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Homa Tavangar's picture

More and more people are recognizing the exploitation of women's images in the media and the impact it can have on our daughters -- and our sons. They are pushing back, not gonna take it anymore. I am impressed by the mainstream embrace of courageous campaigns, like my local Costco's sales of the DVD of the documentary Miss Representation. When I see dads on Facebook reposting links to the Dove Soap campaign for Real Beauty, glimmers of hopefulness are stoked in my heart.

But then, almost as my optimism begins to sink in, I'll overhear a popular -- and misogynistic -- song any of my daughters is humming to without paying attention to the lyrics, or see my cousin open a magazine and wish I could block the offensive advertisement. With her permission, I'm sharing verbatim the letter she wrote to Southwest Airlines.

Dear xxx,

I am a loyal Southwest customer who flies the airline every time I can. We go out of our way to fly Southwest because we appreciate the airline so. This means I bring my kids on Southwest whenever possible.

For some time now, I have been disturbed by some of the advertising you feature in the magazine. In particular, ads for companies such as Hooters and Tilted Kilt, where sex (or sexiness) is used to sell a restaurant, are particularly egregious. Cirque de Soleil ads sometimes cross the line as well. Only these three objectionable ads are visible in the current edition (April 2012), however, on a recent trip I counted some 14 different ads with such questionable content.

It is strange to me that this is so, considering the fact that the magazine is otherwise filled with family-friendly, educational and even humanitarian material. When my kids (two daughters, ages 10 and 13) run out of material they have brought to entertain themselves, what do you think they turn to? That's right, Spirit Magazine. And right there among the interesting and moving stories and crossword puzzles and maps and great photography are photographs that essentially tell my daughters the following message: When you grow boobs, girls, just thrust 'em out there, barely covered, for the world to see, and you'll get a lot of attention, too. It tells them, even if subconsciously, that this sort of dress and deportment is not only OK, but in fact desirable. However, nothing could be farther from the truth; the inherent nobility of the women in the photographs, not to mention the viewers that leer at them, is degraded through these advertisements, even if the people don't know it themselves. And it delivers damaging messages to the minds of my and all children, the tender plants that they are.

Please, why not do the right thing and refuse advertising that degrades 50% of the human race? It seems like this would be in keeping with the overall mission of Southwest.


Roya Bauman, Ph.D.

If you want them to reconsider the advertising they run in their in-flight magazine, won't you write to them, too? Or if you have another approach, please share it here, in the comments.

(Postscript: After Roya wrote her letter and we talked about sharing it, this story came out: "Cover Your Cleavage for Takeoff: Southwest Airlines Screws Up Again" I took it as one more odd contradiction of our society's relationship with women and their bodies.  What do you think??)

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