Advertising your sexism is always a bad idea

By Karen Nickel

“E-Bikes, the most environmentally friendly way to stalk your ex”.

“Last year someone was sexually assaulting women in the neighbourhood. They were being stalked and assaulted. It’s mind blowing that they would use stalking for an ad.” said local resident Terrence Luscombe who snapped a photo of the ad in the window of Tev Ebikes and posted it to Facebook. Photo: Terrence Luscombe / Facebook

“Last year someone was sexually assaulting women in the neighbourhood. They were being stalked and assaulted. It’s mind blowing that they would use stalking for an ad,” said local resident Terrence Luscombe who snapped a photo of the ad in the window of Tev Ebikes and posted it to Facebook. Photo: Terrence Luscombe / Facebook

Terrance Luscombe, a recent graduate of York University’s Masters of Environmental Studies, couldn’t believe what he saw. While walking in his Ossington and Bloor neighbourhood, he happened by Tev E-bikes, an e-bike retailer whose latest advertising campaign contained the phrase.

The poster (one out four posters) has  “stalk” in big bright red letters.  The quote at the bottom of the poster reads, “EBIKES. No Emissions. No Pollution. Just Misguided Love.”

“I thought the red would act as a stop sign to get people to stop and look at the e-bikes,” said Charles Dennis, co-owner of Tev E-bikes.  Indeed it did work, but not the way he had anticipated.

Luscombe saw the poster and was unimpressed. He snapped a picture of it in the store’s window and posted it on his Facebook page; that’s where it came to the attention of The Dialog.

Luscombe was incredulous as to, “why they thought that the idea of stalking, or any gender-based violence, was appropriate for an advertising campaign.”

Mandy Bonisteel, coordinator for George Brown’s Women and Children’s Counsellor/ Advocate program, said, “This ad is yet another sad example of our society’s refusal to take violence against women seriously.”

Deb Singh from Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/ Multi-Cultural Women Against Rape, was even more blunt, “My thoughts are: that is f@#^*ed up!  That ad has no merit and is plain messed up. It is unacceptable and sexist and perpetuates the culture of violence.”

Mark Lewis, associate creative director for the advertising company, kbs+ (located in three countries) wrote to The Dialog, “The ad you are referring to wasn’t in any way intending to suggest violence against women, nor would we advocate anything of the kind. In fact, the line is directed at urban women because they are the target consumer we wanted to reach with this particular execution, not men.”

Okay. Wait. What?

When I told Luscombe this response he said, “So the poster is either about men stalking women, or women being crazy.”

“Last year someone was sexually assaulting women in the neighbourhood,” said Luscombe. “They were being stalked and assaulted. It’s mind blowing that they would use stalking for an ad.”

Not making it any better, Dennis said, “I thought of it as humour; from a woman’s perspective. I never thought of it as violence.”

When I mentioned that there was no way to tell who the ad was for based on what it said, Dennis replied, “I didn’t want to offend anyone. As soon as we heard that this was the case, we pulled the ad from the window.”

Statistically, the majority of stalking victims are women. According to Bonisteel, “This form of violence most often occurs against women and has long been documented as a major risk factor for subsequent physical harm and death. This type of ad popularizes this terrorizing behaviour and makes it harder (for) victims of stalking to come forward as well as increases the likelihood that if they report, they will not be believed.”

It’s vitally important to speak up against this violence. So hats off to Luscombe for seeing sexist advertising in his neighbourhood and saying it’s not acceptable.

To Tev Ebike’s credit, they did remove the poster from the window as soon as it was brought to their attention.

Now if we could get them to realize why sexism is harmful in the first place, I might not have to mention to them that relying on male stereotypes of women to sell products is always a bad idea.

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Advertising your sexism is always a bad idea