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'Sexist' car advertisement draws ire

By Rana Husseini - Feb 13,2020 - Last updated at Feb 13,2020

AMMAN — Women activists and social media users on Thursday expressed their shock and dismay over an advertisement that appeared on billboards in the capital’s streets displaying “messages with a double meaning”, which they claimed are demeaning and insulting to women.

The ad, which was created by a car company, began circulating on social media platforms on Wednesday evening. Messages displayed on the ad appeared to be addressed to men, saying: “If you do not like her, then change her”, “Do you feel there is one more beautiful than her? Then change her” and “Is it costing you a lot of money? Then change her”.

Solidarity is Global Institute Executive President Asma Khader said that the ad's "double meaning is a grave insult to women, as it depicts women as commodities that could be changed if their husbands did not like them or found a woman who is more beautiful”.

“These kinds of ads portraying women as commodities rather than human beings who deserve full respect and admiration will leave a bad impression on the public,” the executive president told The Jordan Times.

Khader, a lawyer and former minister, added that the ads, “which violate the dignity of women", are “unacceptable” and should be removed from the streets. 

"We reject the private sector’s attempts to depict women as a commodity that should be exchanged or traded in return for profit," she said.

Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW) Secretary General Salma Nims also criticised the ad, saying that it is “not only humiliating to women, but also to men and the marriage relationship between them by showing that men can change their wives whenever they are bored with them”.

The ad is "unacceptable", Nims told The Jordan Times, noting that the JNCW has repeatedly addressed companies in the past regarding discriminatory and sexist ads.

She added that the JNCW contacted the car company that published the ad, which notified the organisation that they will take down the billboards on Friday and replace them with advertisements that are "gender-sensitive and respectful to women”.

“The car company informed us that they are aware of the public’s discontented response to their ads in the streets, and they informed us that they will be replacing them tomorrow,” Nims said.

SADAQA Core Team Member Sahar Aloul also expressed her rejection of the advertisements, which she described as “one of several ads that surface every now and then that are insulting to women”.

“This is not the first time that we have seen an offensive and discriminatory ad towards women that has appeared on billboards in the streets and in the media in general,” Aloul told The Jordan Times.

This, she added, is due to the lack of policies against this type of gender discrimination. 

"Policy makers have failed to put in place policies that regulate ads and discriminatory content against women in the media," she said.

“Unfortunately, we continue to act in a reactionary way rather than a proactive way that makes these practices unacceptable professionally and socially,” Aloul added.

People around the Kingdom also criticised the advertisements on social media platforms.

Fida Taher wrote: “There is a hidden subliminal sexist message behind this ad. Media plays a very dangerous part in gender roles, and we need to stand against it and speak up when such cases occur.”

Hadeel Maaitah added: “Humor at its worst... an obnoxious, distasteful ad campaign.”

“This ad addresses only men, as if women are not worth advertising to,” another social media user, Lubna Tahboub, wrote.

Nizar Zahran also wrote a post criticising the ad. “I think it’s probably better to have them remove it... bad ads that cross the line of what is socially acceptable, or that fall into stereotyping issues, usually self-destruct and the company learns the lesson from either the negative feedback or the lack of response to the advertisement itself."

Manar Aldina, however, wrote: "We make meaning according to who we are as individuals, nothing having to do with a campaign! This marketing campaign clearly struck a chord, but why take it personally as bullying against women when it can mean so many other things? Let’s cool down and take it easy... nobody can belittle us without our consent, not a marketing campaign and not even our own men! We create our own worth!”

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