Wednesday, 18 June 2008

ABOUT THAT TERM "CHICK FLICK" ...


Regular SAbookworm readers will recall me writing about the use of the terms "chick lit" and "chick flick" in Open Letter to the Media in January.

As I said then: "This may come as a surprise to some, but the use of the word "chick" in this context is either overtly or covertly dismissive, as it directly associates women with something that is small, vulnerable, cute, compliant, dim-witted, non-threatening and controllable. Simply put, to use this term to describe women, and things related to and of interest to them, is offensive and denigrating."

In the piece, I specifically mentioned e.tv's use of the term to advertise its Thursday night movies. And, just to see what would happen, I submitted the piece to the station for comment, as well as logging a complaint about its use with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.

Not unsurprisingly, e.tv didn't even respond, and the BCC told me the complaint was invalid as the term is in common usage. When I asked how they would respond to a similar campaign featuring "Dick Flick Fridays" or, heaven forbid, something using the k-word, they told me such campaigns did not exist, and so the point was moot.
Well, here's my point, which is definitely not moot: just because a term is in common usage doesn't make it innocuous or acceptable to use. I would imagine that would be self-evident.
And here's another point: if a promotional campaign used a term that was offensive to men or to people of colour, it would be whipped off the air in a New York minute. Why don't the same rules apply for language that is offensive to women? And why are women's protests about this kind of thing just ignored or dismissed? After all, the fact that both etv and the BCC feel the use of this term to describe women is acceptable says something profound about how women are viewed in our society.

Worse still, Five Roses Tea is now sponsoring the odiously-named "Chick Flick Thursdays", and its promo ads using the term run several times a day.

Now, stop me if I'm wrong, but isn't it strange that neither the station nor National Brands Limited has taken into account that the term it uses in its ads may be offensive to the very market it's targeting?

But here's the thing: you're not powerless in the face of big business and big media. If you don't like being called a "chick", stop using Five Roses Tea and stop watching etv. Women constitute slightly more than half of the population and spend disproportionately high amounts on fast-moving consumer goods like, well ... tea ... and all those other things that are advertised on e.tv.
The fact of the matter is that we teach people how to treat us, and silence, after all, constitutes acceptance.
So, if you're offended by the use of this term - as I am - and see it a symptomatic of something far more deep-seated, don't support the companies that use it with your hard-earned bucks. You can even call the National Brands Customer Service Line on 0860 100219 to voice your objection, or e-mail e.tv at info@etv.co.za.
And tell your sisters , mothers, aunts, grannies, neighbours, colleagues and girlfriends to do the same. Send e.tv and Five Roses a clear message that sexism doesn't sell. Who knows what could happen? You've heard of the butterfly effect, haven't you?
What do you think? Tell us what you think about this issue. Use the "comments" button below to post a comment. This is an open forum, so you don't need to be registered, and you can have your say anonymously or by using a pseudonym. And you can keep up-to-date with what other SAbookworm readers think about the books and issues being featured on the site.

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