hawk eyed feminism: free liberation for everyone!
Admittedly my piece this week could be deemed “so yesterday” (insert hair flick) but I feel there’s room for continued ranting. Last month, New Idea celebrated their 110th anniversary, launching an advertising campaign encompassing what they say has always been at the heart of the magazine: ‘Inspiring Australian women with great new ideas.’ Whilst the campaign includes printed and online material, the main medium is a TV commercial which can be viewed here.
Long story short, it depicts women from a fictional conservative society (the viewer clearly led to believe they are Amish) who are “enlightened” upon discovering a copy of the pioneering print. The group become thrilled with replicating the shiny pages, swishing their hair about and flashing that elongated, Angelina leg. Unimpressed, an older woman wickedly throws the mag away where it is later discovered by a woman whose hair is noticeably in plaits. The clip closes with ‘It starts with a New Idea’.
Admittedly, I dig the tagline. I quite possibly could have actually liked the concept too if it had been executed more creatively. I mean the whole “liberal outsider to the rescue!” thing is surely not a new idea (sorry, had to). Has it not sunk in perhaps to the mag whose editor says must ‘…evolve with our readers…’ that feminism is about choice? Freeing women from oppression by assuming one way of life is better than another is surely taking a step backwards?
Thus far, most of the complaints regarding the advertisement have been because of its religious insensitivity. Whilst true, I think we can dig a bit deeper and recognise that New Idea’s notion of feminism is sketchier than career advice from Delta Goodrem.
The sexy leg on display is not just a tribute to Angelina but a statement that women who show their skin are truly embracing their sexuality. Don’t worry, I’m not about to launch into a finger waving “girls these days” conversation. That’s very far from what I’m attempting to rave on about. My issue is with its connection to how raunch culture is being confused with feminism. You know, that the truly liberated feature on Girls Gone Wild and emancipation is measured by the length of your skirt (or rather, lack thereof). But hey, that’s probably a discussion best left to fill up more than one virtual page.
Getting back to the commercial, it implies that Amish women are dissatisfied and trapped within the confines of their community, desperately in need of being recused by a gallant, liberal outsider. Obviously support and assistance should be given to women who feel they are disempowered but it certainly shouldn’t be presumed that women belonging to particular religious or community groups are oppressed and not in control of their lives.
To suggest that a woman is not truly empowered because of her religious choices and/or lifestyle is ridiculously patronising. It also fails to embrace that liberation means different things for different women.
I can’t help but wonder if New Idea would have been comfortable depicting Muslim women removing their hijab or burqa to let down their hair. Do you think the campaign would have then received even more negative feedback?