THE BLOG

Brains Over Bums: Brands Need Smarter Tactics Than Flaunting Women

21/08/2017 17:23 BST | Updated 21/08/2017 17:23 BST

Billabong pissed a lot of people off recently.

Somehow, they managed to overlook notorious cock-ups made by American Apparel, Protein World and Victoria's Secret, and used this imagery on their home page.

The questionable landing page banner shows a guy shredding waves.

Meanwhile, a woman in a floral bikini arches her back on the beach, as little beads of water glisten on her legs and a cheeky strap slips teasingly down her shoulder.

Karen Knowlton posted an infuriated reaction (entitled 'F--- You, Billabong. Seriously, F--- You'), accusing the brand of objectifying women and reinforcing shitty gender stereotypes. It quickly went viral.

Knowlton's piece attracted swells of attention from men and women, many of whom were bowled over by the brand's failure to recognise that this is the 21st century.

But aside from offending the majority of their target market, Billabong's tasteless imagery is exasperating for another reason.

It's so lazy.

This sexualised garbage is yet another example of falling back on tired, boring gender stereotypes, depicting 'cool', 'adventurous' surf dudes and 'hot', 'sexy' beach chicks.

Why is this still happening? Are we forever trapped in a Brian Wilson song?

I admit, it's hard not to bop along to California Girls and Surf City. But do we want to remain frozen in a 1970s narrative, where there's 'two girls for every boy' and women are little other than eye candy for beach boys to ogle at?

Personally, I find lying on the beach boring as sin.

I want to be out in the waves, getting a nosebleed from being hit in the face with a surfboard fin.

I want to be thrown across the sea by a massive wave and churned under, like I'm in the world's biggest washing machine, until I don't know which way is up or down.

I want to stride up the beach with my legs covered in bruises, blowing globs of salt water out of my nose as I go.

I don't want to frolic around in a frilly bikini, arching my back and trying to look like a total babe even though there's sand in my bum crack. I'm capable of doing much more than that.

The point is, we've come a long way since the Beach Boys era. We have a much more open dialogue now about the fact that this sort of representation of women makes many of us feel like crap. That it undermines our abilities, our ambitions, and ramps up our insecurities.

So if you have any clout in the world of brand communications, I can only ask you to do what people have been trying to get you to do for quite some time (ie. long enough for you to have got it by now).

Do something new. Something positive. Something that takes an exciting departure from the tedium of divisive gender stereotypes.

Women are not cool with being depicted as nothing more than smokin' hot babes with peachy asses.

So use your brains, not our bums, to make your brand stronger.

(Note: Billabong have now responded to mass criticism and replaced the offending imagery. Well done Karen Knowlton for speaking out.)