Whoever is leading Air New Zealand’s marketing team is seemingly doing an impressive job. They’ve taken the traditional, lackluster format of aeroplane safety messages and transformed them into comedic repertoires. Their Betty White – Safety Old School Style has over 2 million hits on Youtube and An Unexpected Briefing (The Hobbit) has nearly 11.5 million.
But rather than engage viewers with humour and popular culture, their latest installment, Safety in Paradise, aims promote the Cook Islands and grab people’s attention with the bodies of Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. Look I get it. Calling out sexism is boring and ranty, I mean duh feminism is over and sex sells! I should just lighten up and stop being so jealous.
Whilst criticism has appeared on social media and in a few reports, nothing too major has been published about it. Sure this video is not the worst we have seen but since when is it OK to use women’s bodies as tools to attract attention? We have become desensitised to sexist images because they are EVERYWHERE. Sexualised pictures of women are on billboards, bus stops, magazine covers and even in headphone cases as the author of ‘eat the damn cake’ points out.
Miss Representation’s video below highlights how advertisers continue to objectify and degrade women. Now, Safety in Paradise is definitely not on the same end of the spectrum as most of the ads featured but it is still on the spectrum and that’s what counts.
Massey University lecturer and feminist commentator Deborah Russell told the Sydney Morning Herald that “My concern is that as a woman I get on a plane to go to a business meeting say – something serious – and I am confronted by women in bikinis in what are highly sexualised images.”
“That jars. I want to be taken seriously but it seems that suddenly they are saying that my sexuality is all that matters about me.”
What’s also worrying is that Air New Zealand spokesperson Andrew Aitken told SMH that the airline was not worried about any possible criticism from passengers. Adding that as it was shot in a beach setting, it was “entirely appropriate they’re wearing beachwear and we were careful to ensure all talent were in appropriate wardrobe choices”.
Aitken must have been filled with smug satisfaction when he came up with that beauty- “But Aha! They’re on a beach so of course they’re wearing bikinis fools! High-five brain!”
Surely Air New Zealand could have tried harder to produce a clever video minus the swimsuits. The fact that they don’t care about potential backlash is alarming and indicative of greater, social power imbalances. I’ve sent them my criticism using their online feedback form and plan on spreading my ranty words on the interwebs. Join me in pushing back from sexist campaigns, even those that just want you to turn your damn wifi off in aeroplanes.