Last month I was invited to the IAA Frankfurt Motor Show. Renault was launching a complete range of electric cars and they were gathering various journalists to their bosom to help spread the message.
So I went and wandered around, picking up all sorts of bumpf on the Renault cars and various other eco and green transportation solutions.
Some were good. Renault’s in particular was impressive , and I’m not just saying that because they fed me free coffee and chocolate cheesecake.
However while there I became much more worried about something more deeply ecological than electric motors: women.
Sex sells. Nothing epitomises this more within the motor world than the Pirelli calendars, which seeks to put glamorous, half naked babes next to the Pirelli logo in the hope that some of the sex appeal of the former may rub off on the latter.
Nearly 18 months ago the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1820, which noted:
… women and girls are particularly targeted by the use of sexual violence, including as a tactic of war to humiliate, dominate, instill fear in, disperse and/or forcibly relocate civilian members of a community or ethnic group
Now, connecting “sex sells” marketing to sexual abuse is nothing new.
Nor is pointing out that military war between western countries has by and large been replaced by economic war: purchasing power is as much a mark of social dominance now as a shotgun or sword was a century ago or so.
So I’d like you to consider the following observations in light of the UN Resolution above:
Suzuki had girls (only girls) dressed in exercise gear jogging all day long next to their cars. “Perpetual energy”, or something simlar, was the tagline. I simply felt sorry for them, paid to keep their bodies jiggling.
Fiat, coming from the land of Silvio Berlusconi, went for the less subtle option and simply dressed their girls (only girls) as schoolgirls: complete with hats, school ties and hair in bunches. “Buy our car and get a pubescent girl” .. yeees.
Citroen tried something different, with women (only women) laden with big, bangly jewellery trying to be attractive in an avant-garde kind of way. Didn’t work for me, but hey who am I to criticise?
And someone, I think it was Maserati, just had to have the obligatory woman lounging in a not unattractive pose on the bonnet of their car.
Now come on. I’m not trying to peddle British reserve and prudishness. But it’s a simple observation that if the sale of cars relies wholly and exclusively upon draping them in a male fantasy then you’re exploiting one thing to sell another.
Cutting down women’s self-respect to sell cars is about as ethically correct as cutting down rainforests to supply McDonalds’ hamburgers.
However, it’s not just about cars. As a journalist I recently bought a new camera to let me snap pictures and earn a few pennies more from photographic rights in addition to the handful of coppers I get for print rights.
But blow be down if my Pentax K20D user info didn’t include an image of a beautiful woman posing behind the camera.
It’s very simple. How are we supposed to consider ecological sustainability when we cannot even treat our own race with respect?
It may sound like a broken record, but pretty well nothing has changed in the 50 years since the 1960s. As Mahatma Gandhi said:”Be the change you want to see”.
We’re only just starting to see the change; we’re only just starting to change ourselves. More personal effort required, please.