The advert was featured on the back of the service’s buses in United Kingdom, on May 11st, 2015. It featured the tagline “Ride me all day for £3” on a sig being held by a topless woman. The Cardiff-based New Adventure Travel Ltd, NAT, promised to withdraw the campaign within hours of the launch after receiving a scathing backlash online. The problem is not really the use of a woman. And neither the slogan. In my opinion, the problem is the need felt by the creators of the ad to use the topless woman to sell £3 bus tickets, in other words, the normalization of objectification of women, and, deep down in the combination of the slogan and topless woman, there is a price tag on woman body.
To use the woman’s body to sell every day’s wares, like bus fares, normalizes the objectifications that many women face on their day to day lives. This normalization makes a way for misogynistic culture in communities where women find themselves being judged, say in a work place, by their gender, instead of their performance.
On other side, there is quite a blur saying that the woman body is up for sale or that women have no say in what their bodies experience, as long as there is money to pay. Therefore, a price tag on woman’s body. Domestic violence and rape against women have their roots in the feeling that women are commodities, instead of being humans and they are, and thus they can be used as pleased.
Obviously, the fact that the advert was removed within the following 24 hours after its launching means that there is a growing force toward eliminating negative experiences faced by woman simply based on their gender, but the fact that the advert was found fitting for the role shows the work to be done in de-normalizing sexism and in eliminating misogyny.
Here, the advert still communicates its full meaning (the intended meaning) to all potential bus users, who will see this advert, that it will cost them only £3 to ride the bus all day. The removal of a topless woman from the equation makes the message simple and clear: you pay £3 then you can use the bus all day.
Clearly, no major changes were done to the picture as a whole (the background, color of the bus, and the slogan, all the same). The only change done was removing the topless woman by applying the same color as the background. Although it sounds like a small change, if done by a big company, like NAT, having no depiction or objectification of a woman gives space for the fight against rape and domestic violence, among others, to be carried out with less social resistance. Misogyny has been around for centuries, so big and powerful companies have the obligation to at least not fuel the fire and contribute in all possible ways in the fight against gender-based violence, especially for women.
Comparing the two pictures above, one would easily see the problem. So having the edited version would bring a community or a group of people to talk about the normalization of objectification and depiction of women leading to social change. Hopefully.