This post is a lot longer than most of what I write here, but I hope you’ll indulge me and understand and work your way through it. This is an issue that is very important to me and I didn’t want to just gloss over it.
A few weeks back the Internet was abuzz with talk about SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) legislation that was pending in Congress, and by the end of the week, much of the attention turned to web hosting giant GoDaddy.
First off, let me say that this is a tricky issue. While I’m opposed to online piracy, I’m also opposed to how far SOPA goes in terms of putting way too much power into the hands of a few corporations and the government. My friend Joey Strawn wrote a great post about what SOPA means and why it is dangerous, but this post is not about that.
This post is about something that I believe is far more dangerous than SOPA, and really gets to the core of where our priorities are in terms of marketing and what gets us angry. Or perhaps where our priorities should be and what should get us angry.
You see, GoDaddy did the unthinkable in the Internet world: they came out in support of SOPA. And the Internet and social networks went bonkers. My Twitter feed lit up as people called for a boycott of GoDaddy. Many companies, large and small, decided that they would pull their webhosting and domain registration accounts from GoDaddy in order to get them to listen. And as evidenced by their blog, they did listen:
And if you want, you can read their explanation for the change in their stance on SOPA.
But again, this isn’t about SOPA. What bothers me about GoDaddy is what has bothered me for years about them, and why I’ve never done business with them, and have steered clients away from them. It’s not their stance on SOPA, and it’s not even really the infamous elephant incident (though I do find that troublesome). What bothers me is how their entire marketing and branding campaign (as exemplified by their Super Bowl ads) is built on the objectification of women.
As I posted on Facebook, I’m upset that people aren’t more up in arms about that than they are about SOPA:
Why haven’t we heard a concerted outcry or seen an organized effort to see people move from GoDaddy because of the way they objectify women and use Danica Patrick in their videos, TV ads, and marketing campaigns? And this is not about being a prude or being a hardcore feminist. Certainly organizations on the right and left could speak up, but why don’t we, regardless of where we stand on matters of faith or politics?
As the discussion played out on my Facebook page, an old high school buddy mentioned that he pulled his support from GoDaddy after the elephant incident, but then apologized on Facebook for not acting sooner based on their objectification of women.
Someone then made the comparison to Hooters, another company with which I take issue, particular as they bill themselves as a family restaurant, but have built their branding on beautiful women dressed in tight, skimpy clothing.
This brought input from yet another friend, who responded with this (paraphased):
As for Hooters, there’s a major difference between what they do and what GoDaddy does. GoDaddy provides a service that hundreds of others do also. Hooters makes wings that are unique, whether or not you like them or what they do.
When I then stated that I had never eaten at a Hooters, again because I object to their branding and marketing, he responded:
Ken, you said you’ve never been in a Hooters. Have you eaten their wings?
In other words, he was arguing that Hooters was creating a one of a kind product that was so good, that it didn’t really matter how they marketed. With GoDaddy we could object and take our business elsewhere, but with Hooters, there was nowhere else to go, so we should continue to eat there.
But think about it: if Hooters’ wings are all that good, then can’t they market on the superior nature of their product? And I don’t care if their wings are a little slice of heaven. I don’t care if they’re the fountain of youth. I certainly can live without them, can you? Is any product so great that we would dare to look the other way? In fact, if Hooters had come out in support of SOPA, you can bet people would’ve been up in arms, calling for a boycott.
A friend of mine spent 3-weeks as “Hooters Girl” and has related to me her thoughts on the culture that permeates the brand:
A restaurant like that makes it appear okay to objectify women in a sexual state and a sexual state only. I’m an attractive girl carrying your food wearing a tank top showing off my boobs and booty shorts. On top of this, we were encouraged to flirt and ‘tease’ our customers in order to not only get bigger tips, but continue business. Even worse, people bring their CHILDREN in there…we had a birthday party for an 8 or 9 year old. I mean, they have a kids menu!
I was embarrassed by my job so much that I didnt tell my family thats where i worked. At that time, I was also suffering from the affects of bulimia and anorexia, so I think obviously it had a negative effect on that as well.
I felt like a stripper with clothes on, basically. Innapropriate is not even the word to use with some patrons. They feel it is okay to brush against your butt, stare down your shirt, but the uniforms encourage that, so in return, the restaurant is basically encouraging it.
Being asked on a date is one thing, but being solicited for sex, is another. If a patron was very rude or inappropriate, they would be asked to leave [by management], but butt taps, etc, were not punishable. “Just let it go,” was a normal response.
It absolutely was my choice to work there, and it gave me a better understanding of self worth and what our society has done to women. I know there are many other women out there who are okay with being sexualised, and if that is their thing, then good luck. I would tell a woman that it’s better to work at Olive Garden than Hooters. The tips arent that much different.
How can we be taken seriously when it’s all about the body and not about the brain?
As a culture, women are brought up to be fundamentally insecure. We worry about our weight and when we can start wearing make-up and getting our ears pierced and the kinds of clothes we wear.
But this is short-changing our intellectual capital, our brains, and the voices that are needed in public forums. As a society, we’re not standing for the right value and principles. And the media is making it pretty clear what people should admire about women.
Don’t get me wrong. I think a woman’s sensuality is one of our best assets. But it’s only one of our best assets.
Gini goes on to say that women are often their own worst enemies, by virtue of how they treat each other. I would say the same of Danica Patrick. And I want to be very careful when I say the women who work for Hooters. Yes, I know that jobs are hard to find. And that if it weren’t for Hooters, some of these women might not have a job or income. And, yes, perhaps some are single moms. And I don’t mean to sound harsh, but that doesn’t let them of the hook.
What have we done to our young women? I have a 22 year old daughter of whom I am incredibly proud. She has avoided most of the drama and issues that often plague young girls and women in terms of relationships and body issues. As I commented on Gini’s blog that day:
I used to write and speak about this a lot. Our culture has done a great disservice to our young girls. Just walk down the aisle at the grocery store and look at the magazine covers. There are no real women represented. They all have personal trainers, then go through hours of makeup and hair styling, then are shot with perfect lighting. And then after all of that, we photoshop and make them “perfect”. No girl or woman can live up to that expectation. No wonder we have such a problem with eating disorders and body image issues and esteem. And no wonder our young boys grow up to objectify women because this is what they see. Would they rather have the girl next door with acne and braces or the woman on the cover? It’s no contest, and it’s sad. Very sad.
Does SOPA, if passed, have far reaching and dangerous implications? Yes. And we protested. Loudly.
But I would say that the way GoDaddy, Hooters, and others, objectify women is even more dangerous and has farther reaching implications. It’s just that they are more subtle. Which might actually be why it’s more dangerous.
Should we be concerned about SOPA? Yes. But it shouldn’t have been this that woke us up.
Where are our priorities? Are we more worried about our “rights” online, or about freeing the minds and well-being of the girls and women in our lives.
So now GoDaddy has reversed their position on SOPA and they’ve bandaged the wounds and stopped the bleeding. But I still won’t be sending them any business as long as they market and brand themselves in a way that is demeaning and damaging to women. I hope others will do the same.
Are you willing to join me in speaking out against this sort of exploitation that hides under the guise of marketing and branding? What are you thoughts? Am I off base in my thinking on this?
- Why GoDaddy Hasn’t Earned My Forgiveness (pcworld.com)
- Nothing to see here. (paigeworthy.com)
- New .XXX Domains For Sale – Should You Buy Your Company’s Name? (v3im.com)
- Six Reasons Social Media Doesn’t Work (spinsucks.com)