Thursday, November 6, 2008

Wolf whistles? Do you love or hate them?

Do you love wolf whistles? A hearing aid company seems to think so!

According to Wikipedia the term "wolf-whistle" developed around the slang use of the word "wolf" meaning a man who gives unwanted sexual attention to women.

Now, Bay Audiology is presenting that ‘unwanted sexual attention’ to us as one of the ‘sounds you love’ in their advert for the latest in hearing-aids. This misses the mark by a country mile.

I wrote to them complaining about the term and received a condescending response, including telling me “A big part of the campaign is a move to grow our audience group beyond the traditional seniors market to include a younger group: specifically, baby boomers.”

So baby boomers, do you want sexist advertising being used to buy products? I don’t.

It seems the marketing team that decided to use this particular term does not realise it was us baby boomers (and I’m the eldest of the baby boomer generation) that led the charge against sexism in behaviour and language in the late sixties and seventies.

So what’s happening now? A quick Google search throws up these:

§ In March 2008 an Israeli tourist – to NZ – striped off in Keri Keri as she was ‘fed up with wolf whistles’

§ The Telegraph reports that earlier this year a British building firm had banned workers from wolf-whistling: they have issued a directive that the practice would no longer be tolerated saying “in the 21st century the wolf whistle is out of place”

I agree - the days of the blatantly sexist and misogynist from construction site workers do belong to decades past.

Thankfully it seems that in NZ the lurid leering and sleazy comments have mostly gone but one site on u tube says ‘if I was a construction worker I’d still do a sleazy wolf whistle.’ (November 2006) Interesting that a male calls them sleazy – yet apparently it’s a sound ‘you love to hear’? Really?

However on a NZ site (authors Eliana Dorroch & MZ ) that asks what is sexism, suggesting it’s still a global problem.

“1.1.1 Examples of harassment can include but is not limited to:
§ displaying offensive picture, image
§ making racist, disablist or sexist jokes or comments
§ belittling religious or cultural beliefs
§ continuing to invite someone out socially who has clearly said no
§ hostile remarks about a person’s sexual orientation or disability
§ unwanted and deliberate physical contact
§ swearing, leering, wolf whistles, obscene gesture
§ unwelcome comments about someone’s appearance or body
§ negative comments about a person’s accent or the way they speak”

Given all this, how can a big company be so out of touch that that they believe people would think a wolf-whistle is ‘a sound you love to hear’?
To quote another NZ advert – yeah right.

To read more on the above quotes: