Mr. Neil Dan wrote right back yesterday, and we got into a lengthy e-mail exchange, which he eventually quit when he ran out of justifications. His first response called my objections “reasonable and predictable,” and hit several of the anti-feminist posts, including “The woman in the ad also wrote and directed the ad [read: so it must not be sexist],” “OF COURSE women have value beyond their sexuality . . . but the point is to get people’s attention,” and “If this ads save women’s lives, I think it’s worth the minor tremble in correctness.”
I dutifully went through the Feminism 101 spiel: Yes, it can still be sexist if a woman writes/directs. The point is always to get attention, but some ways of getting attention are unacceptable (see PETA ads for further examples). Terming something “politically correct” is an easy way of dismissing an issue without having to think about its very real effects on people’s lives. To which last point Dan wrote back, “I am affected. I personally am sooo tired of being objectified for my beauty and rock-hard abs. I’ve got a brain, you know, ladies!” (He did apologize quickly for that, at least.)
“You’re waving your first-wave feminism at me and I can’t do but shrug helplessly,” he complained. Poor Dan. It must be tough when some bitchy 19th century broad calls you out. A brave soldier, he quickly rallied. “I think this ad actually subverts male objectification,” he argued. “It uses the visual grammar of porn and filmic eroticism not for the gratification of the viewer but as an explicit demand that the viewer act. It also suggests that there are human beings behind the breasts, human beings who get sick.”
O RLY? I called bullshit. “It demands that the viewer act to save that which gratifies him, like putting another quarter in the peep show slot ensures you get to keep watching. It suggests that the breasts get sick, and obscures the human beings behind them.” I suggested that in order to be actually subversive in the way he describes, the ad could juxtapose images of hawt boobs with images of mastectomy scars, or dying young women.
Abandoning his “but it’s subversive!” argument, he returned to The Ends Justify The Means. “Those sorts of ads have been done to death, pardon the expression, and their effectiveness is debatable, esp. when it comes to invincible-feeling young women.” He then pulled the Good Samaritan trump card. “This is just one approach to bring attention to breast cancer. It is, after all, breast cancer awareness month.”
“I’m all for breast cancer awareness. Just not at the expense of those most likely to suffer from breast cancer, i.e. women,” I wrote back.
I haven’t heard from him since. Call me, Dan!