January, 2008 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

    That was an excellent blog entry to the point where you demanded that the advert should be banned. Simply because people disapprove of something doesn’t give anyone the right to ban it. We live in a free society, and that should be celebrated – something that we all too frequently forget.

    We also live in a society with a market economy. We should get rid of such adverts but through the market. If people don’t buy Ryanair flights because of the sexism in this advert then they’ll get the message.

    But the problem is much deeper than simply the controversy over one advert. It seems to me that women are willing participants in their own objectification. As a student I know all too well that when women go for a night out they often dress really sluttily, even the classy ones. This hardly encourages men to think of them as real people. Furthermore, women, like men, do consume hip-hop which promotes a highly sexually aggressive attitude towards women.

    If we’re going to have a less sexist society, it needs women to stand up and demand an end to such misogyny and objectification.

  2. Deek Deekster
    Posted 30 January, 2008 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

    That was an excellent comment to the point where you objected to my call to have the advert banned 🙂

    I believe that so-called “free markets” should not operate unrestrained and rule our culture; rather, we should sensibly regulate commercial activity to ensure the liberty and rights of all sections of the community. Which probably makes me an old fashioned lefty – but I’m happy with that, and so would be my grandfather, who with my grandmother took part in the violent struggle to get women the vote.

    But, thanks for your comment, it enlarges the debate, and I welcome that.

  3. Ina
    Posted 31 January, 2008 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    I wonder how people would feel if they put a half dressed teenage boy in the picture instead of a girl?
    Alright women are the fairer sex whatever.I think that there are more important things in the world to worry about but I find the ad offensive.Its an attitude that permeates society however and its not easy to undo.Women still get paid less.

    Ryanair are a crappy airline with a crappy budget for their marketing and it shows.Michael O’ Leary probably hand picked the ad himself.Cheap, cheap, cheap.

    Things like this eventually lead to them being accepted as the norm and unrealistic expectaions…

  4. charlieh
    Posted 1 February, 2008 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    To be fair, there’s a whole load of issues at stake here such as the portrayal of women and probably even whether pornography should be allowed.

    I think the reaction if they put a picture of a half-dressed teenage boy on the ad would show the problem in society. I don’t think there would be a reaction at all.

    Although I dont think it should have been banned, I think Ryanair’s justification for publishing the advert, that the girl’s attire was representative of today’s fashions, was probably one of the worst I’ve ever heard!

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