I am going to show my age here, but I remember this grafitti. It could be that the photo was in a feminist journal/book, a few years after the actual ad came out so I may not be quite as old as that Fiat Palio. But this is definitely a snapshot of the 1970s feminism I do remember from my childhood.
The text of the ad reads: ‘if it were a lady, it would get its bottom pinched’. This is quite clever objectifying language. The car is an ‘it’ but in anthropomorphising it into a ‘lady’, the ‘object’ of the sentence remains, so the woman is presented as an ‘it’.
The graffiti in response says: ‘if this lady was a car she’d run you down’.
I thought the graffiti was funny when I saw it as a kid. But then I was a girl trained in the art of feminist ‘humour’. My Mum’s friend had a badge with that statement ‘a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ on. I probably laughed at the time. Now I just think ‘you what?’
But, after discussing TubeCrush in the last post and the way men’s objectification has arguably taken over women’s in our culture, I remembered this ad and the angry graffiti scrawled on it.
Suddenly I find the feminist retort: ‘if this lady was a car she’d run you down’ a bit chilling. It’s a naff sexist allusion to pinching an attractive woman’s bum, which contributes to that annoying thing where cars and ships and other vehicles are feminised as ‘she’, as men’s ‘playthings’.
But the response is suggesting that a woman who is the butt of sexist humour would ‘run you down’ in a car. A violent image that suggests the anger feminist women were expressing all over my life in the 1970s. An anger that I was taught was righteous, and based on centuries of oppression by men. So I barely noticed it here.
Maybe I am being too critical. Maybe it is just a clever play on words, to match the clever play on words used by the admen. But it is worth remembering that in the 1970s, some feminists were also involved in activities such as burning down Sex Shops, reading the SCUM Manifesto (Society for Cutting Up Men) and taking seriously the ‘eugenics’ advocated by women such as Mary Daly:
What Is Enlightenment (Susan Bridle): Which brings us to another question I wanted to ask you. Sally Miller Gearhart, in her article “The FutureIf There Is OneIs Female” writes: “At least three further requirements supplement the strategies of environmentalists if we were to create and preserve a less violent world. 1) Every culture must begin to affirm the female future. 2) Species responsibility must be returned to women in every culture. 3) The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately ten percent of the human race.” What do you think about this statement?
Mary Daly: I think it’s not a bad idea at all. If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males. People are afraid to say that kind of stuff anymore.
If it were a lady it’d get its bottom pinched. If it were a man, it might be castrated (or worse)!