The Sexist

Sexist E-Mail: So, Why Are Your Ads So Sexist?

srsly-ad

In an e-mail last week, Sexist reader Ari Sahagun wrote in objecting to some "incongruous" advertising accompanying a Sexist blog post. She writes:

So I was reading some articles in The Sexist blog; mostly about feminism, women's rights, women's issues, etc.  I came to this page, where I was shown an ad about weight loss with a skinny, busty, blond woman in a bikini.  I'm attaching a screenshot for your reference [it's above -ed].

Can you, writers and hosts of a feminist blog, create a healthy space for feminist discussion, or must our entire lives be littered with this unhealthy imagery of women?

Good question! The short answer, unfortunately, is: No, I can't create a safe space here free from the encroachment of busty advertising. But I can write at length about my thoughts on that busty advertising! Below, a more involved rumination on sexist ads on a feminist Web site:

At the Washington City Paper, the newspaper that employs me and hosts this blog, the editorial and advertising ends of the paper are completely separate operations. The two sections of the paper are so uninvolved with one another that I generally have no idea who advertises in the paper; I simply pay no attention to it.

In many ways, this is a very good thing. Because the ads have nothing to do with my job, I can write about any subject I like in any way I like without fear of offending an advertiser. And if I do offend an advertiser, I don't care.  Last year, for example, I wrote a long story that took a critical eye to Catholic University's student sex ban. At that time, Catholic U. had a healthy advertising contract with the paper—a contract that was severed when my story hit, the university immediately ceased advertising in the newspaper, and  all copies of the City Paper were removed from its campus.

The busty dieting ad is far from the most problematic ad you'll find in this paper. After I wrote a blog post mocking local prostitution enthusiasts, one so-called prostitution "monger" informed me in the comments section that he had "found out about [several] massage parlors from their ads in the City Paper, and I have paid for sex with several prostitutes whom I found through their advertisements in the City Paper." If I cared about who advertised in the paper, I would have to determine that, because my salary is paid by these ads, it is in my self-interest to encourage support for massage parlors that offer "happy endings," and not write blog posts mocking people who frequent them. Thankfully, I don't care, so the mockery stands.

What does the City Paper's advertising department think of my blatant disregard for the advertisers who pay my salary? I don't know, because I don't care enough to ask, but I do know that no one has ever approached me and asked me to print something positive about an advertiser, or to not print something negative about an advertiser. And I afford our advertising department the same professional courtesy: I don't take issue with the ads they decide to book. And so, when an advertisement appears next to my blog which tells readers to "Learn the FREE tip discovered by a mom to turn their flats into a sexy body that they dreamed of," I have a lot of personal reactions to that ad. Like, how does a "mom" have "their" flats? Who are "they"? What are "flats"? Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that this tip is not truly free? I might even deem the ad enough of a train wreck of misogyny and copy editing to warrant commentary on my blog. What I won't do is go down to our advertising department and ask them to remove it.

Our advertising department does have its own internal standards that it uses to determine which ads are acceptable and which ones aren't. Again, I don't generally concern myself with those standards, but City Paper managing editor Andrew Beaujon did unearth some of the paper's classifieds guidelines last year: "In a City Paper ad, says [Classifieds director Heather] McAndrews, you can't post a photo of genitalia or penetration. 'Nipples are kind of on a fence,' she says." That being said: If you, as readers and potential consumers of the products advertised on our Web site, are ever turned off by any of the ads here, please contact our advertising department and let them know. I'm sure they'll be happy to hear your concerns.

  • http://rickmangus@aol.com Rick Mangus

    Hey!, Ari Sahagun get a life, maybe the models in those ads should wear a 'berka' would that be fine with you, moron!

  • Tango

    I always assumed it was Google Ads shenanigans the likes of which you usually see on political blogs. I kind of love those, because they're supposed to provide ads based on what's on the blog but they always get it wrong; during the 2008 election conservative blogs kept getting covered in Obama ads.

  • http://www.womanist-musings.com/ Renee

    I have to say I am getting tired of all these charges regarding advertising. Really do people realize that feminists/womanists need to eat as well. I think part of the problem is that people don't realize the work that goes into writing. To write and maintain a blog not only takes talent it takes diligent work and to throw it in there as just one more thing women are expected to do for free is ridiculous.

    No one says you have to look at the ads. The idea that feminists/womanists writers need to restrict their advertising is to limit income. Don't women already have enough limitations without creating artificial barriers.

  • Nikki

    CP Sales doesn't sell those ads about diets! Those are served in the remnant inventory that is available on our site because we don't have enough local ads to book up 100% of our ad inventory. The reason ads with "loose weight now!" content come through is because our readers apparently over index in the diet ads' target customer. That is how these ads get served and that is how the digital ad network targeting stuff works too, Pat or David can tell you all about it. The local ads we have running fall mostly in the theater, food, real estate, film, furniture and self defense categories.

  • wowwee

    ..."unheathy"?

    sorry, if that's "unhealthy" I'll be happy to nurse her back to health at my private spa :)

  • Kristine

    I admit, I had been wondering the same thing. But you have answered the question perfectly, so thanks. :-)

  • je di

    When Walmart was trying to build another store in Austin & they took out a huge ad in the Chronicle. The editor got inundated w/letters from upset readers claiming hypocrisy. The editor wrote a column in the next week's paper saying if Walmart wanted to fund the paper railing against Walmart then they're more than welcome to. On the net I turn off media; therefore, I don't see the ad just the word "advertisement." So this never bothers me but I do get irked when I see a Walmart ad on PBS. I just have to remind myself that, like with Amanda, the journalists *I* trust won't compromise their integrity for ad revenue. So let Magic-Diet inc. pay for an ad in a place that most readers will know better to believe in the BS they're peddling. Having said that, I know there are ppl that'll sell their soul to the highest bidder so I take everything I read and hear w/ a grain of salt. I think the key here is if the writer is endorsing the product, which Amanda clearly isn't. Thank you, Ari, you brought up a good point.-j

  • Dawn.

    I have to say I am getting tired of all these charges regarding advertising. Really do people realize that feminists/womanists need to eat as well. I think part of the problem is that people don’t realize the work that goes into writing. To write and maintain a blog not only takes talent it takes diligent work and to throw it in there as just one more thing women are expected to do for free is ridiculous.

    No one says you have to look at the ads. The idea that feminists/womanists writers need to restrict their advertising is to limit income. Don’t women already have enough limitations without creating artificial barriers.

    Renee - this is what I was going to say, but you said it so much better.

  • Ophelia

    I think the ads are almost kind of a good thing...almost kind of, hee hee--sorry, easily distractable...because seeing the picture of the objectified, infantalized, victimized, and over-sexualized woman selling beer--just a random example, I don't know if that ad has ever actually been on this site--really reinforces the point of a blog post that rails at our society for objectifying, infantalizing, victimizing and over-sexualized women to sell beer. Even if the ad doesn't directly connect to the post, it acts as a reminder that all this activism and feminism and empowerment and stuffsies like that are actually still necessary and we're not just third-wavey man-hating bra-burners who can't see that we've already won and just have to keep fighting--we really actually do have a valid point.

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