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Ending the Hurf Durf
July 20, 2010 7:40 PM   Subscribe

About-Face aims to provide women and girls with skills to critically examine media messages that affect their positive self-image. Their website is a one-stop shop for simple, direct, teen-friendly educational materials about female self-esteem and body image.

Some highlights:
The Gallery of Winners, which collects positive media messages around female self-image, and The Gallery of Offenders, which contains examples of negative media messages. Most have "questions to consider," which could be starting points for discussion of media with teens.

A fact sheet that presents obesity as a complex issue, tied but not equivalent to health problems, and marketed by the media in a way that promotes body dissatisfaction and stigma.

A blog geared towards discussion of entertainment consumed by teens and young women, such as ABC's Huge and Twilight.

A list of ways for women to make changes to improve their self-esteem and empower themselves.

Resources for parents and teachers, including parenting techniques that foster the development of positive self-image and aim to prevent disordered eating.

Previous posts about portrayal of women in the media on Metafilter
posted by emilyd22222 (65 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
I was really happy about this website until I discovered that ads with women in bikinis are top 10s if they call men pigs.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 8:07 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm still pretty happy about this website. That said, the Jamie Foxx video in their Top Ten Worst Offenders category was a revelation to me. Not because of it's god-awful song or worse message, but because Hype Williams made about the most generic and forgettable video imaginable, and then spiced it up with an inexplicable panda head, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gylenhaal, Forrest Whiticker, Quincey Jones and... Ron Howard.

Ron "Opie" Howard strutting out of a limo like a gangsta and then sipping champagne in a red-hot club while anonymous women are getting their freak on with him - played without a hint of irony - well... it's definitely enough to make it into the top ten list of things which are NOT GOOD for young women's development, but it's also something more mind-fuckingly bizarre than even David Lynch could come up with.
posted by Navelgazer at 8:22 PM on July 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


I was really happy about this website until I discovered that ads with women in bikinis are top 10s if they call men pigs.

I was surprised to see this ad too. The rest of the Top 10 was great (I love Sarah Haskins), but I've always taken issue with that ad. I get that the message is supposed to be that men who don't wear condoms are pigs, but I still find it really sexist. It seems like the message that actually gets across is that men are completely weak and unable to control their sexual urges. So, ladies, make sure you find a man who wears a condom! I think it's just as offensive as an ad that features women as slutty temptresses, and urges men to wear condoms, because who knows where she's been?

The rest of the site is great though. I'm still looking through it.
posted by lexicakes at 8:22 PM on July 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


How is Dove a winner? I can't figure out how to link it on my Touch, but Gawker or Jezebel unearthed a Craigslist posting that was looking for "real women" to come to a casting call without any flaws (something like no stretchmarks or scars, etc.).
posted by anniecat at 8:27 PM on July 20, 2010


Should your daughter sign the Dove Movement?
posted by avocet at 8:40 PM on July 20, 2010


Under their blog, their snarking on Pamela Anderson is sort of over the line. They seem to be just short of calling her a whore for being naked and that's not okay. she's just seeking attention? Um could it be because she got paid good money for it? Or is she guilty of doing it just for attention? Pretty mean for a "safe" place.
posted by anniecat at 8:44 PM on July 20, 2010


Under their blog, their snarking on Pamela Anderson is sort of over the line.

I agree that the tone of the blog is pretty snarky. And really, I don't have a problem with Pamela Anderson showing off her body in any way, especially if it's for a cause she's passionate about (even as much as I personally disagree with that cause). But I think the blogger's issue with the ad was less about Pam Anderson being half-naked, and more about her being marked up like a butcher's diagram, thus being compared to a piece of meat. That same post also links to this article in the Huffington Post about PETA's "Save the Whales" ad, which is really far more offensive than a half-naked Pamela Anderson. It does seem that PETA has a history of offensive advertising.
posted by lexicakes at 9:46 PM on July 20, 2010


anniecat, here's the Jezebel post.
posted by zinfandel at 10:47 PM on July 20, 2010


Hi -- I'm the director of About-Face and I'm so glad to see so many intelligent comments. Just wanted to address a couple of these comments to explain our intentions with the Pamela Anderson blog and the Trojan "Pigs" ad on our Gallery of Offenders. Not to be defensive, because I love it when people bring other viewpoints, but wanted to say *something*.

On Trojan "Pigs" ad: Yes, we are saying that we support the idea that men who won't or don't use condoms are pigs. BUT we are NOT into sexism against men in the least -- we want gender equality, which includes bringing men up, not taking them down. My interpretation of the ad is that Trojan is saying "good men use condoms" in a playful way, not "all men are pigs".

On Pamela Anderson PETA ad: We definitely think Pamela Anderson should do whatever she wants with her body (in doing so, she is playing into a system that profits off women's bodies, as any woman who lets herself be sexualized does). The problem is simply PETA's constant need to objectify women in the service of animal rights. I think their viewpoint should be "animals are mistreated, and women are also mistreated, so let's lift them both up." Instead they perpetuate this kind of tacky, harmful, disgusting sexism.

On the tone of our blog: snark and sarcasm is an awesome way to express anger articulately without seeming overly academic and serious. It works, and it's funny. I can see how that's distasteful to some people, but it's OK -- we can agree to disagree!

Those are About-Face's views... happy to continue the discussion if anyone wants to.

And BY THE WAY: About-Face isn't JUST a web site -- we're a nonprofit in San Francisco CA that also delivers media-literacy workshops to schools and teaches young women how to stand up for themselves and take action in their own ways.

-- Jennifer Berger
posted by jenjennijennifer at 11:19 AM on July 21, 2010 [13 favorites]


On Trojan "Pigs" ad: Yes, we are saying that we support the idea that men who won't or don't use condoms are pigs. BUT we are NOT into sexism against men in the least -- we want gender equality, which includes bringing men up, not taking them down. My interpretation of the ad is that Trojan is saying "good men use condoms" in a playful way, not "all men are pigs".

OK, so are you endorsing this as a non-bigoted way to talk about groups? "Most ____s are [unflattering animal]s -- except for the ones who don't [engage in some unsavory behavior that's stereotypical of the group] -- those are the good ones!"

Would this kind of statement be OK if it were directed at women? Or blacks? Or gays? Or Jews? Or Muslims? Or atheists? Or the elderly?

I find it hard to believe that any of those would not strike you (or most people here) as bigoted. And I'm surprised you don't think that ad is sexist against men. I think it's plainly sexist.

Now, maybe it's sexist in a way that will have an upside of convincing people to use condoms. That would be nice. But the sexism would be a steep price to pay, in my opinion.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:03 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jaltcoh - I don't see the sexism. It seems that the ad divides men into two categories - men who refuse to use condoms (compares them unflatteringly to pigs) and men who are willing to use condoms (compares them favorably to attractive men). That seems to be a division based on actions, not gender. There is an imbalance between women and men in this situation; it's anatomical. The most effective way to prevent the spread of STDs during intercourse is a condom. Women can't wear condoms. Thus, the ad is directed at men.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:08 PM on July 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


Salvor Hardin, you're not responding to my question. What would you think of that construction used against the groups I mentioned?
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:10 PM on July 21, 2010


They do appear to be positive about the Dove campaign. I am really divided about it. There's this (also in the link above), which is pretty terrific. Then there's this, which is not so great. Of course, as the avocet's link indicates, Dove is just one segment of a huge conglomerate.

Dove's campaign for real beauty and self-esteem projects just seem terribly cynical and gross to me. Dove makes money by selling me things to make me look or smell better. Before I will buy those things, it has to convince me that I look or smell bad. The "real beauty" thing is just their come on - another way identify with and to get me to buy their stuff.

See also: U by Kotex.
posted by jeoc at 6:14 PM on July 21, 2010


The most effective way to prevent the spread of STDs during intercourse is a condom. Women can't wear condoms. Thus, the ad is directed at men.

In any situation other than rape, it's going to be a mutual decision. Are the women who agree to sex without condoms pigs?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:18 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


OK, so are you endorsing this as a non-bigoted way to talk about groups? "Most ____s are [unflattering animal]s -- except for the ones who don't [engage in some unsavory behavior that's stereotypical of the group] -- those are the good ones!"

Would this kind of statement be OK if it were directed at women? Or blacks? Or gays? Or Jews? Or Muslims? Or atheists? Or the elderly?


I don't agree with the framing of your question; I think the equivalent comparison would go like this:

"Any ____ who engages in [behavior antithetical to other group's wellbeing] is a [unflattering animal]"

And yes, I would be fine with that. The problem with it is that there aren't any good comparisons. Muslims, Atheists, gays, blacks, etc are not distinguished from other people by anything that governs behavior. If Atheists had a giant spike on their head, then yes, it would be ok to say

"Any atheist who doesn't put a protector on his head-spike while having sex so they don't impale their partner is a pig"

That would be ok.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:19 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


I also don't understand this:
There is an imbalance between women and men in this situation; it's anatomical. The most effective way to prevent the spread of STDs during intercourse is a condom. Women can't wear condoms.
You're referring to protection as something "women can't" do. Sorry, that's just not accurate. Women and men have a role in deciding whether a condom is worn, even though it's the man who actually, physically wears the condom on his penis.

There are many things women can do about the situation. Women can talk about it with men. Women can buy the condoms, or pick them up for free at the many places that hand them out. Women can remind men to bring condoms. Women can even physically put the condom on the man. Women can refuse to have sex with a man who refuses to wear a condom.

I reject the "women can't" idea.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:21 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Now I shall undermine my previous point by linking to this entertaining video from the good folks at U by Kotex.
posted by jeoc at 6:22 PM on July 21, 2010


In any situation other than rape, it's going to be a mutual decision. Are the women who agree to sex without condoms pigs?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:18 PM on July 21 [+] [!]


That's a nice sentiment, but in practice, there is a significant power imbalance that you're ignoring. By the time the decision about putting on a condom is at hand, it's much harder for women to back out. It shouldn't be that way, but it often is.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:22 PM on July 21, 2010 [3 favorites]



I reject the "women can't" idea.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:21 PM on July 21 [+] [!]


I understand what you're saying, and you can reject that idea, but while you wave the flag of strong women, lots of women are being pressured into having sex without a condom. That's the problem this ad is trying to address.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:23 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]



That's a nice sentiment, but in practice, there is a significant power imbalance that you're ignoring. By the time the decision about putting on a condom is at hand, it's much harder for women to back out. It shouldn't be that way, but it often is.


If they refuse sex without the condom, and he does it anyway, it is rape. Can we assume the Trojan ad was not talking about rapists?
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:24 PM on July 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Any ____ who engages in [behavior antithetical to other group's wellbeing] is a [unflattering animal]"

Of course, you've changed my phrasing of it to eliminate the idea of stereotyping another group. I don't see why. Are you saying you don't think it's a stereotype that men are sex-crazed pigs who take advantage of women?

Or are you saying you just can't think of a common stereotype of those other groups I mentioned?

Surely you can think of one. OK, here's a common stereotype, for example: "Women are bad drivers." Now, try plugging it into my formula. It's pretty sexist, isn't it? In fact, it would be so viciously sexist that I don't even want to type it out.

But it's not saying ALL women are bad drivers! Well, that doesn't prevent it from being sexist.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:26 PM on July 21, 2010


it is rape. Can we assume the Trojan ad was not talking about rapists?

No?

If you aren't recognizing that there can be differing degrees of coercion during sex, then yes, a lot of men are rapists. I would prefer to consider men who pressure (while not physically force) women to have sex without condoms to be assholes, not rapists, but I'd be ok with either nomenclature.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:29 PM on July 21, 2010



Surely you can think of one. OK, here's a common stereotype, for example: "Women are bad drivers." Now, try plugging it into my formula. It's pretty sexist, isn't it? In fact, it would be so viciously sexist that I don't even want to type it out.

But it's not saying ALL women are bad drivers! Well, that doesn't prevent it from being sexist.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:26 PM on July 21 [+] [!]


If there was some physical reason that women in contrast to men needed to do something special to prevent car accidents, then no, that wouldn't be sexist. But that's stupid - women don't have some difference that makes them at risk for killing people in cars, and implying that they do IS sexist. On the other hand, men do in fact have penises, and they can in fact wear a condom on their penis to prevent the transmission of disease. Women can't do that. And yes, women can control whether or not sex occurs without condoms, but the situation isn't symmetrical - both parties can do the insisting, but only one of the parties can do the wearing.

I think I've said my piece - I don't want to start a war here.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 6:33 PM on July 21, 2010



If you aren't recognizing that there can be differing degrees of coercion during sex, then yes, a lot of men are rapists.


There is no level of coercion takes the agency to make a decision on condom or not away from the woman that is legal.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:41 PM on July 21, 2010


*that takes
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:41 PM on July 21, 2010


On Trojan "Pigs" ad: Yes, we are saying that we support the idea that men who won't or don't use condoms are pigs.

My problem with this statement is that there are a lot of reasons why a couple engaging in sexual activity might not use condoms, few of which have to do with sleaziness. There's a lot of nuance to intimate relationships, from one-night-stands to planned encounters to long-term partnerships. But not only does the ad's statement completely ignore any of those nuances, which I expect, your statement of support does so also, and that seems wrong. Yes, your statement is simple, yes it's direct, but is it educational to collapse what can be (saying "can be", not "always is") a decision with multiple correct answers into a binary formulation? Is it really ok to be yet another organization which dismisses complexity in favor of soundbites? Isn't that what you're supposed to be against?

My interpretation of the ad is that Trojan is saying "good men use condoms" in a playful way, not "all men are pigs".

Of course the Trojan ad is saying "good men use condoms". It's a Trojan ad, they sell condoms, that's their job. Your job is to teach young women how to critically examine media messages. How exactly are you doing that in this instance? Because what I see is your organization aligning fairly uncritically with Proctor and Gamble marketing.

You know, I get that your target audience is composed primarily of young women and that you may not want to confuse the issue in the face of rising STD rates, teen pregnancy, body ownership and image issues. I really do get that. But it's not ok by me to tell these sorts of "lies-to-children" in the hope that some other group will unpack the nuances later on down the road. And if that's not what you're hoping, if instead you really believe that there's no earthly way for a man to not use a condom without being a pig or for a woman to consent to condomless sex without letting herself be disrespected, then there's a few sex-education classes in San Francisco that I'd like to buy you admission to.

Ok, I'm done now. Welcome to MeFi, sorry to pick a fight with you, but you're wrong. There, now you have your first MeFi tagline too.
posted by Errant at 7:24 PM on July 21, 2010 [7 favorites]


to convince the men who might pay attention to it to take responsibility for themselves and use protection. While I'm certain that men who refuse to take such responsibility will take a massive - perhaps devastating and permanent - self-esteem hit from being compared to farm animals for their actions, I think it's still a worthy trade-off.

Seriously, what the fuck are we talking about here? There are ad campaigns aimed at women to make sure their partners use protection as well. This is important, and there's no real downside except apparently an intellectual issue with phantom reverse-sexism.

Can we drop this?
posted by Navelgazer at 7:39 PM on July 21, 2010


Had I seen an ad like that when I was a teenager, I might have realized my boyfriend was an asshole for pressuring me to have sex without a condom. I think the premise is imperfect, and I can understand why the comparison to pigs would offend some people. But I still kind of wish I'd seen it back then.

Great post! And I would have missed it if not for the MetaTalk thread sharing jenjennijennifer's arrival. Thanks for joining the conversation.
posted by juliplease at 7:58 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


"There is no level of coercion takes the agency to make a decision on condom or not away from the woman that is legal."

You're right, but that's because of the word "coercion." There's plenty of suassion that can be exerted and powerful social norms and implicit power imbalance in sexual relationships that do affect the condom decision. If you want to, you can make a strong argument that philosophically, it's rape—that's not far off from the popular interpretation of plenty of second-wave feminism writing.
posted by klangklangston at 8:36 PM on July 21, 2010


Check out the sociology of condomless sex among lower class women.

The basic theory that ok familiar with is this:

Women are encouraged or expected to attract and keep an honest, faithful man who will be a reliable provider.

Some men say, when asked to wear a condom, 'what, you don't trust me?'

And the woman thinks, 'well, maybe I don't. But if he thinks I don't, he'll leave. Or he'll tell people I don't trust him.'

Being left and having a man you can't trust are status markers that women do no want.

So in order to keep a man (even in situations where she doesn't even have him - he's married, he's inconsiderate in other ways, etc) many women will have condomless sex.

I give media awareness talks to college freshmen. I would address this ad if a student asked about it, but I don't think I would inure it in a powerpoint.

It doesn't address what I consider to be the root problem, which is a sense of agency in young women. I want all young women to feel comfortable setting boundaries and saying no. And I want every man to respect boundaries.

I want women to understand that the balance of power is currently unfair, but to see that they can take some power for themselves. And I want it to be safe for them to do that.

I want these things in male/male relationships too. A lot of my gay friends who bottom tell me that their partners/one night stands insist on sex without a condom.

The risks to people receiving penises without condoms are greater than the risks to people sticking their unwrapped penises into people. This is unlikely to change. Because of this cost benefit analysis, we've got a lot of work ahead of us.

I don't believe that name calling is going to be effective with enough men. I thing making accusations to a woman about her boyfriend are not likely to be effective either. Seriously, how many women dump their boyfriends because some stranger (or billboard) tells them they've landed a douche? Not many, because like above, you're questioning her judgment and her worthiness.

That's not empowering.
posted by bilabial at 10:04 PM on July 21, 2010 [11 favorites]


Such a load of stereotyping here. For one thing, believe it or not, there are actually women who don't like to use condoms also.
posted by msalt at 11:18 PM on July 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Seriously, what the fuck are we talking about here? There are ad campaigns aimed at women to make sure their partners use protection as well. This is important, and there's no real downside except apparently an intellectual issue with phantom reverse-sexism.

Reverse sexism isn't my problem, and for the record I did not invoke that "phantom" nor do I believe that it's actually possible. What the fuck I'm talking about is that condoms, while tremendously useful and certainly the best preventative measure for both STDs and unwanted pregnancy, are not the only option available to men or women who wish to reduce their risk of both or either. I expect condom ads to gloss over that fact, since their business is selling condoms. I do not expect non-profits engaged in the business of empowerment and consciousness-raising to gloss over the same with a glib "men who won't or don't use condoms are pigs". I would certainly expect that education about condom usage is crucial, but I would also expect the director of that educational organization devoted to unpacking media messaging to be able to discuss the subject with something approaching nuance.

The downside to this messaging is that it suggests there are no alternatives to condoms if one wants to be responsible, and it and it flat-out states that anyone who entertains the notion of such an alternative is either a pig if male or disrespecting her own body if female. Do you genuinely see no harm in that?

If About-Face's message causes young people and specifically women to attain a sense of authority over their own lives, that's a good outcome. If I try to divide 16 by 64 and arrive at the answer 1/4 by removing the 6 digit from both, I've arrived at the correct answer. Does that mean I did it right? Do the ends justify the means?
posted by Errant at 3:46 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


there are actually women who don't like to use condoms also.

Then they can substitute the contraceptive or STD-prevention method of their choice, and if their partner objects to it, he's a pig.

The ad is about women who don't want to get pregnant or get an STD from having sex, and is saying that men should respect that decision. There are many realistic situations that might mean that this ad doesn't apply - maybe she's on the pill, maybe they've both been tested, maybe she's actively trying to get pregnant, whatever. If the circumstances are different, then the ad is irrelevant because it's not about that situation.

This pedantry is missing the point. Bilabial brings up some real objections to it, based on whether or not it achieves its goals. It'd be good to see those points incorporated into About-Face's page on it. Either way, it's nice to see a representative in here to explain their thinking, and to see a group that's actually trying to make a difference in this area.
posted by harriet vane at 5:00 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


On the tone of our blog: snark and sarcasm is an awesome way to express anger articulately without seeming overly academic and serious. It works, and it's funny. I can see how that's distasteful to some people, but it's OK -- we can agree to disagree!

I think modeling for young girls that being snarky is a good way to express themselves just perpetuates girls being mean to each other. I know your blog post is supposed to focus on PETA, but what it really sounds like is that you are condemning Pamela Anderson for her choice of career and saying that she is attention-seeking and that's why she's undressed. You compare her to David Hasselhoff who is pretty much a joke. Some women have to take up careers like nude modeling or exotic dancing to support their families and themselves. And being sarcastic and using snark just lowers credibility because it makes you sound mean and angry instead of genuine. You're not going to sound academic just because you dissect what may be harmful about the ad in an earnest tone. But it frankly just sounds like you're picking on Pamela Anderson for using her body and looks to make money.
posted by anniecat at 6:36 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I see is your organization aligning fairly uncritically with Proctor and Gamble marketing.

I have to agree. Maybe P&G is a donor and that relationship is causing them to not critically inspect how and what they do. Does anyone have access to this org's tax filings describing their donors? They have a pretty large staff and I'm guessing they aren't all volunteers, but fully paid staff.
posted by anniecat at 6:47 AM on July 22, 2010


I'm not going to go through the trouble of looking into the About-Face 990s or GuideStar™ reports. As far as I can tell by looking at the bios supplied by the principals on the site, they seem to be caring, committed people who are trying to raise awareness and start discussions with women & men, but women & men still in the formative state, not the somewhat jaded MeFi crowd (self included). They don't take a critical look at P&G? No, and they don't take a critical look at Unilever, either. The nonprofity.com site linked by avocet takes a critical look at Unilever, makers of not only Dove, but Axe, and Pond's bleaching & whitening products. jenjennijennifer of About-Face talks about an awakening during her Communication Studies BA at U-M in the late 90s. (disclaimer: I am a Michigan State grad student.)

I look at this as a public awareness campaign that is trying to move the opening of that dialog down a few years to high school or even middle school. Not everyone has parents who tell their children from day one that advertisements are craftily made to argue a position--generally to by something--and that the programming that surrounds it is equally suspect.

Granted, that sort of home schooling can embed a curmudgeonly critical attitude, as when our then 3 year old asked why Fred Rogers wanted to be his neighbor, but overall we are pleased to have raised a couple of "question authority" sons.

I think overall their cause is worthwhile; those who are critics of their approach, and I count myself as one, can use their campaigns to extend the discussion they've brought forth with young women and men in the service of presenting more complex arguments about the Dove Campaign and the Trojan ads, etc. Those of you who remain critics but who do not have any platform by which to extend that discussion might want to consider to gyob as About Face has done.
posted by beelzbubba at 8:14 AM on July 22, 2010


There's nothing wrong with that Dove casting ad. They're looking for a certain type of woman. This thing is a cattle call as it is, so to put it out there that anyone can come on in and audition would be stupid. They want women with a little meat on their bones, no tattoos/large scars, and nice skin. This campaign is built around woman who fit a certain loose spec. They sell skin care products—the models should have nice skin! We do not yet live in the Harrison Bergeron universe.

Would you buy skin lotion from this spokesbeing?
posted by Mister_A at 8:50 AM on July 22, 2010


"I'm not going to go through the trouble of looking into the About-Face 990s or GuideStar™ reports."
I took the 2 minutes. The only information on Guidestar is the contact information. Nor are they listed on Charity Navigator.

"Those of you who remain critics but who do not have any platform by which to extend that discussion might want to consider to gyob as About Face has done."
Pre-emptive GYOB? Seriously? You mean I'm not allowed to question the motives of a charity that has opted to not provide, at no cost to themselves and potentilly to the benefit of themselves and their mission, financial disclosure? When I agree with their mission?

Bullshit.
posted by vapidave at 9:25 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


of women are being pressured into having sex without a condom.

I'm with Jaltcoh on this. The answer is teaching persons not to give in to the pressure and their own desires when it is not in their own best interests.

Which provides quicker and better results? Waiting around to change an entire culture via admonishment, or teaching persons to take positions which require others to change their behavior?

Nothing changes the behavior of others than one's refusal to put up with shit. Try Gandhi and King on that one. It is hard, but change is never easy. Never.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:29 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not going to go through the trouble of looking into the About-Face 990s or GuideStar™ reports.

I'll try to find stuff about them when I get home later. There must be something somewhere. I think it's really worthwhile. Otherwise, we're just blindly promoting a charity without even knowing how it's run. If emilyd22222 wanted to delve into the cause/issue at hand and get a bunch of unrelated sources (not just under the previous threads on Metafilter hyperlink) and not have unintentionally ended up promoting About Face, then I wouldn't be curious. But I don't think it's okay to say, oh, here's a website about this cause, isn't it great, let's learn only from them on the issue and not examine the motives of this source of information aside from what they're willing to disclose as their motives.

I mean, they want young women to be critical of the media, and I want people to examine what this organization is really promoting. Apparently, we're all just supposed to applaud and sit back and pat everyone at About Face on the back, because it's rude not to encourage "Good Work at Nonprofits" without seeing if it's even good or useful or successful. Maybe there's another nonprofit or media literacy curriculum that actually does a better job of this than About Face.
posted by anniecat at 10:43 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You mean I'm not allowed to question the motives of a charity that has opted to not provide, at no cost to themselves and potentilly to the benefit of themselves and their mission, financial disclosure?....Bullshit

If that's what you got out of what I said, vapiddave, then I apologize for miscommunication. I did not say that no one should question their motives, their actions, or finances. What I thought I said was that some people could use their site--or, as I and, I believe, hundreds of other educators do, use the primary sources to engage in conversations with young people about the motives of advertising, of self image; how ads, even PSAs have a point of view and people behind them. I have a platform to reach, teach, and talk with young people about these things. Many do not, but they have access to the internet and can construct their own platforms by which they may spread these ideas that can serve to interrupt the continuous bombardment of buying messages. I did not--and do not--mean to suggest an end to this discussion.

That said, the lack of information on GuideStar or Charity Navigator means...that there is no information on GuideStar or Charity Navigator. You won't find the nonprofit I work for on there either. Why they aren't on the 990 radar could be 100 reasons. I know why mine isn't and it stems from a lack of resources and time--I don't know why About-Face isn't, but what I got out of their bios told me what I think I need to know about their motives, and lack of 990 doesn't make me impute ill motivation.
posted by beelzbubba at 10:48 AM on July 22, 2010


You're right, but that's because of the word "coercion." There's plenty of suassion that can be exerted and powerful social norms and implicit power imbalance in sexual relationships that do affect the condom decision.

None of which take the final decision away from the woman, which is my point. Putting all the focus on men is stupid. Putting all the responsibility on the woman is orders of magnitude more stupid as well.

The clear message though, should be that birth control and STD prevention are the mutual responsibility of both partners, and no one should engage in unsafe sex. It takes two.

No matter how much someone persuaded you, you have made a serious mistake if you have unsafe sex and you can't push that responsibility onto your partner alone. Power imbalance is not an excuse to dispose of responsibility for yourself.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:03 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


When corporations sponsor a non-profit for charity, they are not shy about that fact.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:05 PM on July 22, 2010


I would prefer to consider men who pressure (while not physically force) women to have sex without condoms to be assholes, not rapists

I'm sure a lot of those rapists would, too. If a man pressures a woman into having sex, that means that she has to have said "no," at least once. I'm not sure how much more of a bright line you need. And yet, because your "preference" is the accepted norm, women would never report the situation as a crime, and would be laughed out of court if they did.
posted by tzikeh at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2010


My problem with the Dove campaign is that they are using a message of "all bodies are beautiful" to sell a product that alters your body to fit beauty norms.

The first Dove "real beauty" ad I can remember was for an anti-cellulite product. Cellulite is natural, normal, has no ill effects, and women have a 90% chance of developing it regardless of weight, exercise routine, etc. In short, the only problem with cellulite is it makes women look older/fatter, and being old/fat is a no-no.

So clearly, not all bodies are beautiful. Not bodies with wrinkles or cellulite or hair that doesn't bounce like Angelina's. How can you use a message of "all bodies are beautiful" to sell a "pro*age" beauty bar designed to make you not look aged (or should I say, not "dull" and "tired")? It's all about not "looking your age" which of course means there is something wrong with looking like an older woman (got to be young and "fresh"). Pro-age my butt. There are multiple levels of cynicism right there.
posted by Danila at 2:52 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've been an about-face fan for ages, even if I do think they're a little over the top at times (I would think that, I work in the evuuuhl advertising biz, leopard, spots, you know). Their site has been around for at least ten years, and I've often laughed at their sarcastic digs at my industry. A spoonful of sugar isn't always the best way to get the medicine go down.

I guess I just wanted to say thanks to Jennifer Berger, and the about-face people, and welcome to metafilter. There's popcorn here. Have some.
posted by dabitch at 2:54 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking about this all day (meaning, I've been thinking about About Face as an organization and their goals). I think one of the primary issues that is tripping us up (or at least tripping me up) is that they endorse any messages at all as "positive". Ultimately these messages are designed to sell us stuff. Whether they sell using a "positive" approach or a "negative" approach, the goal is for me to decide I have a problem and that their product could fix my problem.

Rather than trying to identify positive messages, we should focus on helping girls understand that all of these messages are designed to commodify their desires and feelings. Whether they do so with Adriana Lima or a "real" person is mostly immaterial.

The questions that About Face is asking alongside their "Best" and "Worst" are good, but I'd like to see them ditch the idea that there are "good" and "bad" messages altogether.
posted by jeoc at 3:03 PM on July 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fair enough beelzbubba. I guess I'm trying to ensure that as we build closer to this goal that we are careful that it is based on a foundation that will withstand.
posted by vapidave at 4:06 PM on July 22, 2010


Hi, me again. Representative of the organization you are questioning, choosing just a few points to answer:

We don't have a GuideStar report because we just became a nonprofit last year (we were fiscally sponsored previously -- look it up, it's legal) and our first 990 has not made it to the GuideStar site yet. As was stated, a lot of orgs aren't up there. Budget runs around $45,000/year, if we're lucky.

We have a staff of one (me) and everyone else is a volunteer or very low-paid contractor. We do what we do for love and because we know we're making social change, and none of us came from the nonprofit sector. Sad that anniecat has had so many bad experiences with nonprofits that she is making certain assumptions of About-Face.

We have seen results from our workshops showing that our approach is effective.

Yes, we work with kids as young as 13, so our critique (esp of a condom ad) won't be as nuanced as if we were arguing a point in a graduate-level sociology course. Forgive us. We've learned that we need to help make the message fairly simple. College level workshops are a definitely more nuanced situation.

The issue with "positive" ads, even though they're selling something, is totally valid. We talk to our students about that all the time. Advertising won't go away, and they won't stop manipulating our emotions to get us to buy a product. I know this situation is not ideal in general, it's realistic. So if they'll manipulate our emotions anyway, it's better if they get us to feel GOOD about ourselves instead of like we're not good enough, etc. etc.

I like honesty so that's why I'm responding. Commenters here can just ask me questions if you want. I just don't have a lot to prove. About-Face does awesome work and we work our butts off to do it.
posted by jenjennijennifer at 10:41 PM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh and good points about Dove Real Beauty Campaign.
posted by jenjennijennifer at 10:43 PM on July 22, 2010


Re: The Dove campaign.

yes, obviously, Dove sells skin creams, body washes, deodorants, Shampoo and all that buffing stuff.

So yes, they'll show off pretty women in these ads. But instead of settling for the current norm in advertising, which is a stick-figure tween, and then airbrushing the hell out of her, they choose 'real women'. Women who do not fit in the current landscape of what is supposed to be on billboards, very pretty women nevertheless. Of course they'll ask for pretty skin on their models when they sell skin-cream, or pretty hair for their shampoo ads, the point is they're not asking for "models" with pretty hair, but women with pretty hair.

The campaign has been controversial from the get-go. (Self-links ahead) For example the campaign with older women was banned, because they were nude, god forbid we see someone over 40 naked, and the firming lotion ads were accused of being "adverts for obesity" because the women weren't model-thin.

Yes, they're still creating an ideal to strive after (get prettier skin or hair with Dove), but at the same time they are re-adjusting what "pretty" is, just by the sheer volume that advertising has in our lives. Some say it's underhanded to play on women being tired of the perfect portrayal in advertising, just to sell some soap. I say it's nice that someone is fighting the impossibly perfect image with other images, and will note that the all female team that created the campaign and the adguys in Germany joined in doing underwear poses outside of their offices. From the perspective of one that airbrushed teenagers all day long, and then met a giant 'older woman' Dove poster on my commute home, I say the campaign is both hella refreshing and important as it actually is jarring to see someone not teenagers and perfectly airbrushed. That alone makes me love it.
posted by dabitch at 1:46 AM on July 23, 2010


Obviously Dove isn't calling for a radical divorce between the visual world and the world of meaning. Implicitly in the campaign there is a degree of caring for your appearance that is healthy and generally achievable, and our public norms of beauty should reflect this rather than the more extreme, less generally achievable norm that they tend to reflect.

Of course, whether Dove's parent Co. should be the party redefining this locus is a valid question. Maybe they should be open to models with tattoos or scars. But it's hardly the "gotcha" situation some people are presenting it as.

Or... what dabitch just said
posted by ~ at 5:06 AM on July 23, 2010


Dove's parent co Unilever won the Cannes Lions Advertiser Of The Year Award this year. Part of the win stems directly from the Dove evolution ad - but also fro the Magnum ads (which are seen as quite sexist here in Sweden), and the Axe campaign which I'm sure you are all familiar with.
posted by dabitch at 5:32 AM on July 23, 2010


Sad that anniecat has had so many bad experiences with nonprofits that she is making certain assumptions of About-Face.

One, I don't appreciate your dismissive tone. Two, statements like these don't help the credibility of your organization. I have worked for a number of nonprofits and just because they aren't perfect, it doesn't mean it's "bad" or they are bad. It means they are real, run by humans with real motivations -- not "bad" vs. "good" or making whatever assumptions you think I am making when I'm honestly just wondering where all the information is. For all anyone knows, naming Dove and other corps. "good" and "bad" could be part of a bigger marketing plan to solicit donations. That's fair game.

Obviously you of all people should realize that having a 501(c)(3) status doesn't give you or anyone else a free pass against scrutiny, and you ought to welcome it rather than being rude and condescending to me about it. You're the voice of your organization and just calling my experiences "bad", when they have all been informative, is really snarky, and snark does not play well in the long run. Neither does defensiveness.
posted by anniecat at 6:51 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"None of which take the final decision away from the woman, which is my point. Putting all the focus on men is stupid. Putting all the responsibility on the woman is orders of magnitude more stupid as well."

If the premise is that the final decision rests with the woman, that means that the responsibility rests with the woman, finally. Which means that ultimately, you are putting all the responsibility on the woman, which as you mentioned, is orders of magnitude more stupid than recognizing the complex private and social negotiations which go into sex.

The clear message though, should be that birth control and STD prevention are the mutual responsibility of both partners, and no one should engage in unsafe sex. It takes two.

Right. And while I'm not wild about the Trojan ad, the point is to shift the responsibility from solely the woman by lampooning those men who would abdicate their responsibility.

No matter how much someone persuaded you, you have made a serious mistake if you have unsafe sex and you can't push that responsibility onto your partner alone. Power imbalance is not an excuse to dispose of responsibility for yourself.

No one is saying that the decision rests solely with the man, however cultural norms and anatomical reality give the man a power to resist there that the woman simply does not have in this context. If both want to have sex, but the man wants to additionally have sex without a condom, you're still solely putting the responsibility to stop him on the woman by arguing against the premise of this ad, which seeks to undermine the cultural assumptions that relieve him of that responsibility. Which, again, you've already conceded is stupid. As is the overly simplistic argument that you've been advancing, one where sex without condoms is always a "serious mistake," without qualification.
posted by klangklangston at 8:06 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"One, I don't appreciate your dismissive tone. Two, statements like these don't help the credibility of your organization. I have worked for a number of nonprofits and just because they aren't perfect, it doesn't mean it's "bad" or they are bad. It means they are real, run by humans with real motivations -- not "bad" vs. "good" or making whatever assumptions you think I am making when I'm honestly just wondering where all the information is. For all anyone knows, naming Dove and other corps. "good" and "bad" could be part of a bigger marketing plan to solicit donations. That's fair game."

You don't appreciate her dismissive tone, yet have no compunctions against repeatedly introducing bad-faith motivations for her actions? And then you have the gall to complain about snark and defensiveness? Come off it, anniecat, you're the one reading like a defensive jerk.
posted by klangklangston at 8:09 AM on July 23, 2010


You don't appreciate her dismissive tone, yet have no compunctions against repeatedly introducing bad-faith motivations for her actions? And then you have the gall to complain about snark and defensiveness? Come off it, anniecat, you're the one reading like a defensive jerk.

I'm not the one who signed up for an account because I'm shilling for the goal of greater awareness of my nonprofit organization. Not that my goals weren't selfish. I signed up because I was interested in knowing how I could cook Indian food at my office using chickpeas, a microwave, V-8, cumin, and tabasco sauce.
posted by anniecat at 8:22 AM on July 23, 2010


Oh zap, klangklangston. Sigh. I see your point. What's the point of being all RAR anyway? Sorry, Jennifer. Good luck to you and your organization. I'll go pick on another organization.
posted by anniecat at 8:56 AM on July 23, 2010


Good! Lets not be all RAR, it's so exhausting and I'd rather learn if you did manage to make indian food using a microwave at the office.

Anyone else find it rather curious that when a campaign goes against the grain (Dove as an example) people invest a lot of time in pointing out its flaws (owned by Unilever who also pollute the airwaves with sexist Axe ads), instead of focusing on the positive (Dove does change the image of women in the media landscape today) and reward them for that (thereby encouraging change in other campaigns and quite possibly in all of Unilever's product universe). And here's one non-profit + website that discusses advertising images and their impact ads sans the tinfoil of Wilson Bryan Key, which must be immediately scrutinized for motives, message and choice of tone.

I can't express exactly, but it makes me really uncomfortable. I think it feels like it has shades of "shut up, woman" in it. YMMV.
posted by dabitch at 9:08 AM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


anniecat, I AM sorry that my tone came across to you as dismissive and condescending, but it wasn't intended that way. Tone is hard to read in written comments/email so I think you misinterpreted mine. I respect your experiences but it would be nice if you would also respect the productive conversation my organization is trying to create, shilling or no shilling.

To everyone else: I love the assessments of Unilever/Dove/Axe. It's something that has been brought up to us before in e-mails from site visitors, and I think we may just tackle it for a future blog post.
posted by jenjennijennifer at 11:02 AM on July 23, 2010


Anyone else find it rather curious that when a campaign goes against the grain (Dove as an example) people invest a lot of time in pointing out its flaws (owned by Unilever who also pollute the airwaves with sexist Axe ads), instead of focusing on the positive (Dove does change the image of women in the media landscape today) and reward them for that (thereby encouraging change in other campaigns and quite possibly in all of Unilever's product universe).

good point, dabitch. Isn't it nice that we can be critical thinkers, but sort of strange that it can go too far? There's a lot of questioning and criticism of orgs like mine in the foundation world too, which makes it hard to get funding to do good work that has pure motivations. Scrutiny is de rigeur so I'm not really surprised. Maybe disappointed, but not surprised.
posted by jenjennijennifer at 11:07 AM on July 23, 2010


It's the same thing you see with people attacking Obama for not being liberal enough -- while they let much worse stuff go by with Bush and other more conservative politicians. something about raising expectations backfiring
posted by msalt at 11:30 AM on July 23, 2010


anniecat, I AM sorry that my tone came across to you as dismissive and condescending, but it wasn't intended that way. Tone is hard to read in written comments/email so I think you misinterpreted mine. I respect your experiences but it would be nice if you would also respect the productive conversation my organization is trying to create, shilling or no shilling.

Thanks for this.
posted by anniecat at 12:41 PM on July 23, 2010


It is possible and can be useful to be critical of an organization whose mission you support in order to make it more effective. Constructive criticism and all that.
posted by vapidave at 6:53 PM on July 23, 2010


Yes, we work with kids as young as 13, so our critique (esp of a condom ad) won't be as nuanced as if we were arguing a point in a graduate-level sociology course.

I am very sorry that you believe anything more than a tagline and blanket condemnation is inappropriate below master's-level study. Good luck with your organization, I hope your outcomes continue to be good and that the educational value rises to match the purity of your intentions.
posted by Errant at 5:20 PM on July 25, 2010


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