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Can You Spot the Sexism?

 by Lisa Gulya

Tags: Media, media criticism, feminism, advertising, sexism, Minnesota Women’s Press, Ms.,

The current issue of the Minnesota Women's Press improves upon one of Ms. magazine's popular sexism-shaming features. The Ms. version, "No Comment," simply reprints offensive ads alongside contact info for the companies they represent (here's an example, from the Spring 2005 issue). The Women's Press iteration may be a copycat, but its copy is better executed—it actually spells out what's offensive about the ad in question, a bit of directness from which the Ms. feature could benefit.

In this case, the Women’s Press takes on a BMW ad for pre-owned cars, which displays a come-hither-looking blonde woman with the caption “You know you're not the first.” “Isn't it common knowledge,” the Women’s Press snarks, “that a good used woman is just like a good used car? Or maybe the car is preferable because it doesn't talk back—or doesn't ask questions about a man's past ‘driving history.’”

Some people don’t get puns, and some of us don’t immediately spot sexism in the tiny reprinted versions of these ads—I’ve stared at more than one in Ms. without realizing what the problem is—and most of the time, a little context or analysis goes a long way.