Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Women in Tech Adverstising - a rebuttal

So, there has been some that have argued vehemently against the advertising policies of GoDaddy, and its ilk.  (See https://twitter.com/bdha/status/211210555577466881 for example of the complaints.)

I have a different point of view.  What about sites that always picture a beautiful woman on a headset for their representation of tech support?  Should we also boycott them?  Would you prefer a site with an ugly person answering the phone?  After all, it's a phone or text chat, so it shouldn't matter at all what the person looks like, right?

Conversely, what about all the sites that use men in their advertising?

My hosting provider, bluehost.com, uses both.  Take a look.  Does the pretty blonde in glasses have anything to do with domain names or web hosting?  Of course not.  The guy wearing the headset for the tech support line isn't exactly hideous either, if you swing that way.  Are you likely to talk to this guy if you call?  Probably not -- he's probably just another model.

GoDaddy uses Danica Patrick as their spokesperson.  She's admittedly beautiful, a professional athlete (she drives race cars), and probably makes a fair bit of money endorsing GoDaddy.  Some of the ads she has been in have admittedly been a little tongue in cheek in their appeal to a mostly male clientele, but I think it would be a stretch to say that GoDaddy is using sex to sell domain services.

It would be an even further stretch to say Danica is being exploited by GoDaddy.

(Note that there may be other reasons to avoid doing business with GoDaddy or its CEO, but I am only referring to the use of Danica Patrick, a female spokesperson, and women in advertising in general.)

Would the people who claim that this is somehow evil objectification of women complain as loudly if the spokesperson were a good looking baseball star?  Is this objectification of men, or of male sports stars?  What if the ad somehow appeals more strongly to women, or to gay men?

What if the site featured an animal spokesperson prominently?  Say an orangutan?  (Perhaps with computer animation. :-)  Would this be considered animal exploitation?

I submit to you, dear reader, that each one of these cases are basically the same.  We use humans, animals, or whatever, to provide a human element and appeal in a product being sold.  Sure, it would be nice if the site instead featured some kind of graphic that demonstrated its technical superiority, but come on -- we're talking about a domain registrar, which is about as boring as tech gets.  I can hardly blame GoDaddy for trying to liven up their site and generate some enthusiasm.

In fact, even in the more extreme cases, such as the use of bikini-clad booth babes, I submit that folks who think objectification like this is somehow exploitative are misunderstanding.  These women are very rarely without many choices and options.  Usually by the time we see them, its when they are in a job that they have worked hard to get -- maintaining a perfect figure can be a full-time job, after all.

If folks like author of the aforementioned tweet had their way, they would deny these women the opportunity to earn a living showing off their own accomplishments.  Isn't that even more exploitative?  In fact, in the extreme case, you could consider the more repressive societies of the middle east?  Is this the social ideal to which we should aspire?  Where the only part of woman we see in advertising is a burqa?

(Note that in the case of the site using bikini-clad booth-babes, my gut response is to question what the company is not showing -- their product.  So while the babes may catch my eye, they have yet to draw me to a booth I would not otherwise have visited for the products featured.  Actually, at one former employer a female colleague -- also quite beautiful, but quite knowledgeable -- is aware that she is often mistaken as a booth babe, and regularly uses this to her advantage; customers get surprised somehow when the beautiful woman knows more about the technology than most other men do.)

As for me, I welcome the diversity of our society, and the appreciation of the human form.  If some people are able to use this to humanize their marketing approach, good for them!  Let's face it, I'd rather look at beautiful faces online than ugly ones.

Far better, IMO, for those who would fight against this spend their energies worrying about the women who are truly exploited or repressed -- in the fundamentalist muslim societies of the middle east, in the brothels, and human slave trade.  Don't feel sorry for the woman who is able to make a nice living for herself displaying the body she has worked hard to get and to maintain, and that she is proud of.

And yes, for the record, I usually like Carl's Jr. commercials too.

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