The Solstice night, made darker by rain, was good for sleeping, for burrowing deep into dreams, the vastness of the collective unconscious. And when the dawn arrived, late, it marked a time to wake up, start a new cycle of awareness.
Which makes it the ideal moment to begin a series of posts that hone in on some of the blatant BS that's surrounded the whole Bill 2491/Ordinance 960 movement.
Let's launch with some of its most visible, self-promoting proponents: Babes Against Biotech. These wahine used that tired old standard, T&A, to draw attention to the anti-GMO cause, while also conveniently drawing attention to themselves.
But as Salon.com reports, two new studies from Queensland University show that “using sexualized images of women reduces support for ethical campaigns.” And why? Elementary, my dear Watson:
Intentions to support the ethical organization were reduced for those exposed to the sexualized advertising, and this was explained by their dehumanization of the sexualized women, and not by increased arousal.
Research has shown that sexualized women are dehumanized, specifically being seen as more animal-like than non-sexualized women. This subtle form of dehumanization, called infrahumanization involves seeing another as lacking uniquely human characteristics such as rationality, refinement, and culture. Dehumanization can have damaging consequences for its targets. For example, men who dehumanize women by associating them with animals or objects are more likely to sexually harass women and have a higher rape propensity.
Sexualized advertising could therefore backfire for ethical causes by eliciting responses that are antithetical to such causes.
And that seems to be what happened here in Hawaii.
Though Salon and the studies used PETA [People for Ethical Treatment of Animals] as an example, Sophie Cocke at Civil Beat localized it by focusing on the Babes, using Nomi Carmona's topless calendar photo to illustrate the story. Anyone who has followed 2491 is familiar with Nomi, an Oahu resident who frequently jetted over here to shake her stuff in front of the County Council. I really began to lose respect for Councilman Gary Hooser when I saw his "hubba hubba" reaction the first time she testified.
While Gary apparently fell for her schtick, others who supported the movement expressed dismay. Indeed, a number of people told me they thought the Babes were actually working for biotech because their behavior and tactics were so over the top. An Oahu woman who attended the Legislative hearings on GMO labeling bills said she couldn't understand why all these scantily clad “girly-girls” were flaunting themselves and making outrageous, inaccurate statements. Her impression: I wanted to tell them to leave because it seemed like they were intentionally trying to discredit the movement.
I don't know if that's what they intended, but as the Australia studies confirm, sexual exploitation is a crappy strategy for building support among ethical, thinking people.
Curiously, Ohana o Kauai aligned itself closely with the Babes, as you can see from this KITV clip of Ohana leader Fern Rosenstiel and Nomi, who launches the interview with this typically inane comment:
“But Fern is a scientist, she should tell you more about why it's horrible to spray poisons on children and community members.”
Which leads us back to the Australia studies:
In sum, our findings indicate that organizations promoting ethical causes should be especially concerned with communicating their message ethically, specifically in ways that do not dehumanize women. They also show that dehumanizing women not only has negative consequences for women but also for the ethical causes that traffic in them.
Hmmmm. Communicating ethically. Seems that would exclude flat-out lies and wild exaggerations.
Or as the Salon article notes:
This new research supports the nagging feeling many of us have held for years – that rather than filling people with warm helpful feelings, the true byproduct of using women’s bodies as window dressing appears to be boners. Advertising consultant Jane Caro tells the Canberra Times, ”Sex only sells if you are trying to sell sex.” You want to sell ethics? Try using ethical behavior.
Unfortunately, though the movement continually criticized the biotech/chemical companies for unethical behavior, its leaders/spokespersons too often failed to take the high road and instead engaged in the unethical antics and messaging themselves.
I don't know about you, but it was a huge turnoff for me.