Up Yours

A local Calgary real estate company, ProCura, has recently launched a lovely ad campaign for their new condos. Really, it’s inspired.

Look Way Up.. Her Skirt?


See what I mean? They use the idea of looking up a woman’s skirt to sell real estate! Now, you might be thinking that the two things have nothing to do with one another, but if you look at most advertising, you’ll notice that the product they ARE selling and the one that they SAY that they are selling tend not to be the same. Here’s some sex, buy a car. Here’s some sex, buy clean products, et cetera. So sex and sexism sells, which is what ProCura is hoping for here of course. However, that’s not the whole story.

ProCura is actually doing something that is legitimately a little different from other real estate firms. According to Valerie Fortney of the Calgary Herald, “They recently restored the home of the early 20th century suffragette [Nellie McClung] at 8th Street and 15th Avenue S.W. When they’re done using it as the presentation centre for their gleaming new luxury condo development next door, they’ve promised to turn it into a community centre for women’s groups and a museum for the Famous 5 — a group of Alberta women who fought against the status quo. The company also committed last winter to donating $1,000 for every remaining unit it sold at the Montana condo complex to the Famous 5 Foundation. That donation could add up to $100,000” (see full article here with more details about the campaign and local responses)

So, they’re not just a company who wants to exploit women’s bodies (specifically, encourage people to be pervy and demeaning) but they actually ALSO want to be seen as a positive influence on women and society! They’re helping women’s organizations! They’re honouring the Famous 5 who helped Canadian (white) women be considered persons under the law! Hooray for ProCana, hypocritical company of the day.

Of course, it didn’t take long for the media to point out the contradiction, but the ProCana staff didn’t seem to understand (or acknowledge) how counterintuitive the ad campaign is when placed against their charitable donations. Tamara Rosenblum, the principal and creative director of Mantaray Creative who is responsible for the ad campaign, suggested that it was Nellie McClung and the other Famous 5 women who made it possible for women not to be offended by this kind of advertising.

I think she got Nellie’s message wrong. Just because we’re considered persons, don’t mean that we will accept being treated as objects in every ad we see.

What’s funny is the number of women in the Calgary Herald article who are defending this ad, which I think really emphasizes the fact that not every women will see the world in the same way – and can participate in sexism just as easily as men in this day and age. Feminists come in every gender, just like those who support the current objectification of women.

Sherry Schleussel works as a marketing and sales manager at ProCura and she doesn’t seem to think there’s a problem with the ad campaign. Here’s the article again:

“You’re never going to please everybody, I understand that,” says Schluessel, who adds she ran it by several people for their opinion. “The key about advertising is it’s something you remember, and this is an ad targeting a younger market. I’m out of whack with that younger market, so I rely on the experts to advertise to them.”

I’m glad that she can abdicate the use of her own judgement in order to sell property to the masses. Of course you should listen to the experts to sell sell sell, but if the experts told you to jump off a bridge because all the cool kids are doing it these days, maybe it would be time to use that fancy brain of yours?

In sum: ProCana wants you to look up this woman’s skirt. No, it wants you to buy real estate. No, it wants you to support the equality of women, just like them. No, there’s not a problem with this scenario.

I’m sure the Famous Five would be proud.


Times Change

One of the most positive things about body image and the beauty standard is that they are culturally defined, so societies can – and do – change their minds about what beauty means in their culture. This has happened over a long course of time in the West and it gives me hope that – in the long term – the current obsession with a narrow version of beauty can be altered to find a healthier picture.

Sociological Images again provides a good example of this change. They recently posted about vintage ads for products that helped women to gain weight, which was seen as a positive at the time. This is so antithetical to ads in current magazines that it’s pretty funny read and it highlights the current overwhelming pressure to lose weight nowadays.

If we can go from one extreme to another, I hope that someday we will all manage to be a little more moderate about beauty standards, relaxing that choke hold to allow women room for beauty in all sorts of bodys. Check out the original post on Sociological Images here.