A story started doing the rounds earlier this week suggesting that Romania’s delightful Family Coalition (Life passim) was demanding that an advert featuring a not unattractive young lady wearing a bikini be banned on grounds of indecency. The ad – for swimwear – was not dissimilar to the one above (and was for the same company, Calzedonia).
After a bit of digging by Eduard Popa it quickly became apparent that this was not particularly recent news. In fact, it is a story which dates from last summer. And as it turns out, it was not in fact the coalition per se which was calling for the ad to be banned. Instead, a ‘concerned parent’ petitioned the Romanian Consumer Protection Authority and the Ministry of Transport to have Metrorex remove the offending advert (it was displayed in the passage between the Piata Unirii 1 and Piata Unirii 2 metro stations). The coalition, however, took up the case and championed the campaign. What’s most worrying about the whole thing is that they were successful: Metrorex (like Romania’s spineless political parties) caved in to the coalition’s demands and removed the ad.
The reason the story (largely ignored last summer: we were certainly unaware of it) has surfaced just now is because the coalition has an awful lot of light on it these days. Opponents (like us) are ready and willing to pounce on its every mistake, both old and new. There are plenty, and demanding that women dress modestly is not the least of them. Indeed, it could be argued that it is the beginning of a seriously slippery slope that leads precipitously towards the compulsory wearing of burkas (if you think we are exaggerating to make a point you would be right. However, it is well worth taking a look at how Iranian women dressed in the 1970s).
The reasoning used to demand the advert’s removal is both bizarre and ever-so-slightly Orwellian. A couple of choice excerpts:
‘I may be obliged to explain to my children why the lady is not wearing clothes’
This makes us wonder if the Family Coalition ever take their kids to the beach? If they do, what the fuck do they wear?
‘The ad is an insult to men…it reduces men to their most basic, primal instinct and uses it to persuade them into making irrational purchases’
Actually, the ad is directed at women, not men. Maybe we are rather old fashioned and perhaps even traditional but Mrs. Bucharest Life is more than capable of buying her own undercrackers.
Now, as luck would have it, we do have a bit of expertise and years of experience in the small yet not to be neglected field of what is and what is not acceptable attire for young ladies in adverts. Publishing, as we do, a half-decent series of city guides, we have long had to deal with clients of a certain kind (strip clubs, massage parlours) testing the limit of what is and what is not acceptable. More than a few times we have had to turn down ads because proprietors wanted to include half-naked women. We refused. Our policy is now actually so rigid that we do not allow girls to appear in the ads at all, be they fully clothed, semi-clothed or naked.
Why? Because it is all about context. Long discussions at In Your Pocket Towers over the years have often centered around what became known as The Benetton Question: Would we accept an ad from Benetton featuring a half-naked girl (or boy, for that matter)? Yes, of course we would. If the ad is for products or services which are clearly neither immoral nor remotely controversial then it’s fine (even if the ad itself, as is often the case with Benetton, is anything but non-controversial).
It’s common sense: if a girl in a bikini, her underwear or even less represents something which could be construed as immoral than we would agree that such an ad should be targeted accordingly and not perhaps set out on full display for all and sundry. This was not, however, the case here. The ad on the Bucharest metro was for underwear and swimwear, neither of which are inherently immoral (or at least they weren’t, the last time we checked). Although it has taken almost a year for people to find out what it gets up to when not protecting Romania from the combined evils of gay marriage, women’s rights, children’s rights, abortion, contraception, fertility treatments, vaccination and sex education, the Family Coalition scored a massive own goal in supporting the campaign to remove the ad. As more of these indiscretions become public knowledge the organisation risks becoming a laughing stock.