On sexist ads and skiing.

I’m writing this during the Super Bowl. No, I’m not watching. I never do, no matter who’s playing. Football just isn’t my thing. But I may have to break that rule if they continue to run commercials like the ones I’m going to mention below. Chalk it up to the Winter Games, chalk it up to the #metoo movement, but there are a number of ads that show women skiers as the powerful, exceptional athletes they are instead of just scantily clad sex objects with minimal athletic chops.

This is an outstanding development. For far too long, women have been depicted in ads like this:

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Or this:

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Unfortunately, Lange Boots has a long history of running these ads, and in all fairness, I think they’ve stopped. But it drove me nuts back in the day. I mean, I get it. People like to look at women’s bodies. They’re beautiful. But this isn’t about beauty. It’s about depicting women simply as sexual toys. And yes, I find that demeaning.

Sexist ads aren’t just from the dark ages. It wasn’t that long ago that Toyota ran this gem, implying that men are experts and women, well, they’re pretty much relegated to intermediate terrain:

Toyota

 

And recently Unofficial Networks, a popular ski website, posted this on Facebook with the caption ‘Best Ad Campaign Ever?’ The backlash was intense, and they ended up removing it pretty quickly. But it’s a sore reminder that this sort of attitude is still very much part of our culture:

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And if these ads weren’t bad enough, it’s even worse when they feature world class female athletes. Sorry, Julia Mancuso, I love you, but is this really necessary?

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Some people argue that this is an athlete’s prerogative; that they’ve worked hard to develop fantastic bodies, and it’s their right to profit from their efforts. After all, their time in the spotlight is so brief  that they might as well make money any way they can. And if they find it acceptable to pose in skimpy outfits, well, it’s legal and they’re adults and free to make their own choices.

All this is true. Nonetheless, I find if profoundly sad that they even find it necessary to do this at all. It’s demoralizing when a woman who’s an Olympic-level skier poses suggestively in an ad for ski gear. These are world class athletes who should be celebrated simply for their abilities — not because they’re posing with their butt hanging out of a thong and a suggestive look in their eyes. I think it objectifies them and diminishes their accomplishments. What’s more, I don’t think it does anything to sell to the women’s market — if that’s the intent — and only sexualizes them to men. I mean, I’d buy ski boots a lot quicker if I saw a woman using them to rip down the mountain, instead of posing half undressed.

All this brings me back to the Super Bowl, because there were some really great, inspiring ads that highlighted the strength, perseverance, and excellence of women skiers instead of how they look in a provocative pose.

So it’s with great pleasure that I present these commercials below. Let’s hope there are a lot more to come.



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