The media play a vital role in determining social perceptions of
women. They don’t only ‘represent’ reality – they help to construct
and define it. The South African media is saturated with images that
deride women, that market women as objects for sexual consumption.
Magnum ice-creams, Maverick’s cologne, Nandos chicken burgers – these
are among the products that local advertisers have sought to sell by
mimicking sexist stereotypes. Add to this list – security gates.
In ten years of studying the media in post-apartheid South Africa, I
have yet to encounter a company that uses misogyny and racism as
blatantly as Xpanda does in its print and radio advertisements.
That’s why, together with friends working in the media, in public
education and in civil society organisations, I have lodged a
complaint about these adverts with the Advertising Standards Authority
of South Africa. You can see how to do this at their website:
The email address for Xpanda’s MD, Tim Taylor, is
firstname.lastname@example.org, if you want to write to him about your own
thoughts on his adverts.
22 April 2013
Complaint regarding Xpanda print and radio adverts
We are a group of journalists, academics and women’s rights advocates who write in complaint about two advertisements, one print and one radio, issued by Xpanda security company. The details of our complaints are as follows:
- The print advert (see below), which appeared in 2012 (publication source unknown), with the text ‘A one night stand arrives with a bump and bad news. You should have had an Xpanda’, is misogynistic. The image used by the advertisement objectifies the woman it features – portraying her as available for sexual consumption by the pre-figured male who is the target consumer for this advertisement. The text conveys that she has had promiscuous and unprotected sex with the male consumer (after a ‘one night stand’, she ‘arrives with a bump and bad news’). The ‘bad news’ is her pregnancy and the responsibility it presents to the father. The solution, and the advertisement’s pitch, is to bar access to paternal support through slamming a security door in the women’s face. The power dynamics presented in the advert are rendered more complex by its iconography – the woman’s imaging as hyper-sexualised and powerless, subjected by her scanty, schoolgirl outfit as well as by the exposure and derision of her pregnancy. Her rejection is not merely a refusal to assume mutual responsibility for her pregnancy, it is a composite of pernicious and degrading stereotypes about women.
- The radio advert, transcribed below, is racist – using stereotypes about black South Africans as stupid and thieving. The advertisement is available on the ‘ad showcase’ of Ornico, a subsidiary of bizcommunity.com, at http://www.bizcommunity.com/OrnicoAd.aspx?c=11&ai=1323
The advertisement takes place as a dialogue between two men ostensibly in prison. The dialogue is as follows [ostensibly within a prison cell]:
Man 1: What you inside for boet?
Man 2 (stereotypical accent of a working-class black South African): Eish, I was so hungry, so I walked up to kitchen by the boss’s house and grabbed the roast chicken. The madam, she slammed the Xpanda door in my face. No way out. That is how I ended up in jail, with no chicken. Eish.
The power dynamics implicit in this dialogue – between the ‘boss’ and ‘madam’ and the black worker – are a crude reproduction of apartheid-era social divisions. Tying into stereotypes about greedy blacks who rob their employers, the advertisement conveys that black workers are as stupid as they are venal. The media strategy deployed here – the conferral of character and morality through gross stereotyping of an actor’s accent – is a clear example of racist othering, conflating the identity of working-class black South Africans with criminals.
We submit that both of these advertisements do harm to the South African consumer, and we request that ASASA investigate these complaints further.
According to its website, the Managing Director of Xpanda is Tim Taylor, whose email address is email@example.com@argent.c.za