Ads That Really Suck

qsol.jpg
This advertisement (larger image with full text) for QSOL.com appeared in the August issue of the Linux Journal.
Let’s tick off the most offensive points. The misogyny is obvious, since the ad treats women explicitly and entirely like sexual objects. The themes of objectification and comparing women to machines continue throughout the smaller print with lines like “We’ve all known disappointment. And few things are more disappointing than undependable, expensive servers that don’t satisfy your needs.” Ah yes, it’s hard not to agree– it’s really frustrating when either uppity bitches or online servers won’t do whatever you say.
That’s the second problem. Not only are women nothing but sexual objects, but the print also implies that, like technology, women also sometimes fail to act “properly.” I think that we can all agree that there are certain standards we hold for how we want and expect our computers to behave. Apparently, QSOL has similarly rigid standards for women. The word “won’t” in the sentence “won’t go down on you” implies that, for some reason, the woman should go down on you.
Of course, the ad isn’t simply offensive to the broad (pun not intended) demographic of women; it’s also directly insulting its audience. It plays off of a stereotype that everyone knows– haha, guys who like computers are nerds, and nerds don’t get any sex– and yet whoever wrote it somehow forgot that it’s a negative stereotype about the company’s own customers. Making an even bigger mess, the ad is excruciatingly heterosexist with its “wink wink, you know what we mean, guys” attitude. Who, after all, decided that “nerds” are always straight? That’s not even mentioning how the ad completely ignores the fact that– horror!– some women like computers, too. Yes, I do think that the technology-savvy crowd is probably a mostly straight male demographic, but does that give a company the right to completely erase the existence of its other customers? Since they obviously didn’t care much about how their male customers felt, did QSOL ever consider what its female customers might think about the company’s apparent view of them? I’m betting not.
Lastly, as all clever sexist advertising does, QSOL assumes that its customers are “in” on the joke. It doesn’t entertain the possibility that maybe, just maybe, all men aren’t assholes who spend every available moment running around trying to find random women to give them blow jobs. As a result, the ad acts not only as an example of sexism, it also encourages, normalizes and perpetuates the sexist hierarchy. Hey, it’s all fun and games, just a joke, lighten up– and it’s just us guys talking here, anyway.
Sure puts a bad taste in my mouth.

Join the Conversation

  • Charity

    i.e., if you want to truly educate a man such as that, introduce them to the idea that women should not be objectified and degraded because they are human beings with intrinsic worth, not because they are *special* because they are related to him and their reputation / image reflects on his in some way. Combating sexual harassment with the “what if it was your mother/wife/daughter” line only perpetuates the idea that women belong to men, or our worth is tied to theirs (or, another undesirable outcome, it sets up a kind of cavemanish dichotomy in the man’s mind: mother/daughter/wife – virtuous, need defending…Other women – sluts, safe for objectifying. Or the classic *I would not allow MY daughter/girlfriend/etc to dress like that, but I will have no problem reading Playboy or going to the club with the boys once in a while…that kind of woman is totally different.*)
    So if you really have used that tactic to “turn the tables” on someone at work, know that while it may have effectively shamed or embarrassed someone into submission (for the time being), it’s a cheap shot that works for all the wrong reasons, and it’s definitely not a *feminist* response.

  • http://thecurvature.com Anonymous

    *high fives Charity*

  • Charity

    Which is not to detract at all from the reality that your work experience has been unimaginably difficult, and unfair, and infuriating, and that resorting to whatever you’ve resorted to has represented a survival strategy. It’s completely shitty that the best option available to you thus far / safest option to deter further harassment has been using lines like that, but well, that’s the patriarchy for you.

  • Charity

    *returns the high five* Awesome posts this week Cara!

  • wagadog

    “However, you’re denigrating an uninvolved woman to provoke a man and arguably equating promiscuity with prostitution. ”
    IMHO women that put out at work are placing themselves on the prostitution end of the promiscuity/prostitution spectrum — because it’s at work.
    Got a problem with that? We’ve got a real difference of opinion there, and I ain’t changin mine.
    Now. Say I mirror a man’s expectations of ME at work on his mother — NOTHING MORE.
    The LOGICAL IMPLICATION is that he thinks its OK for his mother to out at work, and that makes her therefore, by LOGICAL IMPLICATION in some peoples’ opinions (eg mine) some kind of a whore — that’s for him to figure out. (If he’s capable of making that inference, which most of them are not anyway.)
    You’re criticizing ME for what HE is left to INFER from my statement–that if he expects XXX from his co-workers, then he’d be just as happy with his mom’s co-workers expecting — and getting — the same XXX from her.
    If you think it’s nothing more than “promiscuity” to put out at work and you wouldn’t mind everyone in the world knowing that your mom does it–fine! Sounds kinda gross to me, but hey, I’m from a different generation.
    *hi five* awesome 20-something pseudo feminists, too sexy, too sexy, too sexy for your book jackets!
    Make some progress beyond what my generation had to do on our own, and then come back and criticize.
    But remember — I’m older than you and have better insurance.

  • Kimmy

    Apparently we’ve made enough progress to realize that you don’t denigrate someone else’s sexual practices to get back at a man. Which seems to be something you can’t grasp. So yay us.

  • jenred

    Qsol actually ran this ad back in 2000 and promised that it would never be run again.
    http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing-advertising/4187845-1.html
    Apparently it’s “good for boosting sales.” At least it was in 2000.
    Hopefully in 2007 the ad will have the opposite effect.
    Linux Journal also bears some responsibility.

  • wagadog

    “Apparently we’ve made enough progress to realize that you don’t denigrate someone else’s sexual practices to get back at a man. Which seems to be something you can’t grasp. So yay us.”
    Again, when it is left the man to infer what he will from the speculation that perhaps his mom does at work what he’s expecting from his co-worker, there’s no denigration involved — except for what he MUST INFER.
    If he thinks it’s OK for women to “screw the crew” — and applies this consistently to all women, including his own mother — then he should not be insulted, and there is no denigration involved.
    If, on the other hand, he finds it insulting (and I certainly would) then it really is his problem.
    Now if Y’ALL think it’s ok to be screwing around with your workmates, supervisors, direct reports, what ever, then — I’m sure it would be fine with y’all to chat about it with your moms, sisters and daughters.
    Hmmm?

  • http://thecurvature.com Anonymous

    WagDog, please get it through your head that we don’t care if you insult the sexist asses at work- we care that you are insulting women who have nothing to do with you in order to get back at them. Whether or not he feels denigrated has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not you are denigrating a person who is actually not himself. If you think that they don’t respect their mothers, maybe you should do all women a favor by at least respecting them yourself.
    Also, there are many things I do sexually that I don’t share with my mom. Do you tell your father about every woman you have sex with, where you meet them and what the conditions of your relationship are? If you do, I’m kind of worried for you.

  • http://gangbox.wordpress.com GREGORY

    WagDog, I’ve read your posts in the above thread, and the way you verbally abuse women who dare to disagree with you.
    And your “strategy” of calling the mothers of your male co workers prostitutes as a way of dealing with their sexism.
    And your Mme. Defarge-ish “black book” that you say you use to scrawl down “evidence” for some future lawsuit against your male co workers.
    And, I’ve got to ask you – maybe the problem isn’t your male co workers – maybe it’s YOU.
    You come across as an angry verbally abusive jerk – and yes, I’m sure dealing with 30 years of sex harassment from male chauvinist co workers probably made you like that, but it appears to have taken on a dynamic of it’s own.
    Now, I have no idea how you are in person, but if you are as harsh and abrasive in real life as you are here, no wonder you have problems getting along with the men you work with!
    I HOPE you are a much nicer person in real life and this is just your angry online persona speaking!

  • Charity

    Not to mention her disturbing perseveration about, and tangentially inserted jabs at, horrible *hypothetical* women who “put out at work” and *screw around with workmates*, when the nature of her original complaint seemed to be men who display pornographic images in their workspace, and sexually harass coworkers. Somehow the comments changed in midstream from the audacity of men to expect women to put out at work, to the fact that there are women putting out at work and they are acting like prostitutes, and somehow we are enabling them. What on earth?
    But yeah, the obnoxious dig at 20-somethings and at Jessica’s book cover, that really did a lot for your *argument*. Please don’t make assumptions about the audience for this site or its commentors; it displays profound ignorance. I am most assuredly not in my 20’s, identify more as a second-waver than a third, and (shock! horror!) I can still recognize misogyny and give high-fives.

  • http://thecurvature.com Anonymous

    Apologies: for some reason I was under the impression that wagadog was a male. I take back my earlier comments indicating such, but switch the genders around and the sentiment still applies. My apologies.

  • SarahMC

    Huh? Pray tell, Wagdog, who are the hypothetical workplace “prostitutes” you’re referring to? I must have missed the post wherein a 20-something feminist advocated “whoring onesself out at work.”
    You clearly view sex as a commodity women give to men. Your backwards remedy for sexism in the workplace is appalling.

  • Jessi

    Another disappointing ad: just got an e-mail from Apple about a new computer with the tagline:
    You can never be too thin. Or too powerful.
    Er…

  • AndroGenius

    Apparently the author of this article only saw the creator of the ad as a heterosexual male. Perhaps that is due to the author’s own stereotype about IT professionals as “guys who like computers are nerds, and nerds don’t get any sex” (as the author put it).
    Has anyone considered that the ad’s creator could have been a lesbian?

  • redhead85

    This ad really sucks! No pun intended : ) Of course this woman, or this woman’s floating head is White, thin and poreless. Yuck. I truly hope that advertising companies will eventually become creative with their work. Using a disembodied woman in an ad is hardly new, unfortunately.

  • Kimmy

    I’m curious, AndroGenius. Why would Cara’s views of computer people have any bearing on her discussion and dislike of an ad that was created by advertising professionals? Any assumptions she’s made about the motives and thoughts of the people creating the ad are about advertising professionals, not tech people.
    Your post makes no sense. It wouldn’t matter if the ad had been created by a lesbian, because it would still be just as sexist and insulting and degrading to both it’s target audience and women in general. The sexual preference of the ad’s creators has no bearing on that at all.

  • http://thecurvature.com Anonymous

    Yeah, I never stated that the advertisers who created this ad were male. I think that it’s likely, but I don’t know and didn’t pretend to. What I said was that they were perpetuating patriarchal ideas. Unfortunately, women can be pretty damn good at doing that, too.

  • Matt

    Being someone who simply deals with life’s problems and does not seek to blame others or wallow in pity, I guess I do not understand the point of view of people who make a career, or at least a college major, about being offended by an ad like that.
    Most particulary amusing is the people expressing their contempt for it are doing so on a site that:
    a) Is currently running an ad of a women cupping her naked breasts with the slogan, “Breasts not Bombs”;
    b) Has as it’s logo the image of person making a hand gesture that means a sexual act.
    Pot. Kettle. Black.
    Matt

  • Charity

    Shorter Matt:
    Commenting on a blog about an offensive ad is self-indulgent and time wasted wallowing in pity (and I believe you meant ‘self-pity’, here, hon). Commenting *about other comments on said blog*, on the other hand, is somehow *not* a self-indulgent waste of time.
    Also shorter Matt: My intellect is clearly superior, ladies, despite my grammar and punctuation errors, and my difficulty with abstraction. (Sorry Matt, I know you worked really hard on that post, but a woman’s *body part* is not analogous to an attitude of entitlement to a blow job and an ad that alienates a proportion of its core market with the message, ‘you’re not here’, or ‘you’re not valuable to us’). I guess you missed those more nuanced points on the thread because you were busy thinking, “BOOBEEZ!”
    And also, Matt, based on some inferences I can make about your demographics and ‘philosophy’, given your clear attitude of entitlement and unawareness of privilege, I refer you happily to the Libertarian Troll Bingo Card at Pandagon. A=A, my friend!

  • Valerie Bock

    As a 48 year old mother of 3 young adults, and someone who influences the purchase of servers at my workplace, I find this conversation fascinating.
    I read it as an ad clearly targeted to men. In general, I figure it’s a free country and marketers don’t have to market to me, but I’m more likely to purchase from those who do, so from this standpoint, the QSOL folks missed the boat.
    But I really, really don’t understand the outrage around speaking or joking about blow jobs desired, and blow jobs denied. The use of the word “disappointment” to describe a response to not being able to get certain desires met strikes me as one acceptance and resignation, borne of a maturity which understands that life is full of compromise.
    The advertisements which offend me are those which depict women as completely focused on making a man’s dearest fantasies come true. The beauty depicted in this ad clearly has other priorities. And the target market is assumed to understand that and not respond with fits of rage, but rather, a shrug.
    What is so offensive about that?

  • http://technically.us/code n8han

    “The beauty depicted in this ad clearly has other priorities.”
    With those lips? Yes she has other priorities; that caricature is meant to service some meathead despised by the social outcast reader. That’s just my reading of course, and like you I’m familiar with the target market. In fact I don’t think it suits that market well; it suits the worst of that market well. If you’ve spent any time on digg or slashot, surely you’ve noticed that the loudest in those communities think of women as unreasonable, unobtainable sex objects. Their understanding seems to be largely informed by pornography. It is pitiful and repulsive.
    Which is not to say that something can be done about sexist on-line communities (see also, gamers), or should, but it’s a different thing when an unfortunate social dysfunction is attached to a campaign to boost sales of rack-mounted servers. And when the president of QSOL gave his word in 2000 that the ad would not run again. There’s nothing ambiguous here. It’s just shameful. You certainly have the right to not be offended. Actually, I don’t really think I am either. Just repulsed. And, as ever, wishing more young women would take a deeper interest in computers so the problem could fix itself without our gender hand-wringing. But with ads like these in magazines they might subscribe to, how could they feel like anything but freaks in their own freakish crowd? It’s divisive, self-perpetuating sludge and it’s bad for everyone.

  • AndroGenius

    Cara,
    I hear you on the whole “us doing it to ourselves” comment about perpetuating patriarchal ideas.
    Case in point; high-heels. If other women weren’t all wearing them, the rest of us wouldn’t feel the need to wear them in order to ‘measure up’. I suppose the real point here is that we should all strive to be more self-confident and not feel threatened by the fact that every other woman’s legs in the room look longer because they’re wearing high-heels.
    On another issue, Matt is right. We can all be hypocrites and this site/forum is not perfect either.

  • JoAnne

    Even shorter Matt: “you have pictures with boobies and someone giving the finger in them on this site so you’re all a bunch of hypocrites.”
    Which would be true if the site were using the boobies to attract boobs like Matt.
    When women talk about sex, it’s not always a ploy to attract men. Funny thing about that male gaze, it makes you blind to a lot of things.

  • Stumblebum

    Everyone misses the point. This is obviously a poke at lipstick lesbians whose narcissism knows no bounds, and who sneer at us ordinary, pudgy Linux-using dykes. It is a brilliant satire of the fatism that the fasionistas jam down our homely throats. Go Rosie!

  • thousandmph

    Feel sorry all you want. Not all men are like you describe them to be. In fact, your description of what men expect from a woman is, in a way, offensive by it self. You generalize, which is also one of the main elements in outspoken prejudice, most commonly racism. I know, very well, that I’m taking drastic measures here-and call me dramatic too, if that is in your taste-but you cannot escape the fact, that you are being no better than the people behind the ad. They are generalizing women-which I personally do not approve of-and granted this particular ad caught a nasty storm upon its release, the target group should be considered here.
    A bold assumption here could even be that the advertisers, behind this ad, deliberately wanted to offend a certain group of people-not women, mind you-but their overly obvious target group: the computer geeks. And, knowing just a hair about Linux, which I’ve chosen, unlike many, not to use my self, it is apparent that Linux has a following quite like Macintosh. These would be people who want the IT aspect of their lives to be socially acceptable, and this, by using software that has a hip new way of revolutionizing our computer options. Therefore-and again, this would be a generalization-we can conclude that Linux users, as an entity, are not ‘geeks’ as we might commonly perceive Microsoft enthusiasts to be. And what does it mean to be a geek? According to QSOL, it seems apparent that, they are not too successful when it comes to interacting with women.
    One question though: Why do these ‘geeks’ supposedly expect women to perform as sexual servants? Is it just a stubborn, male presumption? Or do some-and if I knew how, I would underline “some”-women lead the ‘geeks’ on through media, the way they carry them self on the street, the way they are otherwise promoted in fashion, the way they appear in pornography(which we might assume is very popular among this group of people, right?). Who is the guilty party? The advertisers, women, or the ‘geeks’? I still say “the advertisers”, but there is a reason why bad publicity works so efficiently. It’s because it stirs up the most fuzz. People crave scandals and controversy, whether they like to admit it or not.

  • thousandmph

    Feel sorry all you want. Not all men are like you describe them to be. In fact, your description of what men expect from a woman is, in a way, offensive by it self. You generalize, which is also one of the main elements in outspoken prejudice, most commonly racism. I know, very well, that I’m taking drastic measures here-and call me dramatic too, if that is in your taste-but you cannot escape the fact, that you are being no better than the people behind the ad. They are generalizing women-which I personally do not approve of-and granted this particular ad caught a nasty storm upon its release, the target group should be considered here.
    A bold assumption here could even be that the advertisers, behind this ad, deliberately wanted to offend a certain group of people-not women, mind you-but their overly obvious target group: the computer geeks. And, knowing just a hair about Linux, which I’ve chosen, unlike many, not to use my self, it is apparent that Linux has a following quite like Macintosh. These would be people who want the IT aspect of their lives to be socially acceptable, and this, by using software that has a hip new way of revolutionizing our computer options. Therefore-and again, this would be a generalization-we can conclude that Linux users, as an entity, are not ‘geeks’ as we might commonly perceive Microsoft enthusiasts to be. And what does it mean to be a geek? According to QSOL, it seems apparent that, they are not too successful when it comes to interacting with women.
    One question though: Why do these ‘geeks’ supposedly expect women to perform as sexual servants? Is it just a stubborn, male presumption? Or do some-and if I knew how, I would underline “some”-women lead the ‘geeks’ on through media, the way they carry them self on the street, the way they are otherwise promoted in fashion, the way they appear in pornography(which we might assume is very popular among this group of people, right?). Who is the guilty party? The advertisers, women, or the ‘geeks’? I still say “the advertisers”, but there is a reason why bad publicity works so efficiently. It’s because it stirs up the most fuzz. People crave scandals and controversy, whether they like to admit it or not.

  • thousandmph

    Feel sorry all you want. Not all men are like you describe them to be. In fact, your description of what men expect from a woman is, in a way, offensive by it self. You generalize, which is also one of the main elements in outspoken prejudice, most commonly racism. I know, very well, that I’m taking drastic measures here-and call me dramatic too, if that is in your taste-but you cannot escape the fact, that you are being no better than the people behind the ad. They are generalizing women-which I personally do not approve of-and granted this particular ad caught a nasty storm upon its release, the target group should be considered here.
    A bold assumption here could even be that the advertisers, behind this ad, deliberately wanted to offend a certain group of people-not women, mind you-but their overly obvious target group: the computer geeks. And, knowing just a hair about Linux, which I’ve chosen, unlike many, not to use my self, it is apparent that Linux has a following quite like Macintosh. These would be people who want the IT aspect of their lives to be socially acceptable, and this, by using software that has a hip new way of revolutionizing our computer options. Therefore-and again, this would be a generalization-we can conclude that Linux users, as an entity, are not ‘geeks’ as we might commonly perceive Microsoft enthusiasts to be. And what does it mean to be a geek? According to QSOL, it seems apparent that, they are not too successful when it comes to interacting with women.
    One question though: Why do these ‘geeks’ supposedly expect women to perform as sexual servants? Is it just a stubborn, male presumption? Or do some-and if I knew how, I would underline “some”-women lead the ‘geeks’ on through media, the way they carry them self on the street, the way they are otherwise promoted in fashion, the way they appear in pornography(which we might assume is very popular among this group of people, right?). Who is the guilty party? The advertisers, women, or the ‘geeks’? I still say “the advertisers”, but there is a reason why bad publicity works so efficiently. It’s because it stirs up the most fuzz. People crave scandals and controversy, whether they like to admit it or not.

  • thousandmph

    @ SarahMC:
    Feel sorry all you want. Not all men are like you describe them to be. In fact, your description of what men expect from a woman is, in a way, offensive by it self. You generalize, which is also one of the main elements in outspoken prejudice, most commonly racism. I know, very well, that I’m taking drastic measures here-and call me dramatic too, if that is in your taste-but you cannot escape the fact, that you are being no better than the people behind the ad. They are generalizing women-which I personally do not approve of-and granted this particular ad caught a nasty storm upon its release, the target group should be considered here.
    A bold assumption here could even be that the advertisers, behind this ad, deliberately wanted to offend a certain group of people-not women, mind you-but their overly obvious target group: the computer geeks. And, knowing just a hair about Linux, which I’ve chosen, unlike many, not to use my self, it is apparent that Linux has a following quite like Macintosh. These would be people who want the IT aspect of their lives to be socially acceptable, and this, by using software that has a hip new way of revolutionizing our computer options. Therefore-and again, this would be a generalization-we can conclude that Linux users, as an entity, are not ‘geeks’ as we might commonly perceive Microsoft enthusiasts to be. And what does it mean to be a geek? According to QSOL, it seems apparent that, they are not too successful when it comes to interacting with women.
    One question though: Why do these ‘geeks’ supposedly expect women to perform as sexual servants? Is it just a stubborn, male presumption? Or do some-and if I knew how, I would underline “some”-women lead the ‘geeks’ on through media, the way they carry them self on the street, the way they are otherwise promoted in fashion, the way they appear in pornography(which we might assume is very popular among this group of people, right?). Who is the guilty party? The advertisers, women, or the ‘geeks’? I still say “the advertisers”, but there is a reason why bad publicity works so efficiently. It’s because it stirs up the most fuzz. People crave scandals and controversy, whether they like to admit it or not.