I’m angry. No, that’s such an understatement it’s not even funny. I am teeth-grindingly and fist clenchingly furious. For the last five minutes I’ve tried to do other things, thinking that I mustn’t write this whilst my blood is roaring and my palms are sweating but I can’t do anything else. This has to come out now.
What has caused this rage? Something from the Daily Mail? Something said on Twitter in a thoughtless moment? No. It was this: WARNING: watching this may make you burst a blood vessel. EDIT: This video has thankfully been removed from the official channel, but someone else has it up so you can see what all the fuss was about. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g032MPrSjFA)
This is a video released by the European Commission as a “teaser” to a campaign designed to attract more women to careers in science.
Let me say that again: released by the European Commission. Not a beauty magazine, not a cosmetics company but a government organisation.
There are so many things wrong with this I simply don’t know where to start. Shall I talk about how the girls in the video are dressed in outfits designed to sexualise them? Shall I discuss the direction which so artfully opens the video with a man in lab coat (i.e. “dressed as a scientist”) using a microscope (i.e. “doing science”) being distracted by three girls with legs up to their elbows strutting in high heels. Shall I discuss what’s wrong with how they stand there all “aren’t I powerful in my sexual pose as I grind my stiletto heel into the ground” and dazzle the “scientist” with their huge sex appeal so much so he has to put his glasses on to admire them?
Seriously, my heart is racing with rage here. And that’s only the first seven seconds of this tripe.
Perhaps I could talk about splicing images of blusher powder, lipstick and chemistry equipment, the constant cuts to cute girls flashing eyes over sunglasses and twirling like they’re advertising bloody hair dye.
Or perhaps I could discuss the <sarcasm> extraordinary genius </sarcasm> of having the logo for this initiative written in lipstick.
I’m sorry but what the fuck is the message here? Science is just as exciting as make-up? Do science girls, don’t worry you will still be sexy enough to attract men? Don’t believe the stories that only ugly women have brains – look here’s the proof (not in the scientific sense of course)? Learn about all of that very clever stuff scientists made to make you look pretty?
I’d love to sit down with the team who came up with this and ask them what they were on when they brainstormed this. Perhaps it went something like this:
Ad person 1: Women and science… women and science… okay, we need to reassure girls they won’t turn into ugly spinsters if they put on a lab coat.
Ad person 2: We need to speak to modern girls here, what do girls like? How do we reach them?
Ad person 1: Pink. They love pink. And make-up. Yeah, let’s make this… aspirational, we’ll have cute girls being sexy AND images of scientific stuff. We’ll associate scientific stuff with being a sexy girl!
Ad person 2: Dude, you are a fucking genius. Girls will watch it and be desperate to do science.
Ad person 1: Let’s go look at the latest Maybelline ads for some inspiration, they’re full of the pretty young girls our target market want to be like.
I wish I had been there. Was a single woman involved in this project? I would happily eat my tea cup if any scientists – male or female – were shown this before it was released.
But this is just one weevil in the barrel of rotting biscuits
I’ve been getting angry a lot more recently. The portrayal of women in the mass media, the marketing of products to girls, the way women are addressed in advertising – there is a hell of a lot wrong with the bigger picture. The thing is, whilst I hate it, I see why advertisers are keen to make us obsessed with feeling like shit about ourselves; it sells more products.
What’s tragic is that the EC isn’t trying to sell make-up, it’s not even trying to sell a product. It’s trying to change behaviour by buying into the bullshit that has created the perceived problem. How silly of me to think that a government organisation could rise above that.
They can’t do it alone, it would take change on a massive scale, at all levels of society. You want to attract more girls to science? How about encouraging them to pursue their intellectual interests at an early age instead of bombarding them with the constant and consistent message that being popular and pretty is the most important thing to aspire to?
How about not making the basic assumption that if someone is a girl they like pink, like make-up and have the sole desire to attract a (handsome and rich) man?
When people ask why feminism is still (sadly) relevant all I need to do is show them this. So thank you European Commission for getting this so very, very wrong. You’ve summed up all that is broken about the way girls and women are portrayed in mass media in a handy 53 second long video, now at the centre of a social media car crash. Just a pity it’s the very opposite of the message you’re trying to get across.