Boys will be boys and girls will be things

An anonymous reader in London emailed me about this charming ad campaign from Lynx. Lynx is the Australian and UK name for Axe, and I’ve posted about their campaigns before. This poster campaign, for a bodywash called “Rise” (totally coincidental name that has absolutely nothing to do with penises, I’m sure), appears at bus stops and in Tube stations all over London. There’s also an accompanying TV campaign.

The slogan for the campaign is “Wake up and stay alert.” In the Tube, according to my transatlantic tipster, the posters are placed in sequence next to the escalators. The first poster bears the “wake up and stay alert” slogan. Then,

There are about four or five photos of young, good looking women, a mixture of blondes and brunettes, all wearing either shorts or short skirts. They are all holding placards with their names on them. Then the next [posters] say “who was wearing the hot pants?” and “who was wearing the red skirt?”

Finally, there’s the poster you see here, which says, “Because girls like you to remember things… Like their names.” I can’t put my finger on what annoys me most about this campaign. Perhaps it’s the idea that men need a special soap product in order to treat women like human beings. Or perhaps it’s the assumption that hey, we’ve all had those moments where a fully formed adult woman told us her name and tried to engage us in conversation but come on, she was wearing hot pants so who the fuck remembers what her name was, right guys? If she wanted me to take her seriously as a human being with thoughts and feelings and a name, she shouldn’t have been wearing something so hot, amirite?

I’m endlessly impressed at how Lynx continues to employ the marketing strategy of insulting the humanity and intelligence of their customers. As for the font choice in the above poster, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that “girls” and “things” are the two largest words. After all, that pretty much sums up Lynx’s approach to gender relations.

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • liv79

    I don’t get it- the smell of yourself after bathing in this product called “Rise” is supposed to give you a hard-on? Or give other people hard-ons?

  • Bridgette

    If I want to stay alert and remember anything I prefer caffeine. Of course, a good night’s sleep would help that too. I mean, if you want to stay alert and awake all day, a good night’s sleep certainly helps. Maybe a nice little nap mid day. I once took a lovely nap in Hyde Park.
    Of course, if a man is wearing Lynx/Axe, he probably won’t get close enough to ask my name as I will be hightailing it out of there. That stuff gives me a migraine. Then again, odds of me giving a man my name for anything other than professional reasons is slim to none.
    ((as a note, I am making light of all of this. The kind of advertising ticks me off no end. I combat it with my odd sense of humor which does, occasionally, offend))

  • Melimalle

    New Zealand has this “fantastic” Lynx ad about a guy who goes on a date with a girl and has a machine robot type thing that changes his look three times throughout the night, the final time to allow him to enter her home after she seemed reluctant to invite him. The slogan? “Girls get bored easily”. It’s a product that changes it’s fragrance throughout wearing it. Grrr..

  • pedestrian

    Then you have ads for women’s products which ALSO assume that men are naturally incapable of remembering a woman’s name or caring anything about her. It is her duty to buy the right lipstick or conditioner to be noticed. If the same advertisement were made featuring men, it would seem absurd – of course a woman should be able to remember a man’s name!
    Straight men are socialized from birth to believe that others will pay attention to their needs. In fact, being sensitive is a sign of weakness and the only way to “win” is to conquer or not care. Suddenly men discover that they might have to give a modicum of a damn if they want to have sex, and it is the most oppressive thing ever. How do women get such control over poor men? I laugh until it hurts.

  • Toongrrl

    Oh my goodness…are they implying that women’s names aren’t important?

  • Vexing

    I’m quite seriously waiting for the Lynx/Axe add that outright states “Women are stupid. Use Lynx and they will have sex with you.”

  • kandela

    I agree the ads are insulting.
    However, the idea that not remembering someone’s name means you necessarily don’t think of them as a person is unfair.
    I have an enormous amount of trouble remembering people’s names. Sometimes I forget the name of someone I’ve known for months. Sometimes I think about inviting a friend to some event, but then have to give up on it because it’s too embarrassing not to be able to remember their name.
    I once had a crush on someone and had to look up her name on the class roll every week because I couldn’t keep it in my head for more than 2 days. In the end I had to write it down on a piece of paper and put it in my wallet. This doesn’t mean I thought of her as a thing, on the contrary it was her sense of humour that attracted me to her, and I remembered sometimes word for word the conversations I had with her. I just suck with names.
    I also, too often, forget the word I want to use half way through a sentence. I think these two things might be related. Anyway, I just wanted to say that sometimes someone can find you intriguing and funny but not remember your name, and please don’t think they are being sexist because they have a deficient memory.

  • Caley

    I think the ad was referring specifically to the old “morning after” joke, i.e. that a man will have a one night stand and forget the woman’s name in the morning, presumably because he was only in it for the sex.

  • ScienceAndTheCity

    I have seen this ad in the New York subway, only for Axe (I know it’s the same thing). I have also seen the ad mentioned by Melimalle above where some weird robot changes a guy’s clothes and hairstyle on a date repeatedly because women “get bored easily” on TV in the US. Both ads are pretty disgusting.
    Every time I see them (or any other offensive Axe ad, which is all of them), I get angry thinking about how the same company that owns Axe also owns Dove – creators of the “campaign for real beauty.” Right on Unilever’s website, it describes Axe as “Helping males keep a step ahead in the mating game” and Dove as “Celebrating beauty’s diversity.” Please. Marketing is so much BS.

  • Emily H.

    Okay I have to disagree with the notion that this ad is inherently sexist just because it uses a “can you remember her name?” brainteaser. I’m a person who has a hard time remembering names of new people, & lemme tell ya, if I get introduced to five people at once, I am likely to need reminders of some or all of the names. Even more so because I am concentrating in smiling, making eye contact and making a good impression, not on remembering the name I’m hearing.
    Not denying that the ad is possibly sexist, but the idea that it’s dehumanizing to forget the name of a “fully formed adult” is a little ridiculous. I would agree that the last panel of the ad is a sort of implicit reference to the idea that a man might forget the name of a one-night stand. & even less explicitly, the ad is drawing on the cultural construct of a stud who meets so many chicks that he can’t keep track of them all. But again, the ad doesn’t make explicit reference to these ideas & is overall pretty anodyne. (BTW I saw a version of it on TV.)
    What’s more disturbing to me than the ad is the fact that this concept–the “stud” sexual aggressor who can’t keep track of all the women he dates or fuck–is so pervasive and ingrained that an ad like this can count on viewers calling it to mind by barely gesturing toward it. Now that says something troubling about the culture we live in.

  • battle angel alita

    yes i saw this last week here in the uk really annoyed me especially as i had also seen a male-mags “100 sexiest women” with the like “proof God is a man”, i dont remember the mag (fhm maybe?). its just why do you have to add sexism to sell to men? fucking rediculous!


    I’m very grateful for Axe/Lynx. Now I don’t have to talk to a guy to figure out he’s an asshole-I can tell by that overwhelming reek :)

  • Max

    I think this has a lot to do with the idea that men have to convince women to have sex with them. Buy soap, smell good, women smells soap, convince women soap is proof of manliness, then get laid.
    Sex-negativism seems to be the message to women who want to have sex. No, you can’t. You have to wait for some guy to try to convince you, win you over. Women don’t want to have sex. You must convince them, but you don’t have to remember their names, just convince them.
    I don’t think that it is necessary to convince women to have sex. If everyone is consenting, then everyone is equal in sex. So, you don’t need soap, but maybe that ruins their Girls and Things punchline. I still don’t think its men’s job to run around proving their sexual prowess. What is the point?
    If we all stopped to think about the power game being played, I think men would feel less like using themselves to prove something with their penises and more like loving women for who they are, which, yes, involves remembering their names.


    Not entirely on topic, but currently there is an ad campaign in Sweden to discourage people from buying alcohol for minors with the text:
    “Your daughter is a virgin, but after she drinks from the wine you bought for the boys, she’ll go all the way.”
    Not entirely sure why a parent would buy alcohol for their children’s FRIENDS (if you do that sort of thing, why not give it straight to your daughter?), but one thing is for certain – there are no ads warning you about your sons’ virginities.
    And amusingly (only not funny) the organization whose website is on that thing knows nothing about the campaign, which later turned out to be paid for by thirty or so counties, I assume as some sort of PSA.
    (Not saying that buying alcohol for minors is awesome, just that… this sort of ads are icky, and exists in too many countries and too many languages. Obviously.

  • qtiger

    Straight men are socialized from birth to believe that others will pay attention to their needs.
    Suddenly men discover that they might have to give a modicum of a damn if they want to have sex, and it is the most oppressive thing ever.

    I can’t really agree with either of these points. Women have always been the gatekeepers of sex, and men have always been conditioned that they have to ‘play the game’ and jump through the arbitrary hoops that women are told that they must require before gifting someone access to their precious virginity.
    Acting like either of these things is ‘new’ or ‘sudden’ or at all related to feminism/social progress seems naive to me.

  • Broggly

    As yet another guy bad with names, if it is specifically intended to be a morning-after joke, it’s more funny because having sex with someone and sleeping at their house/inviting them into yours is a very familiar thing to do, making forgetting their name all the more painful and so funny.
    Then again, it’s Lynx so I can’t really give them the benefit of the doubt that there’s no undertone of “Teh Ladies are all interchangable, their names don’t really matter”
    Speaking of Lynx ads, does anyone think the ad about the chocolate man with a frozen smile being eaten alive by women seem a bit misogynistic in a David Sim/General Ripper way, or did they just not think through how disturbing the ad would be?

  • smartbunny

    They are totally lame, but the design of the type is such that GIRLS and THINGS are the shortest words so they are embiggened (hey! that’s a word according to Jebediah Springfield!) to stretch across the width. They could have had more words per line or something but I don’t think the design would have “worked” that way (talking purely type design, not the message in the ad, which sucks).