Quiksand: Disposing of Evidence

When news of Chad Wells’ resignation from Quiksilver broke (via Stab Magazine), some might be forgiven for thinking a sea change was occurring in the world of big surfing.

“We have taken immediate action in response to an inappropriate and hurtful comment posted by a Quiksilver employee on his personal Facebook page. The language contained in the post goes against our company and brand values and beliefs and is inconsistent with our long-standing policy of inclusiveness and dedication to supporting all athletes and fans. We do not stand for intolerance, and this employee is no longer with the company.”

That might be what Quiksilver says, but what is more telling is that their employee is no longer their concern, and therefore no longer able to demonstrate if, in fact, there was anything to learn from this “mistake”.

I say mistake  because his dismissal has prompted comments from friends concerned that his life and livelihood has suffered as a consequence of one comment ‘made in error’. If only Cori hadn’t let the world see this opinion, if only she hadn’t made a major Australian news site publish his opinion, if only people knew how amazing a person he is, if only she’d brought it up with him personally instead… If only.

If only everyone else had spoken up in the previous decades against homophobia and sexism, then perhaps those comments need never have been commonplace, let alone written, let alone read. Blame the rest of us for not standing up for human rights and decency all these years.

Chad is seen by many as an amazing person. There are many, many other just as amazing people who have suffered so much more over the years due to thoughtless and hurtful comments, behaviour that is validated by the silence of the rest of us. They have had to stand up, walk away, act like it doesn’t matter, ignore it… If you get nothing more from this, understand this. When we see someone behaving in a sexist or homophobic way; When we watch, and remain silent; When we give their actions power and validation simply by being there, we, then, are partly to blame for this.

Like it or not, the opinions shown by others in this affair are not rogue discrepancies to long standing policies of inclusiveness. Nor is Cori Schumacher the reason why the rest of mainstream media consider it worthy of public interest. One look at the Roxy Teaser lets you know quite clearly that there is one type of sexuality commercialised in surfing by Roxy and company, and it’s not immediately clear there’s a long-standing policy that’s inclusive. A half naked female disrobing with lingering shots on arse and skin? What’s your audience, again? Inclusive of gay and trans* lifestyles, is it? Is that ad for women?!

“Oh no, not the teaser!” you might say. “That’s so last week!”

And so it is. Except, even in the face of opposition, the teaser remains on the web, while Chad is gone. Somebody figure out for me if that’s ironic, moronic, or downright hypocritical. It’s probably just typical. Maybe it’s just business. For while the comment was homophobic, the ad spot is absolutely sexist. Even if they didn’t expect the reaction, even if they did have a part 2 with the real action in it, there are major concerns about how and why they took the approach they did. In kicking Chad to the kerb, and leaving the ad he defended on the web, the industry appears to be doing something, but is it? Chad has paid the price. What of the rest of us? What has the industry learned from it?

Even as a ‘raging feminist’, and I use the term loosely because frankly nobody is actually saying that about me; even as an outspoken nobody, I’ve had to do my homework to explain why the hell the ad isn’t working for me or other women. If you don’t feel like looking up “Difference between Objectification and Empowerment” (shortcut to an article that’s useful here) I’ll give you a crash course from the article linked: In a nutshell, Jessica Valenti wrote: “Selling a commercialized sexuality to women…as a way to be ‘liberated’ is pretty lame.” And that is exactly what Roxy did.

Remember, this whole debate kicked off with an ad/teaser many women considered offensive. They were debating the way a brand for women used sexy shots as a substitute for female empowerment. It was blatantly lazy sexist advertising. They were telling Roxy not to underestimate their audience’s intelligence.  They weren’t concerned with whether their sexuality appealed to men. 

The issue of sexuality arose precisely because the ad was commercialising it. Chad tried to defend it thinking he was defending female empowerment, and the way he did it revealed opinions often present and normalised in the industry. Anyone who has followed this on Twitter has seen more than their fair share of vitriolic sexist and homophobic rants arise because of it. That doesn’t speak of a long standing policy that doesn’t stand for intolerance.

Yes, the words in the press release seem to say all the right things. Actions speak louder than words and perhaps that’s why a resignation was the decision. But what is it that we’re missing? What is the change, and where is the evidence? What’s lurking beneath the surface?


One thought on “Quiksand: Disposing of Evidence

  1. Albeit to late but never to late, Chad sponsored a same sex marriage athlete with whom they had a great personal and working relationship on his Jr program. Just want to dismiss any “phobe” claims and likely a poor choice of words was his demise. Bummer-great guy all around.

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