We Shouldn't Have To Look At Soft Porn In Shopping Centres

Honey Birdette has once again become a hot topic in the media over risqué floor-to-ceiling advertisements in their Westfield shopping centre stores across Australia.

This time last year, Melbourne father Kenneth Thor started a Change.org petition to stop Honey Birdette from using porn-style advertising in family-friendly shopping centres after his two young children were exposed to images he felt “depicted women in hyper-sexualised poses and various states of undress, introducing concepts of pornography and sexuality to a hapless public, including little 4-year-old girls like my daughter”.

Yet managing director Eloise Monaghan dismissed the petition, stating it ridiculous to label the advertisements as porn, even though Honey Birdette have had three of their recent adverts accused of being in line with the porn industry, as well as just receiving their 20th advertisement ban by Ad Standards, with the advert deemed over-sexualised based on the complaints it received.

However, both Honey Birdette and Westfield have failed to take action against the complaints and the petition has regained momentum after Melinda Tankard Reist, co-founder of Collective Shout, a grass-roots campaigning movement against the objectification of women and sexualisation of girls in media and advertising, posted an image on her Facebook page with a link to the petition, commenting, “Bought to you by that #malechampionofchange Scentregroup Westfield (full size window display at my local Westfield this afternoon). Help us reach 100,000 signatures by Christmas!”

Honey Birdette Christmas ad.

And really, let’s face it, nobody wants to be walking along eating their lunch and come face-to-err-labia with images that promote adult women looking like pre-prepubescent girls as a normal thing. But more than that, nobody really wants to be bombarded with insecurities about their own body either, as if our teenage girls aren’t being bombarded enough on all media fronts as it is with studies revealing that “the importance of thinness and trying to look like women on television, in movies or in magazines were predictive of young girls (nine to 14 years old) beginning to purge at least monthly.”

Not only are our girls starving and binging with the pressure to be sexy, but they are now left to worry their perfectly normal lady parts aren’t good enough either.

But not only does this kind of hypersexualised advertising normalise a standard of beauty that damages both male and female perception of a woman’s body, it also objectifies women as little more than sexual props to be used by men, as displayed in Honey Birdette’s 2017 Office Party campaign, even though Eloise Monaghan continues to claim, “We've spent the last 11 years empowering women.” Uh huh. Because women wearing nothing but lingerie being ogled by fully-clothed men in the workplace totally screams women’s lib. My bad.

Honey Birdette’s 2017 Office Party campaign.

An article written by Collective Shout demonstrates the de-humanisation of women through such suggestive advertising, quoting a conversation between two teenage boys as they smirked and pointed at an advertisement, with one saying, “I’d like to f*#k that!” followed by a snigger of agreement from the other, proving research conducted between 1995-2015 on Media and Sexualisation which states, “regular, everyday exposure to this content are directly associated with a range of consequences, including higher levels of body dissatisfaction, greater self-objectification, greater support of sexist beliefs and of adversarial sexual beliefs, and greater tolerance of sexual violence toward women. Moreover, experimental exposure to this content leads both women and men to have a diminished view of women's competence, morality, and humanity.”

And while I’ll be the first to agree there’s nothing sexier than slipping on some lingerie and making a night of it, the argument doesn’t lie within the product or the women who choose to buy it, but in the style of advertising Honey Birdette insist on using which continues to shift women from being sexy and places them instead as little more than sexual objects.

Nobody disagrees with a lingerie company advertising its product. But I think it’s fair to say we’d all like to be able to take our children to the Magic Cave without having to explain why Santa’s being straddled by a woman in her scantily-clad undies along the way.

Honey Birdette Christmas ad.