Regarding Anastasia Ashley’s Thick Burgers
This started off as an angry response to an Inertia post. It then became a remorseful remark on my own misconceptions. And finally here it is, just an opinion on why advertising burgers in a bikini is not what I, or others necessarily think it is.
First, I want to advocate for women advertising burgers. There is evidence to suggest that women are sexualised and shamed with food. The act of putting food in our mouths has even been filmed without consent and put on websites. Women are constantly controlled with food- we are shamed, we are exhorted to diet, we are told that we find joy in salads. It is not in the least surprising that we are used to sexualise food. We are used to sexualise anything, and in the process, we are controlled and dehumanised to the point where people think the burger is the problem, not the blatant sexism of the advertising. Go ahead, advertise the burger. At least we don’t have to pretend we enjoy salads:
Burgers are just a food item. Maybe we can’t eat them all the time. Sadly, there are myths prevalent in society around obesity that cause more harm than good and mainly those myths centre on the idea of ‘calories in, calories out.’ There is strong evidence to suggest that reasons for obesity are more complex. If food choice and exercise, such as surfing, was the sole issue iI doubt it would be such a problem. Obesity and its health issues are actually exacerbated by the fat shaming, eat less/exercise more ethos promoted by the fitness industry (an industry found to be incredibly ineffective at helping the very people it is supposedly keen to serve.)
This leads to my next point. The “Surf Industry” such as magazines, the ASP and clothing outlets, have consciously chosen surfing to present a ‘fit, healthy’ lifestyle in order to promote their brands as fitting that ideal. This is why you will find alcohol brands aligning themselves with the ASP competitions- because they want the youth market that surfing appeals to, and they want to be considered healthy rather than a rampant cause of harmful societal problems.
Surfing is then sold as ‘sexy’, and surfers like Anastasia Ashley are in demand to promote ‘thin, beautiful, fit’ ideals even when advertising a burger. It is a juxtaposition, and it is blatantly using sex to sell which has been proven NOT to work. Sex sells is a very persistent myth, and the fact that it isn’t challenged at all goes a long way to explaining why we continue to see this happening. (Please check out Cori Schumacher‘s blog for further reference.) Please don’t be offended by Anastasia Ashley wearing a bikini to promote a burger. Please do be offended that this advertising is still considered legitimate in the face of contradictory evidence.
When I first wrote about this advertisement I took the position that the current surf industry is hypersexualising women and the individual women themselves are not to be blamed for this situation. Putting it simply, the industry is misogynistic and then women are blamed for responding to that pressure, rather than examining the pressures and circumstances that both lead to and encourage it. For example Stab Magazine and this excellent article, where models have been described as crying in shoots. Many women follow this path because that is the industry and fighting it isn’t necessarily easy. I can’t say I’ve enjoyed constantly fighting everything and it hasn’t really got me what I wanted.
What I failed to mention or acknowledge is that there is a problem around this approach: women who choose to do this anyway are not necessarily contributing to inequality because feminism embraces sexuality. Some women subvert the hypersexualising process, mocking the idea that men require them to be modest or restrained, and flaunting what they’ve got regardless. It’s not as simple as putting clothes on and refusing to be photographed in that fashion.
What needs to change is our reaction to these situations. What I’ve seen on Twitter and online is a bunch of people behaving in a way that is demeaning towards women who are sexy. People, both men and women, behave disrespectfully towards a woman in a vulnerable sexy outfit. They think she deserves to be treated that way because she is agreeing to be posed in that fashion.
This attitude is referred to as contributing to ‘rape culture’, where aggressive or inappropriate statements towards women are justified by what the woman is wearing or how she is portrayed, rather than holding the perpetrator responsible.
Check out that poster. It turns around our common culture of telling women how to avoid rape. That’s what rape culture means- that women are to blame for their poor treatment. If we look into violence against women it is clear that actually it doesn’t matter what women wear or do- abusive behaviour is the responsibility of the perpetrator, not the victim.
Now we get to the bit about why rape culture and the attitudes that contribute to it, is part of this: sending a creepy note to Anastasia about how you’d like her as a happy meal is not justified. Nor is being a creepy Facebook commentator about how you’d hit it. Yes, we get that it’s sexy. Yes, she’s in a bikini but that’s not your invitation to hit it. She may be dressed in a bathing suit but how about you learn to look beyond what she wears to who she really is? How about we all learn to do that? How about we all learn that in spite of advertising, we are all human beings? Or just continue being a douchebag thinking you’re edgy for perpetuating the stupidity- trust me, it’s not the women who look bad while you’re doing it.
We, the status quo, accept the culture that abuses and denigrates women. We hold women responsible for inequality and we hold women responsible for fighting for their rights. We tell women they’re to blame for accepting this, for being complicit, for looking that way, for not producing ‘facts‘, for speaking out of place or for not saying no. This isn’t a women only problem, but a problem of society, and of humanity. We do this not just to women, but to ethnic minorities, to cultures we don’t value, to people and religions we don’t understand.
We are the problem, not the burgers, not the advertising, not the rampant inequalities of the surf industry, but the way in which we respond to it. How can we do better? How can we buck the system when we continue to operate within its paradigms?