Where I get my undies in a wad about undies.

Ok, you might notice this is filed under ‘rants’ so heads up on lots of italics for emphasis, as well as a *LANGUAGE WARNING*. (Not too much, just when it really really really fucking needs it.)

This is our local Rip Curl surf store down in Burleigh. Notice anything?

alana blanchard futures ad

IMAG1907 undies post

undies post
Has she been photoshopped a bit obviously do you think? Or maybe she only works out her right arm, like Reggie from that Lady in the Water movie. That would be a HUGE coincidence, since this lady is also in the water.

undies post mirage


This photo just about sums it up.
This photo just about sums it up.

I crack the shits every time I drive past it, which is often. This is for two main reasons:

  1. The females are practically naked while the males remain fully clothed with modest boardies and sensible rasher vests because they are also being sun smart.
  2. The women aren’t DOING anything, just posing and making their bodies the focus. All of the males bar one, however, are pulling some seriously hero moves as well as looking awesome.

Women are depicted as passive, while men are depicted as active. Which has implications for how we view female skills and competence in this sport…  you might be wondering are these women even surfers?

I hope not to sound like I’m personally hating on Alana Blanchard, who is in fact a very talented American pro surfer on the ASP World Tour. She’s stated her preference of wearing high-cut Brazilian style bikini bottoms, and in fact has designed a line of them herself with Rip Curl called Alana’s Closet. That’s really cool! But why can’t we see her togs in action on some actual waves? Reveal the function in the form, so her ads aren’t just about showing off her bum? (Which is certainly worthy of its own photo shoot.)

I know this is hardly a new opinion, but man, I’m getting so sick of seeing women getting a raw deal in the media, my eyeballs are getting RSI from constant rolling. But despite awareness and condemnation of sexism, raunch culture continues – seems to me it’s getting worse. Do guys just turn around and say ‘nah thanks’ when asked to take their kit off? Or are they not asked to? The ‘Mirage’ poster in particular infuriates me as the tagline reads “like wearing nothing”, yet the guy is fully clothed. Yet where women are involved, the slightest excuse is enough to strip them off! Skincare. Animal rights.  Jeans. Calvin Klein is one of the worst offenders and it just stinks of desperation. SneakersPerfume. Bloody hell, name me one perfume ad without a naked woman in it! Even worse are men’s cologne / deodorant ads where the male model remains fully dressed and in-charge-looking and it’s still the woman who ends up naked. Even fucking real estate!  It just goes on and on.

We are constantly bombarded with this shit. Hence this rant! Seeing one sexy ad is no big deal but endless streams of it of course has an impact. The main impact on ME is being pissed off at being force fed this unimaginative crap then being told to lighten up and stop being so uptight about it.

Ew. I’ve come across even more blatantly sexist ads than I was expecting when I started writing this post and I feel all seedy now. I know they say ‘sex sells’, but that doesn’t mean that upping the bar on gratuitousness will sell more. It’s actually kind of boring and formulaic, but with the added bonus of being offensive as well… I know I’m not buying if they’re selling it like that. Mind you, my experience with advertising is limited to updating my resume.

A recent promo for the Roxy Pro in Biarritz really bunched my undies, because, well, here’s the ad:

…Here’s the main publicity for a prominent women’s surfing competition, where the competitors are world class athletes –their model is one of the best female surfers in the world, and this is how they think best to promote it. 

But…but…there’s no surfing in the ad! It’s not promoting surfing! It’s promoting undies and mobile phones and hot water systems! Sure, AFTER rolling around in her undies on the bed and putting on a seethrough shirt – only to drop it provocatively on the floor as she gets in the shower – she does finally dress and head off with her surfboard to the beach. Then there’s a close up of her arse as she carries her board, some more shots of her (admittedly stunning) boobs, bum and awesome hair before she hits the water, confidently paddling out. Then the video ends with ‘Roxy Pro Biarritz 2013’ and a bunch of sponsor logos.

It stirred up controversy, like all the other ads that objectify women, so at least it’s good to know a lot of people think it’s not ok. One online news source said Roxy was criticised for “its ‘voyeuristic’ promotional video which reduces a young female surfer to a body without a head.” And this is what Roxy said in reply, after saying they didn’t show the surfer’s face because it was part of some stupid competition:

Today, Roxy answered its critics by saying “women are complex and multi-dimensional”.

Well. You wouldn’t know it by watching your advert.

“To ignore this fact is to ignore who we truly are,” Roxy said in a statement on its Facebook page.

Stop trying to bullshit me. Are you saying a woman wrote this? Am I now supposed to feel female solidarity? Fuck you.

“Obviously, there’s been much conversation around the video we recently released. We believe all athletes are naturally beautiful, in and out of the water.”

Tell me more, o wise one.

“You certainly don’t have to be sexy to be an athlete, & we also believe it’s not wrong to be an athlete and to be sexy, if you choose to be. We don’t judge one to be better than the other and we don’t believe in excluding one for the other.”

Isn’t that a pretty bunch of words? So soothing and inoffensive and uplifting as they try to whitewash the fact that the video is blatant sexploitation.

Hmm… “…we also believe it’s not wrong to be an athlete and to be sexy, if you choose to be.” That’s absolutely right. So – the surfer must’ve come up with the idea for the promo on her own then. She must have said, I want to take my gear off and have the camera ogle me, and never even look at my face. Just focus on my arse, and my boobs, because that’s what I want. Yeah I bet that’s what happened.

The following day a second video showcasing surfing highlights was posted, announcing five-time world champion -our own Stephanie Gilmore – had joined Roxy. Why not do that to begin with? Why show us an artsy fartsy montage of body parts and coyly tell us to guess who she is? They made her a nameless naked woman; as if the person isn’t important, the talent and dedication aren’t important, it all comes down to what her body looks like in a tiny bikini. Why can’t they get some awe inspiring footage of her tackling waves, showcasing the moves that won her those FIVE World Championships? That’s the kind of thing I want to see.

Yay Steph!
Aussie! Aussie!! Aussie!!!

According to most surfing advertising I’ve seen we have the same surf culture as 40 years ago. We’re stuck in the novel Puberty Blues. Where the girls weren’t allowed to surf and just lounged on the beach as accessories to entitled male surfers. It’s still happening on the billboards at my local Rip Curl store, and probably many others. I can only remember a couple of times I’ve seen women actually surfing in a surfwear ad. And yet the girls ARE out there now, in a big way, ripping it up! Look, I managed to find SIX surfwear ads of women actually surfing, as opposed to posing on a beach / boat / holding a board etc…

undies rant billabong female surfers duckdive

I’d much rather see Steph in the ad going off on some waves and be thinking, “Sick! That looks like awesome fun, I should have another crack at surfing” than just “Wow she has great hair.” (Though she does have great hair.)

roxy ad undies post

I see this woman and think: gorgeous and feminine. But also fit, talented, and a free spirit with some mad hang ten skillz.

“Leave a message” … and that message is, “WATCH OUT, COMING THROUGH!!”

carrissa moore

I really wish I’d been a grom. What do you call a grom approaching middle age? A Grmom?

lisa andersen surfing

Woohoo! Go you good thing! Make the skills the focus, surf brands!

Er. Hang on a minute...
Er. Hang on a minute…

Great surfing but I’m a little distracted by that extremely uncomfy-looking togs wedge.

Am I ‘slut shaming’? I really dislike the term but at least you know what I’m talking about when I use it since I am making an issue of female nudity and sensuality.

To be clear, I am definitely NOT calling any woman who shows off their assets that name!!! But I can’t criticise these kind of ads without by association criticising the women in them. I’m sorry Stephanie, and Alana, I’m not trying to have a go at you. I’m ok with women wearing and doing whatever they like because it’s THEIR CHOICE. What I have a problem with is that so much imagery of women seems to have the default setting of sexy/ look at my gorgeous mostly naked body / look at my mostly naked body next to this fully clothed, dominant-looking male. And with that constant exposure (pun intended), it becomes the norm, and more entrenched. It’s like telling a little girl they can wear whatever they like, but the store only has dresses. In pink. (Which is a whole separate rant; don’t get me started).

When mums ask their little girls what they want to be when they grow up, how will they see their options?

I wanna be a forensic scientist like on CSI (with sky high stilettos and a push-up bra).

I wanna be a computer programmer (with sexy glasses and a push up bra).

I wanna be a nurse (naughty).

I wanna be a footy player (lingerie).

I wanna be a dancer (pole).

…I might be going overboard just a bit.

Apparently Steph’s had a bit of a laugh at it all, and the Noosa Festival of Surfing poked fun at the controversy as well by creating a spoof promo for their event in 2014. Which I thought was brilliant but seriously people got offended by it? Get real people! Don’t be sexist and ageist! If a 50 year old guy with a dodgy knee and daggy undies wants to flog a surf comp, fine; if a young woman can do it, so can an old codger. But while they re-created some of Steph’s ad shot for shot, it wasn’t the same. It showcased a sense of humour for a start; a positive quality that is also very attractive …but requires a different sort of cheek.

So…in conclusion. (Finally!) The main goal of feminism is to ensure women have the same rights and choices as men, right? But if young girls don’t see women depicted as anything more than sexy or as sex objects, if they aren’t consistently shown the alternatives – confidence and competence without baring your butt cheeks – how do they know they have that choice? Meanwhile, I’m emailing the store to suggest changing up their billboards as regards female surfers; I’ll let you know how that goes.

Update: Just watched Miley Cyrus at the American Video Music Awards trying to prove she’s a woman now by stripping to her undies, thrusting a giant Coles foam finger between her legs and groping and licking a married man 16 years her senior who should definitely know better. Cringe… look away… Girls, you have many many choices; please don’t choose THAT.

P.S. And if you’re thinking, but that’s so two weeks ago! Well yes. I had this all written and ready to go, but didn’t quite get round to posting before going on holidays. Which will possibly appear in a later post and be much more fun than this rant.

– Michelle


Update February 2014:

Available to rent; one slightly used surf shop.

Well, at least I don't get pissed off when I drive past any more...
Well, at least I don’t get pissed off when I drive past any more.

Update October 2014 (different surf shop, one where I am much more inclined to spend my money):

Yaayyy! Roxy comes through yet again. I heart Roxy so hard for doing better. Also, HOLYSHIT how high up is that cliff Sally and Kelia are throwing themselves off?! They are some fearless Amazons!!
Yaayyy! Roxy comes through yet again. I heart Roxy so hard for doing better. Also, HOLYSHIT how high up is that cliff Sally and Kelia are throwing themselves off?! They are some fearless Amazons!!

12 Comments Add yours

  1. tc says:

    Interesting rant Michelle! While I do get your point, I’ll leave you with these thoughts also 🙂
    1. While the action shots are great and show the fun active side of surfing, in most you can barely see the product they’re selling to most shoppers (the bikini). As someone who has been on a bikini search these past few weeks – if I could have done research before I got into the stores in advertising/on websites where I could have worked out the styles, materials and quality, I would have dragged poor BRD into a lot less stores 😉 (don’t worry, the search is finally over! Hehe)
    2. Although Roxy and RipCurl etc are ‘surf brands’, I’d hazard a guess that of all ladies that buy swimwear, only around 5% (or less? I dunno…) actually get on a board and surf. There are many other options- playing fetch with pup in the water at currumbin, kayaking, snorkelling, floating, splashing about, scuba diving, swimming laps, lazing around a lazy river in a tube with a cocktail in a pineapple, playing with kids in a backyard pool – or as I learned yesterday, going to a segregated spa when you still want to retain some modesty.
    3. Guys wearing rashies and boardies aren’t covering up another product that they’re trying to sell. 😉

    Now Miley’s new vid, that’s different…!


    1. Michelle says:

      Thanks for reading and commenting TC! Oh and I know that most women who shop at surf stores don’t actually surf, but I’m fairly sure neither do most men. It’s mainly the difference in how the professionals were depicted on the billboards – seemingly based solely on their gender – that I consider sexist and annoying. The billboards haven’t changed since I first saw them over 2 years ago so I don’t think they are for selling a particular product (especially the two biggest ones of Alana & Mick), it’s more the promotion of surf culture in general and that’s why the woman standing there with her bum, not surfing, pisses me off. Sorry, I’m ranting again! I’m glad you found yourself some nice togs; I always go to Sunburn – love their stuff and they last more than a couple of summers’ worth of daily beach and pool wear. 🙂


  2. I have ranty mcrants about that too – couldn’t agree more 🙂


    1. Michelle says:

      I know right? Hey how was the PB Event? I might look into it for next year…what are the chances it’ll be on the coast again? *hoping*


      1. PB Event was fantastic. You should definitely try and go. Best advice was don’t compare yourself to other bloggers, compare yourself to where you were this time last year 🙂


        1. Michelle says:

          That’s very good advice. This time last year blogs and blogging wasn’t even on my radar, so I’m going great!


  3. O,My,
    where do I begin? It’s no wonder our girls have massive body image issues, bulimia, anorexia…I could go on and on…

    Psychology Today says *** Currently, 80 percent of women in the U.S. are dissatisfied with their appearance. And more than 10 million are suffering from eating disorders.***

    I get so damn pissed off…and then I see that idiot, Miley Cyrus, sexualizing herself like a fool with that stupid tongue and finger. WTF. What an insult to the female race.

    Loved your rant, btw.


    1. Michelle says:

      Thanks for listening while I vented! My ears still steam a bit when I drive past that shop (or any of them) but getting my thoughts out has helped a little and it doesn’t grate as much. As to Miley, well, she’s only young yet; hopefully she won’t continue down that road.


  4. Mel T says:

    Surfing. Volleyball. Football. It seems the only time women can keep their clothes on in sport it’s assumed they bat for the other team, so to speak (hello, cricket). So you can be a hot bimbo, or a lesbian sports player. Which is fine if that’s what you want, but surely there are more options out there.

    Gender stereotyping also happens in music stores (no, really?), but at least the women are allowed to keep their clothes on. Recently my bloke wanted a new guitar, so went to a few shops to try them in the semi-soundproof room, which of course has walls covered in posters promoting various brands. As a female bass player I was fascinated to see that a) bass players only made it onto one poster, and b) the two posters that showed women had them playing acoustic guitars. What – bass guitar is inferior to lead, or even rhythm, guitar? Women shouldn’t play electric guitar? And (oh gods) women really shouldn’t play bass?

    Made me want to pick up the beautiful Fender bass I saw and rip out “Devil Gate Drive”. But of course, bass rarely gets a recognisable riff… (which is probably another rant in itself).

    (heh, still enjoying delving into your back catalogue!)


    1. Michelle says:

      Sorry Mel, how did I miss replying on your comment? Much apology and grovelling. I hope you’re still reading, and that my (unintentionally) snobbing you off didn’t make you go ‘well screw that bitch I’m outta here’!
      Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and sharing your experiences – sexism is still so entrenched in every aspect of our society yet it still surprises me sometimes. Good on YOU for making your mark in another traditionally male dominated field 🙂


      1. Mel T says:

        Heheh, all good! Still here 😉 Still feeling a bit McRanty Pants about musical instrument shops – recently had loads of help choosing a tambourine but none when I picked up a bass. I’m charitably trying to believe that blokes in instrument shops don’t know what to do with women in general and are a tad shy.

        And it’s a bit ironic that on the day I’ve been looking into pathways for my 11yr old girl to get noticed by the Tassie cricket squad you reply to my comment about lesbian cricket players :-0


        1. Michelle says:

          Whoah really? That is ironic! The universe thinks it’s being funny. :S
          So the wee one is a bit of a cricket star hey? Fantastic! Best wishes for her making the squad!


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