June 06, 2005

Pie fight

Over the weekend, both Daily Kos and Pandagon had sidebar ads that referenced a teevee commercial for TBS's Gilligan's Island (go to the dKos link and hit page down a time or two). In the teevee spot, 'Ginger' and 'Mary Ann' smear cream pies and then wash each other while wearing ridiculously skimpy clothing. If you have cable, you've probably seen the spot sometime over the last six weeks or so.

I wrote Jesse and Amanda an email

I have a problem with one of the sidebar ads; in particular, the 'pie fight' ad for TBS (I'm enclosing a cropped screen capture so you know what I'm talking about). While this ad itself isn't a problem, it doesn't make any sense without the teevee commercial it links to, which is, in my opinion, sexist, disgusting (in the particular way it's sexist), and stupid.
I don't know precisely how they work, but I'm guessing blogads has decided to put this in circulation on your site, so I don't blame your personally. Nor will I be driven away from the pandagony goodness if it's not removed. But I was quite surprised to see it, and thought I'd let you guys know what blogads is putting on your site.

Now, I don't think Pie Fight is all that bad; that's why I didn't threaten to leave if it wasn't removed. It's just a couple of shades worse than Baywatch, which really does make it more idiotic than objectifying, as far as I'm concerned. But it is still objectifying, and it's an open debate among feminists whether objectification is ever acceptable. Amanda, like me, is the sort of feminist who thinks this sort of thing is more juvenile than morally problematic:

Huh, that is pretty stupid. We don't vet our ads much, just check to make sure they aren't pro-Bush type stuff. I'm not sure why they advertised with us anyway. Still, I'm no stranger to the pull of the cold, hard cash. I've been meaning to write something on the gender stereotyping on reality TV shows, and maybe this would be a good occasion, a sort of prank on the BlogAd.

I didn't even realize they were advertising a TV show. Shows what I know.

I just checked, and the ad is still up on Pandagon. Kos has a slightly different reaction:

Feel free to be offended. I find such humorless, knee-jerk reactions, to be tedious at best, sanctimonious and arrogant at worst. I don't care for such sanctimony from Joe Lieberman, I don't care for it from anyone else. Some people find such content offensive. Some people find it arousing. Some people find it funny. To each his or her own.

But I am not Lieberman. I won't sit there and judge pop culture and act as gatekeeper to what I think is "appropriate", and what isn't.

And I certainly won't let the sanctimonious women's studies set play that role on this site. Feel free to be offended. Feel free to claim that I'm somehow abandoning "progressive principles" by running the ad. It's a free country. Feel free to storm off in a huff. Other deserving bloggers could use the patronage.[...]

Update: [...] I honestly didn't mean to smear anyone who has ever taken a women's studies course, or majored or minored or gotten an advance degree in it. Just what is, to me, a small, extremist set looking for signs of female subjugation under every rock. So yeah, a poor choice of words that cast the net far too wide to cover the people that have, in fact, pissed me off.

Sorry about that, but not sorry about my broader point -- that being sanctimonious about this ad is no different than the sanctimony we decry from people like Lieberman, Dobson, and the Family Values Coalition.

I'm noticing signs of anti-feminist hostility more and more on Kos: it's NARAL that should compromise and support anti-choice Dems; feminists (which, in his retracted smear, is the 'women's studies set') who have a problem with stupid, objectifying commercials are humorousless; it's sanctimonious to call for Kos to take a tasteless ad off his own site; sexism isn't important for progressives.

Kos could've written fifty words saying he didn't think the ad was all that bad, that if people didn't like it they shouldn't click on it and it would rotate off the site in 24 hours. Or been understanding that a significant part of his community has big problems with portrayals of women as sex objects and taken the ad down out of respect for his fellow Dems. This dismissive, stereotyping attack on feminists was completely inappropriate.

Obviously Kos has a right to his opinions and veto power over his BlogAds. He doesn't care about feminism, fine. He wants to leave the ad up, fine. But, as I explained in a previous post, marginalizing feminism as unimportant, sanctimonious, and humourless (and thereby marginalizing women) isn't going to help bring lefty types together into that powerful, unified voting bloc Kos is trying to bring about. I wonder how many feminist types have pushed Kos far down their list of regular reads because of this sort of shit from him.

Update: Echidne of the snakes weighs in.

In short, and in an effort to be polite, I suggest that Kos doesn't see the sexism around him. That's the only kind explanation I can give for his response, whether the particular ad is harmless or not (I didn't look).

Update 2: We've got our first trackback, so yay about that. This has erupted into a huge issue on the feminist blogosphere, so I thought I'd add some links to more active discussions: Pandagon and Feministe. And, deliberately echoing the women's rights movement, Democratic women's caucus, etc., a group of former Kossacks has split off to their own group blog (link from Pandagon).


MosBen said...

Now let me get this straight, did you start this debate on Kos and Pandagon? If so, why haven't our hits risen dramatically?! We should be getting credit!

Still, though I tend to agree with Kos, vis a vis the ad, he really was way out of line in the response and I do tend to agree that marginalizing various sects of the left really isn't going to help us win big elections. The Republicans haven't been winning by choosing either the moderates of the extremists, and the Dems aren't going to help themselves by doing so.

Amanda said...

Sorry I was dismissive of your initial concerns--I wasn't quite sure what I thought. After thinking about it after awhile, I think my post on the issue was clearer.