Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Moral outrage has bust out but it’s all a storm in a D cup

Hunky Dorys 2011 ad campaign uses scantily clad women playing GAA

We all know that sex sells. But sexism sells better — especially in this country. So hats — or should that be tops? — off to Hunky Dorys.

The Irish snack manufacturer has done it again. They must be sitting back and chortling, rubbing their hands with glee. Well done, lads. All it takes is a few well-deployed mammaries and you have us right where you want us.

The Hunky Dorys recipe for advertising success is quite simple: squeeze some well-endowed models into a sports-kit that has been adapted for maximum exposure, get them to charge round a pitch photogenically, add a few blokish captions such as ‘taaaasty' and you're sorted.

You really cannot lose. For a start, you can be sure that your target audience of young male sports fans (notoriously unreconstructed when it comes to gender politics) are going to be appreciative of young women like Orla.

This pony-tailed stunner takes the demanding role of centre-half forward in the Hunky Dorys’ fantasy GAA team and proclaims herself to be “up for it”.

But people who object to these adverts — which appear in newspapers including this one — are left in a quandary.

If you raise your concerns publicly, you simply give the sexist crisp-pushers more publicity. You'll probably also be accused of being humourless and uptight, unable to take a joke.

Stay silent, on the other hand, and you're forced into a position of helplessness. Last time Hunky Dorys trundled out one of these daft and deliberately provocative campaigns, one prominent Irish women's rights activist refused to name the brand, wouldn't even let it pass her lips.

It was like the potato chip version of Voldemort, he who must not be named. The trouble with that approach — apart from appearing weirdly paranoid — is that, once again, the sexists go unchallenged.

So whether you speak out or keep schtum, either way the crisp guys win. They know they can get away with these tactics.

Last year, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) sent a solicitor’s letter to the crisp company because it called itself ‘proud sponsors of Irish Rugby’ in the ads. No problem — they simply changed the sport. Now they're claiming to be ‘proud sponsors of Gaelic football’.

The GAA said it wasn't consulted on the campaign, but no doubt if they raise a fuss (and they haven't yet; who knows, maybe they like Orla, Sorcha, Laura and their pals) Hunky Dorys will simply take its multi-talented sportswomen elsewhere. Of course, if you're really annoyed, you do have the option of going to the advertising standards people. But that doesn't appear to make much difference, either.

The bite of these watchdogs, it seems, is more like a wet, slobbery nibble. Last year, the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) ruled that the ads had caused ‘grave and widespread offence’ and should remain permanently withdrawn from all media, including the advertiser's website. There was fighting talk of fines against the company.

But the ASAI have been wittering on like this for years and nothing has changed: back in 2005, the authority described a Hunky Dorys ad as ‘a blatant exploitation of sexuality for commercial gain’. True enough. Yet here we are in 2011 and the sporty babes have bust out all over again.

While these adverts may make some women uncomfortable, others — perhaps particularly younger women — just don't care.

After all, this is the generation that claims to find pole-dancing — waving your buttocks at the ceiling while dressed in a sparkly bra — liberating and empowering.

Little girls grow up admiring female singers, like Rihanna, who dress like pornstars and writhe provocatively in their music videos. Such hyper-sexuality isn't a shocking outrage; it's the everyday weather of popular culture.

The truth is, this is a much deeper and more complex issue than a way to sell crisps.

That's why I have no time for women who wail about feeling 'violated' at the very sight of these adverts.

I don't like the ads, either: they are dumb, crude and patronising. So, by all means complain, take a stand, kick up a fuss, if you think anyone's listening.

In the old days, a can of spray paint was one way that outraged women took matters into their own hands when faced with gratuitously sexist adverts.

But let's keep a sense of proportion here. There are ways in which women are truly violated every day in this society; their human rights traduced.

And it isn't by looking at Orla's knockers on the bus-stop billboard.

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