So, right there on the bottom of the front page..
September 9th, 2010

sept-09

So, right there on the bottom of the front page of the first semester issue of the student campus newspaper, The MUSE, is a banner ad for Jiffy Cabs, a popular local business. It’s hard to miss. The ad features a collage of images of provocatively dressed young women looking, well, heavily plastered, or certainly obliviously deep in party mode. Jiffy’s call number is 722-2222. The tag line? “Even drunk girls can remember two digits.”

Even drunk girls can remember two digits? Bada bing. Are you laughing yet?

Do you remember this bad old joke:

How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb?
That’s not funny!

Well, I am a feminist with a healthy sense of humour and I both ardently defy the tired cliché of humourlessness and find the Jiffy Cabs ad decidedly unfunny. In fact, the ad is really lame, with a lot of bad taste written all over it. What were they thinking? Who thought this was an acceptable message for a university crowd? For any crowd? I can only imagine what the parents of Memorial’s female students might be thinking when their eyes fall over the ad. Who endorsed this kind of thing? I should disclose I am a member of the Board of Directors of the MUSE, but the Board does not oversee the editorial content or preview the ads. No, we tend to have to speak to complaints after the fact, as I imagine I will have to do in this unpleasant example.

You don’t have to be a culture studies student to understand what the ad is signifying, but let me state the obvious, anyway. First, it draws on a stereotype about college girls that surely went the way of Mischa Barton’s reputation. The ad would be bad enough if it featured a collage of slobbering guys in mid lurch. But some wise guy or two obviously thought that young women looking as wasted as Amy Winehouse would be even funnier. Images of drunken young women are a common feature of the tabloids: otherwise we wouldn’t know what the two references above were all about. Sure, a home movie of a drunken David Hasselhoff groveling on the floor in search of a half-eaten hamburger went viral. But in true pop double-standard fashion, the Hoff has been pretty well fully rehabilitated, even affectionately roasted by his celebrity pals as a guy who knows how to roll with the punches and get on with it. No such public redemption is normally allowed the Mischas, Amys, Courtneys, Brittneys, Lindseys et al, who are easy prey for a scandal-seeking press, and who are rarely given either privacy or a second chance, not without having to, say, go to jail, adopt six children from foreign lands, or join PETA. Women, you see, aren’t supposed to get drunk – ever. It’s not ladylike. Why else would the ad ever have been considered funny in the first place?

Second, and related to the point above, the image of the intoxicated “girls” not so subtly evokes and perhaps implicitly encourages a fantasy of date rape. I know that sounds over the top to some of you, but, honestly, would you find an ad featuring drunken men causing car accidents funny? It’s practically unthinkable. Yet, sadly, there is something socially acceptable about the Jiffy Cab ad because it reinforces a notion of women’s vulnerability—and irresponsibility under the influence. That very concept is assumed to be funny, because it’s titillating, gets at something the MUSE reader might very well be imagining. Well, thinking is a private matter. Reinforcing inappropriate tendencies in a very public way is another thing altogether.

Like many others, I both marvel at and lament the amazing popularity of the Girls Gone Wild industry. I’m not born yesterday, and so I understand why the sight of drunken college girls flashing and mooning on some Florida beach would have wide appeal, however puerile these fantasies might be, rooted and arrested as they are in some adolescent oops-I-did-it-again sensibility.
But on the front page of our campus newspaper? In 2010? With fresh and alarming news reports of boyfriends and husbands violently doing away with inconvenient girlfriends and wives?
Sorry, MUSE staff, sorry cabbies, it’s just not acceptable. I know it’s not at all ladylike, but I am tempted to show you just one digit, and in a jiffy.

NG

Dr. Faye Murrin is Dean pro tempore of the School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor in the Department of Biology. She completed her B.Sc. (Hons.) at Memorial University, her M.Sc. at Acadia University, and her Ph.D. at Queen's University. Her research interests have always been focused on fungi, in particular the cell biology of insect pathogenic fungi and, more recently, the ecology of mycorrhizal mushrooms in the boreal forest. Dr. Murrin has served in a number of positions on the Council of the Mycological Society of America and was awarded the title of MSA Fellow for her contributions. She was awarded the Women in Science and Engineering Lifetime Membership Award as founding co-director of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) Summer Program. Dr. Murrin participates in public lectures and workshops, and is a Director on the board of Newfoundland Foray, Inc.

11 Responses to “So, right there on the bottom of the front page..”

  1. Nancy Fagan says:

    I will add my digit to yours! It is totally disheartening to see these kinds of ads still in abundance in all forms of media. It’s the 21st century!

  2. N Hudson says:

    Add my digit! I am embarrassed that MY university\’s newspaper has yet again fallen down on the job. ANYONE, even an inexperienced student editor, should have recognized this as inappropriate!

  3. Denise Forster says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. It is particularly upsetting to see such ads in The Muse. They should know better.

  4. Linda Ross says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Noreen. It’s a sad comment on the MUSE staff and Jiffy that they haven’t moved on from tired, dated, sexist ads designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

  5. Tom Hollett-Jiffy Cabs says:

    Hi my name is Tom Hollett, I have been the owner of Jiffy Cabs for the last 22 years. I wish to respond to the feedback I have been receiving about the Jiffy Cab ad in the MUSE on Sept. 9, 2010. First of all let me tell you something about myself.

    My father passed away in 1965 when I was 10 years old. I am an only child and was raised by my mom and five of my Aunt’s. Strong willed intelligent compassionate women. I worked for the federal government for almost 20 years. While working there I worked with some great leaders in employment equity in NL like Rosemary Norris, Jan Dicks, Helen Gosine, Bea Courtney, etc, etc… I learnt a lot from my family and my co-workers. Today I am a single father with sole custody of a wonderful 7 year old daughter. My goal as a father is to raise her as an empowered person. I understand and agree with the issues being raised concerning stereotyping.

    I have a wonderful 20 year history with The Muse. Jiffy Cabs has been on the front page of the MUSE for almost all of that 20 years. For at least 15 years The Muse has been doing my ads without me ever seeing them until I am sent the bill and a copy of the ad. My favourite was several years ago at Halloween when they produced an ad that said “For your scary Halloween Jiffy Cab call 7 Boo Boo – Boo Boo Boo Boo”.

    Dr. Noreen Golfman is absolutely wrong, there is “nothing” socially acceptable about the ad and I apologize for my and Jiffy Cabs role in it.

    The Muse is a wonderful newspaper and may not agree with my point of view but in this particular circumstance we will have to agree to disagree.

    Tom Hollett
    Jiffy Cabs

  6. B Cole says:

    I was so insulted by the ad that I wrote a complaint to the editor of the MUSE, the Board, MUNSU and the president of MUN. Below is the response I received from the Editor of the MUSE. His response angered me more than the ad! Before any sort of (obviously lame) apology, he spent his time trying to justify the ad….I only hope with age and experience comes some insight for this guy!

    Further, Noreen, I don’t think your comments regarding date rape are over the top at all. This was one of the first things that crossed my mind when I saw the ad.

    Letter from Editor in Chief of the MUSE, September 21, 2010.

    “Hi Bernadette,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful letter.

    I want to be sure, first and foremost, that you know that the ad is developed by the Muse, not by Jiffy Cabs. Jiffy has been a long-standing supporter of the Muse. In Issue 3 of the Muse, Tom Hollett, owner of Jiffy, will have a letter to the editor regarding this ad, so I encourage you to read that.

    While the ad is developed in-house, I approved it to run for a number of reasons.

    First of all, we created the ad during orientation week, a time when students are having fun and partying. We simply wanted an ad that was humorous and brought attention to the simplicity of the number. In no way did we mean to demean women and we apologize if the ad can be interpreted to do so.

    In future, we will be more cautious when creating our advertisements.

    Thanks for your input and all best.”

  7. Tracy Duffy says:

    In this so called “empowered” age, where we have fought so long and hard to change gender stereotypes at every chance we get, we see one decision (albeit an ignorant or insensitive one),to print/create this ad that has potentially resulted in hundreds/thousands of minds being steered in the wrong direction.

    It begs the question of how far have we really come when looking at gendered violence? When so many groups and individuals continue to work so hard to raise awareness on these issues – I really hope that an ad like this will have very little influence- perhaps what they wanted was just this sort of controversial attention– if so, good job.. but I have faith that those who speak up can turn that attention around…

    I commend the men and women who see this ad and respond with disdain- let’s use it as a way to educate young minds, friends and anyone else who will listen – not about how to remember an innane repetitive phone number– but about how some opinions can hold a lot of weight in the way we think and behave as a society.

  8. L Wells says:

    I am currently employed with an Aboriginal Women’s Association. Our main work is providing violence awareness and prevention training to aboriginal women and youth. I am appalled that a newspaper connected with a center of higher learning in Newfoundland would find it appropriate to print this insulting piece of advertising. We still have a very long way to go in the fight for respect. Shame on the Muse for allowing this to happen!

  9. Paula Sheppard Thibeau says:

    I am the Executive Director of the Corner Brook Status of Women Council. I, like many of you, was appalled by this ad. To think that a newspaper that is aimed at young men and women alike is promoting this sexist, stereotypical view of women is unforgiveable.

    Thank you Dr. Golfman for putting into words what, I suspect, many of us were thinking as we saw this ad, which is being circulated widely. I also appreciate Mr. Hollett’s response and the fact that he took the time to address this situation.

    To the editors of the MUSE, I would suggest some gender-based analysis training as it is obvious that the impact on women reading or being victimized as a result of your ad was not considered. I would be happy to link you with some professionals in the St. John’s area should your staff accept the challenge to promote more responsible writing and ads in the future.

  10. Arvindh Viswanathan says:

    Seems that its more of a problem with MUSE than with JIFFY. I can quite understand why MUSE went ahead with the ad. With the whole slew of college themed movies churning from the police state down south which is similar to any of the B-rated flicks of Girls Gone Wild, its no wonder the ad was approved. Marketing wise its a brilliant ploy but socially and morally its just so saddening. I hope the MUSE cleans up its act. if people want titillating stuff, there are magazines for it, MUSE is not one of them.

    -AV

  11. Rosonna Tite says:

    As an aunt of a bright, active and lovely young woman in her first year at MUN, I am saddened by the Jiffy ad in the MUSE. Surely, she was interested in “having fun” during orientation week, just as she was keen to meet her profesors, buy her books and settle into university life. Just like all the young men. Why can’t we celebrate these young people, all of them, and stop this horrible sexist nonsense? Why oh why do people continue to use the “well we were only joking” excuse for blatant sexism and sexual harassment?

    As an education professor whose work involves engaging teachers in dialogue about sexism, violence against women and children, date rape and sexual harassment, I am outraged.

    As a woman, I am fed up.

    As a consumer, I will switch cab companies instantly and forever.

    RT

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