By Anthony Barich
The self-regulated nature of the advertising industry is contributing to the sexualisation and commodification of young women and girls in the media, says Kids Free 2B Kids founder Julie Gale.
Ms Gale told Women’s Forum Australia’s Get Real forum at Government House last Friday that complaints regarding overly sexualised advertisements in suburbia, including one for a brothel near her son’s school, are too easily dismissed by the Advertising Standards Board.
The Australian Association of National Advertisers has a voluntary code of ethics for advertisers and the industry is self-regulated, “just like the cigarette industry used to be”.
Its advertising industry regulation system is managed through the Advertising Standards Bureau and is determined by the Advertising Standards Board and Advertising Claims Board.
The AANA’s Section 2.3 pertaining to sex and nudity says: “Advertisements shall treat sexuality and nudity with sensibility to the relevant audience and, where appropriate, the relevant time zone.”
However, Ms Gale, who started Kids Free 2B Kids as an organisation committed to children developing to their full potential without exposure to sexualised imagery before they are developmentally ready to process it, criticised the ASB for not having any provision for the impacts of the sexual objectification of women or children.
She said the children’s advertising codes are currently being reviewed.
Ms Gale made a cutting satirical statement about “three of the top feminist role models on the planet today” – the Pussycat Dolls, Playboy Bunnies and Bratz Dolls – by dressing in a tight miniskirt, leopard-skin top and bunny ears for her address.
She also exposed hypocrisy within the advertising industry, noting that while Dove has a “Real Women Self Esteem” campaign, it is owned by Unilever, which also owns Lynx, whose many ads are “sexually degrading and exploitative that border on pornographic”, where women turn into “sexual predators” when men spray on the deodorant.
In response to Ms Gale’s letter asking why Unilever spends millions of dollars “teaching young men and boys that women are sexual objects” promoting women’s self esteem while also running raunchy Lynx ads, Unilever’s Global Team sent a letter saying the ads are simply “irreverent and fun”.
Ms Gale noted that Girls’ magazines are also unregulated, and mainstream franchises contribute to the cultural malaise by promoting the overly sexualised products in clear view where young children are commonly taken.
She said Priceline sells Playboy makeup range, one called “Tie me to the bedpost”, and Coles have soft porn on the bottom shelf – Ralph, FHM and Zoo magazines – at children’s eye level.
Zoo’s front cover headline mentioned, “Sex school”. “Do we really need that when we’re getting the groceries?” Ms Gale said.
She said porn magazines are visible and for sale at petrol stations, 7-11s, newsagents and supermarkets with “extraordinary” titles like “Hot horny girls behaving badly, over 30 of our terrific teens; “Young live girls”; “Barely legal”.
“Do our children really need to be exposed to that?” she said.
“I encourage people to speak out. I go to the video store and ask them to put the adult entertainment away from the family entertainment, “and people generally will change things if you bring awareness to something that is not right.”