Monday, 27 May 2013

When snacks attack

Pot Noodle has launched a charming advertising campaign called 'Peel the Top off a Hottie'. This is a pun on 'hottie' as in attractive young woman and spicy Pot Noodle, and 'peel the top' as in rip clothing off or remove lid of aforementioned revolting snack. I felt I should explain.

Just in case you're not sure, the delightful marketeers have arranged a couple of flesh-coloured Pot Noodle lids to look like a pair of breasts. And if you're still unsure there's generally a well-endowed babe lurking nearby in a skin-tight explanatory T-shirt.

Although the aim of the campaign is to encourage people to dip into a new brand of Pot Noodle, the choice of imagery does suggest that approaching attractive women and attempting to remove their clothing might be a reasonable, or at least desirable pastime.


Boobs on the road

Pot Noodle appear to have been running a roadshow, in which they take two oversized Pot Noodle containers to town centres, and an attractive, large-breasted young woman emerges from each one.

The brand has, as you'd expect, received some criticism for the campaign. In response (I think) they have in some places had an attractive young man coming out of one of the pots, and in one case, men dressed as women, in a Rugby-club-lads-go-out-on-the-town-in-blond-wigs kind of a way. So as well as objectification you can add mocking transsexuality to their sins.

Is it just a bit of fun?

Am I being mean to the marketing people who are just trying to shift a few more nasty snacks?

I don't think so. Let's be clear: it's not the worst thing in the world. The Pot Noodle people are not actually encouraging men to assault women. Nor can we hold them responsible for domestic violence, female genital mutilation or reinforcing the glass ceiling. In the war over equality, they're hardly one of the worst offenders.

But this kind of thing just makes me weary. Can we not just move on from seeing women as no more than the sum of their sexual parts?

On the one hand I feel a little 'live and let live' about objectification: we're all sexual beings and it's natural that  we find the body parts that emphasise our sexual difference attractive. It's OK to have a little bit of fun with that - with men and women. It's fine that we fancy each other.

But I'm fed up with being part of a group in which our physical attributes always come first. Historically, women were baby-making machines - daughters came into the world to be married off and produce more sons. Surely society has moved on from this, and we should be able to value all aspects of  women - their bodies, their brains, and the contributions they make to the world?

Shouldn't we be seen as more than a pair of tits by now?

Sunday, 19 May 2013

It's all about the money

Winston Churchill by J. Russell & Sons
[Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Last month it was announced that Winston Churchill will feature on the new £5 notes, to be issued in 2016.

This is fine in itself – Churchill was an important political figure. The problem is that Winston will be deposing the social reformer Elizabeth Fry, who appears on our current £5 notes and is the only woman represented. She and Florence Nightingale are, I think, the only two women who have ever featured on our currency.

Missed out - again

Centuries of inequality mean that fewer women than men have been in positions to achieve greatness. So of the four sterling banknotes (£5, £10, £20, £50), we might reasonably expect two or three of these to be occupied by male faces.

But to have no women at all is disrespectful, and hardly supportive to women and girls, who when they hand over their cash receive yet another reminder of women’s lack of representation in our past and present.

Of course there is one woman who appears on all of our currency – dear old Lizzie. I’m fine with that (she must be relieved!), but she is there because she was born to be, not because of anything she has done.

Can't we have some women of merit?

Is there really such a shortage of significant women?

Great women

Women may have been underrepresented in all areas of power in the past, but that does not mean that there have not been great women, who have made a huge contribution to the world they lived in. Because they were women, and so seen as inferior to men, it is all the more remarkable that they were able to achieve what they did.

Here are a few high-achieving women who might deserve a place on our bank notes – there are plenty of others:
  • Emmeline Pankhurst 
  • Octavia Hill 
  • Jane Austen 
  • The Bronte sisters 
  • Margaret Thatcher 

Incidentally, it's slightly galling that Churchill, who is deposing Elizabeth Fry from the £5 note, actually opposed women's suffrage. Not to do down his achievements, but it seems a sad irony that 100 years after he actively opposed votes for women and 50 years after his death, he's still able to put us in the shade.

Give us some women!

All of the men featured on our banknotes were important achievers, who deserve their hard-won places in our historical record. But, dear Bank of England, please put some women in there too!

Our currency is an important symbol of what our country stands for, and we women will be using it just as much as men, so it would be nice to see someone from our own sex represented.