At the time of writing, this is an admittedly “old” story but it’s things like this that encouraged me to create this blog in the first place so I couldn’t resist analysing such a ridiculous news item. It is of course, one of many daily attempts by the BBC to wind up right-wing readers and keep them at war with left-wing liberals in the interests of generating clicks and ad revenue. Nevertheless, the quotes from the article are real as crazy as they may sound.
For those outside of the UK, M&S (Marks & Spencer) are a large high-street retailer often placed in the supermarket sector in direct competition with the likes of Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury’s etc. but are considered a cut above when it comes to the quality of their food and clothing. Naturally, the price tags are in line with the additional quality and there are many who will happily brand the M&S shopper a “snob” or say that they must be “getting paid too much” if they do their shopping there. Stupid assumptions and insta-judgments of course but hey, no surprise there.
Anyway, a photograph of a store display in Nottingham which advertised suits for men and lingerie for women was posted up on a Facebook group called “Feminists Friends Nottingham” and the ensuing outrage was typical of our easily-offended society in 2018 where conclusions are leapt toward in a microsecond and bizarre interpretations attempt to overcomplicate everything. For a prime example of reading far too much into a fucking window display, check out what one female interviewee gave the BBC (who must have been rubbing their hands together in glee):
“Ok, M&S Nottingham, have we really not learned anything in the last 35 years? Or am I alone in finding this, their major window display, completely vomit inducing?”
“I also feel very, very strongly about the representation of women as being preoccupied with fancy little knickers, whereas men are presented as powerful and needing to be impressive.
“I don’t have a problem with people choosing to wear whatever they want to wear, I just feel like the juxtaposition is what’s grossly, grossly offensive.
“We are surrounded by sexual images of both men and women. M&S are not by any means the only offenders but that particular window just epitomises everything that’s wrong with current marketing and how far backwards we’ve gone.”
First of all, I have to say that “vomit-inducing” is a fucking extreme reaction to this. If the particular individual in question feels that ill after looking at a photograph of a window display then I dread to think how they will cope with seeing something truly sickening.
I do understand where her core displeasure at M&S’s advertising is coming from but last time I checked, it was completely normal for men to buy suits and women to buy fancy knickers. Should we be hiding sexy lingerie at the back of the store in a dark corner like a dirty secret? When women purchase underwear a step above the basic variety, it isn’t solely to impress the man in their life in the bedroom; it’s also because it makes them feel attractive. Men don’t just buy suits to impress the ladies: they also want to feel smart and look well-presented.
If you thought the above was an overreaction then get a load of this:
Another post, from a man, said the window display was “far too provocative and rapey”.
“It is not the right sort of message especially during this current season when people drink more and their filters are thrown out of the window,” he wrote.
I struggled to wrap my head around this one. A window display advertising underwear for women being sexist might have made some sort of warped sense but to suggest it promotes rape is flat-out laughable and plain daft. And what exactly does getting merry over the seasonal period have to do with this anyway? Is he suggesting that a woman is more likely to be raped after a few drinks if the man finds that she’s wearing an M&S bra? Because that means that she must have been “well up for it”? I don’t even know what sort of nutty angle this guy was coming from and I’m not convinced that this is even a legitimate quote.
There was one more feminist reaction reported on the BBC’s news site:
“As a feminist and a mother to a young daughter I felt embarrassed that I had to yet again explain why women are depicted with so little respect,” she said.
“When companies insist on men being fully clothed and women showcasing lingerie only, it sends a message about women’s place in society as objects to titillate.”
A perfect example of somebody seeing insinuations and subliminal messages and blowing them out of proportion. Women buy lingerie. M&S are advertising lingerie to women. It really isn’t any more complicated than that. Yes, the men have a display of suits but must we really over-analyse every window display as it is being constructed and painstakingly pump it full of equality just to prevent people seeing offence and subtle suppression in every single bloody thing? As I have already pointed out, fancy knickers and bras don’t exist solely for the benefit of men and this window display doesn’t actually try and suggest otherwise. M&S aren’t sending out messages. They are simply providing and advertising what women want to buy, whatever the motivation behind the purchase is.
Thankfully – in this case at least – M&S have confirmed that they won’t be making any changes to their store window displays in light of the complaints and I salute them for not immediately caving beneath a bit of social media pressure as countless other retailers tend to.