An avalanche of opinion greeted the now infamous advertisement featuring Stephanie Gilmore’s body parts as a promo for the Biarritz Roxy pro when it was released in June. Two weeks ago Roxy finally issued a bizarre statement which skirted around the controversy. I’m not sure what they’ve been doing for the past three months, but it’s clear the company doesn’t seem to understand what all the fuss was about.
I’m not about to launch into a rant about the objectification of female athletes because the time for that was in June when the commercial was first released. To do so now would be akin to wrapping my hair into side buns, donning a flowing white dress and grabbing a fake laser pistol before heading to Event Cinemas Bondi Junction for the premier of Star Wars. I’m about four decades too late.
Besides pop culture feminism, in Australia at least, has now moved on to dissecting Mia Freedman’s latest click bait extravaganza, a brief summation and critique can be found here if you’re so inclined.
The sad reality is the sexualisation of women in sport is nothing new, nor is it unique to surfing. Make no mistake the people at Roxy think they made a good ad, or rather the agency they paid to create it, told them they made a good ad and only a minority (of extremists) hated it. You could sense the eye-rolling and snarky comments, the moment the first objections were raised. It was an attitude reflected in the half-arsed non apology it took them a season to write.
But in dismissing the issue with such obvious disdain, Roxy may have missed a more relevant point.
Surfers are like junkies, we seek out a quick ocean fix wherever we can. If we’re not in the water we’re stealing precious moments at work or home to check out articles, photographs and videos of others performing incredible feats of board riding rodeo. Disappointing and predictable sexism aside, the truly unforgivable element of Roxy’s Biarritz pro promo was the lack of any surfing.
Let me put it another way, if I search for a preview of next week’s episode of Homeland (pretend it’s still Season 1, Season 3 just makes me sad), I want to see Carrie cry face, Saul earnestly brooding and Brody appearing both confused and homicidal. What I do not want to see is Clare Danes rolling around on a bed in her underwear and it’s absurd to think such a video would be made.
Likewise if I’m desperately seeking surfing online there had better be some actual wave riding when I click play. As appealing as a half-naked women rolling around on a bed might be to the average (male) punter – those aren’t the people who want to watch a preview of a woman’s surfing event.
The internet is full of half naked women. A quick google of ‘hot surfer chicks’ will offer up an infinite choice of longer, more explicit, vision minus the cheap attempt to flog a load of apple-wannabe smart phones in the process.
What it’s not full of are women effortlessly gliding across the water. Replacing a sought after, albeit fairly niche, product with something that can’t hope to compete in an already saturated marketplace isn’t just sexist and misogynistic it’s stupid and short sighted as well.