Boycotting Billabong

By Kristen Johnson

My husband spent the last few days watching the 2016 Billabong Pipe Masters World Surf League Contest in Oahu, Hawaii. As you may have guessed by the title of this surfing competition, it is sponsored by Billabong, an active outerwear company focusing on surfing, snowboarding, and wake boarding.

Unfortunately, while trying to knit or read, my household was subjected to the most vile advertising campaign I’ve ever seen, by none other than Billabong. (I had hoped to post a link to the ad here, but I can’t seem to find it anywhere.)

The ad is maybe 30 seconds long and features scenes of men surfing, intermixed with shots of half-naked females watching. Every scene of someone surfing features a male. Every shot of a female is one showing her (mostly) naked rear-end laying on a beach, or laying on a surfboard – not surfing of course, but watching a man surf. This advertisement is vile, degrading to women, and unbelievably sexist.

I know Billabong can do better than this – just a look at their “social compliance” tab indicates a level of concern for the environment, the people who make their products, and a long-term commitment to SurfAid. Unfortunately, Billabong’s website lists 33 sponsored men, and only 8 sponsored women. (I guess that’s better than nothing.)

For the record, we females do surf, and we don’t spend our days laying around scantily-clad watching the men surf. I have spent many, many hours surfing, and I wear a wetsuit, not a thong. I don’t have time to lay about the beach with my rear-end exposed while watching the men have all the fun, because I’m too busy in the water actually surfing.

Before I get the inevitable comments about “overreacting” – it’s time to address the issue of media stereotypes and how they really affect young girls:

Female characters continue to show dramatically more skin than their male counterparts, and feature extremely tiny waists and other exaggerated body characteristics. This hypersexualization and objectification of female characters leads to unrealistic body ideals in very young children, cementing and often reinforcing negative body images and perceptions during the formative years. Research shows that lookism still pervades cinematic content in very meaningful ways. (Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media).

What should we do in the face of such offensive advertising?

Vote with your pocketbook – refuse to purchase goods and services from companies (like Billabong) who participate in offensive, sexist advertising. Go the extra mile and write a letter to the offending company voicing your concerns. (Go overboard and cut out the Billabong tags on your clothing like I did this morning.) 🙂

Romans 12:10 (NRSV): love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor.

Serve all with love.

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