OPINIONS LAST UPDATED : 17 MAY 2016
University academics and feminists have shared their outrage at a poster campaign which has appeared in the centre of Birmingham, accusing the marketing materials of perpetuating sexual harassment.
The up-close images of a female's bottom used by Marco Pierre White's Chophouse restaurant at Hotel La Tour to promote their refurbishment is extremely damaging and sexist, argue Dr Charlotte Barlow, lecturer in Criminology at Birmingham City University’s School of Social Sciences; Dr Gemma Commane, lecturer in Media and Communication and Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas, research fellow at Birmingham City University.
Text featured on the posters outside of Hotel La Tour read, “We’re getting ready to reveal our fabulous new rear..! (entrance)… Pert and perfect by June.”
“Campaigns like this arguably perpetuate street harassment and sexual harassment”, added Dr Barlow. “Street harassment is a daily reality for many women and this objectification of women's bodies reinforces the idea that this is acceptable, when such behaviour should not be tolerated and rather viewed as part of a wider continuum of sexual harassment and 'everyday sexism'.”
“I recognise that there is also a male 'rear' that is featured as part of the campaign, but as there is only one such image and four images of women, the sexualisation of the female body is clearly the key focus of this campaign.”
Birmingham City University recently hosted a week of events to mark International Women’s Day, organised by Dr Charlotte Barlow, raising awareness of gender inequality and celebrating the achievements of women.
The posters have led many angered academics to vent their outrage on Twitter, with comments including “It is #EverydaySexism plastered on the street”, “Oh great! We’re back in the 1970s” and “Totally disgusting.”
Dr Gemma Commane, a lecturer at the University's School of Media, said: "The plastering of sexist images like this in the street - in the guise of ‘light-hearted’ humour - is damaging and it is oppressive. Sexism is a real and everyday problem, and this problem needs to be confronted by all genders.
"These images paint a very clear message that women are meat and ‘available’. They also comment on intuitional problems, where sexist thoughts and actions support inequality. The archaic attitudes that are perpetuated by the posters are part of a larger context, where sexist oppression affects the everyday realities of people. This needs to be stamped out."
Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas added: "The reliance on a sexualised, depersonalised image of a young woman for commercial gain is unfortunately not unusual, but is surely evidence of a lazy and dated 'creative mind' at work. Just as importantly, the advert lies directly in the path of thousands of young people en route to and from the City’s education quarter, as well as the staff that work with them.
"Even if our more progressive social climate has passed the Marco Pierre White eatery by, this public sanctioning of explicit sexual imagery and innuendo shows a complete disregard for its neighbours.”
Kate works as a Research Fellow and Project Manager at Birmingham City University, where she is helping the institution work towards an Athena SWAN accreditation, which recognises commitment to advancing the careers of women in higher education.