Chitchat and the occasional in-depth analysis about fiber, knitting, spinning, crochet, cooking, feminism, self-image, and a modicum of personal blathering.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Relationship Notes from a Bus Ride

(I hope to have fiber content soon, my camera and my computer are having issues speaking to each other and my printer, the backup "unloading dock" for the camera card, is dead dead dead.)

There's a new organization in town called TWOgetherPgh. They're supposed to be "... a coalition of like-minded agencies and individuals who believe in the strengthening of marriages." They have hired the World's Least Clever cartoonist to do ads for them. These ads are all over the buses I ride. This is their story. (dun dun dun DAH)

This is the first one I saw. I kinda sat there the whole time looking at it going "Seriously? Seriously?????"

(In case you can't see it, it's two poorly-drawn guys with two poorly drawn women who look very unhappy in the background. And also, the one woman's neck is kinda frightening. Man A is saying to Man B "I always hold her hand at the mall. If I let go, she'll shop" Har, har har. That's a real knee-slapper there buddy. )

"Oh how I hate thee, let me count the ways."

1) Woman as willful, uncontrolled child who can't be trusted. Also, no agency. No ability or desire to make decisions for herself, dude is probably a total control freak who won't "let" her work outside the home and gives her an "allowance".

2) Shopaholic stereoptype. She'll just shop and shop and shop and shop and shop and keep shopping until we have no more room in our house and Clean House will have to come by and do a yard sale and we'll get yelled at by Neicy Nash and it'll be FOOLISHNESS.

2) I have to hold her hand! Otherwise she'll....spend MY MONEY. That I earned! Not hers! She has no money of her own and if she does, she has no right to spend it as she sees fit! I hold the purse strings in this family and boy howdy do I ever hold them tight. None of that shopping for you!

Why isn't she allowed to shop? Does he lock her in the house so she can't leave while he's off at work? Doesn't he trust her? And this is relationship ADVICE? (More on that later.) This is a sure-fire path to disaster, treating your spouse and partner that way. MARRIAGE FAIL dead ahead.

Ok, second ad.
(Dude to other dude, brandishing wallet.."Being a dad means carrying pictures where your money used to be.")

Dude #2 probably went right out and got a vasectomy. This comes across as some kind of "parenthood as deprivation" thing. It's not, really. I would have been poor with or without my kids, with the kids I was rich in other ways. This one also reinforces the "Dad as sole provider/spender/bacon-bringer" stereotype which is so much no longer true. I think more Dads would have pictures of their urban assault SUVs and vulgar-assed McMansions if they REALLY wanted to carry pictures of what makes them poor. Plus, maybe if dude let his wife out of the house now and then to SHOP she'd find a job and they wouldn't BE so poor. Right.

I really hate the direction these ads go in.

Here's the third one that I managed to snap.
(Woman on exercise bike says to other woman "there's somebody for everyone, mine just got lost and won't ask for directions")


That's so funny. Men don't ask for directions! Therefore, men can't find us. Therefore WE SHALL BE LONELY AND SAD FOREVER BECAUSE WE LIVE FOR BEING FOUND BY THE MENZ. Sorry. This one pisses me off more than I realized.

Now, I am not sure if these are "WRONG WAY TO DO RELATIONSHIPS" ads but they really don't come across that way. There are others that I've seen that I don't have pictures of that are equally or even MORE problematic. A harried mother on the phone with a friend saying that "if the kids are alive when he gets home I've done my job" (!), a woman saying her life is just like a fairy tale and she's the wicked stepmother, and a priest or minister saying to a pair AT THE ALTAR that they have no idea what they're getting into.

This group is getting 8.3 million dollars over a five year period in federal funding.

Yes, it's a "faith-based program".

Yes, that makes me hate it even more.

How many shelters could be funded for 8.3 million dollars? How much day care could you provide for needy families for that kind of money? I'll give you a clue. A LOT.

I wrote them back when I saw the first ad. It took them almost three weeks to get back to me. Here's the email exchange. (Names redacted)

From: Buttercup
Sent: Thursday, July 09, 2009 12:13 PM
To: ''
Subject: Bus ads

I have to admit, I’m a little bit horrified by the one “cartoon” I saw on the bus yesterday. In it, a man confides to another man about his wife. “of course I hold her hand in the mall, otherwise she’ll shop.”

I hope this cartoon is subtly saying that this is the wrong way to go about an adult, responsible, mutually respectful relationship. I’m sure you’re aware that men who treat their wives like children who can’t be trusted around shiny objects are pretty much doomed to relationship failure, in the long or short term. Such behavior is dysfunctional and infantilizing to say nothing of disrespectful of the partnership that a successful marriage implies.

I hope you’ll consider discontinuing use of that particular “cartoon”, as it sends a very disturbing and wrong-headed message.


The reply:

Sent: Monday, July 27, 2009 11:56 AM
To: Buttercup
Subject: RE: Bus ads


Thank you for your email. Please see the following message from Terry Mann, the Project Director for TWOgether Pittsburgh:


Ann L. Bxxxxxxxxx, Assistant to the Project Director

(Forwarded attachment. Dude can't use email himself? J)

Thank you for taking the time to contact us. While it is never our desire to offend anyone intentionally we recognize that there are times when marketing to tens of thousands of individuals that this is going to occur.

The ad you referenced is one of 14 different ads that were designed by our ad agency. They were distributed with my full approval. The ads were designed, written and conceptualized by professional women, so I am sure no intention to offend was in mind. When dealing with comedy, caricature and generalization is how you make impact. While the overwhelming majority of our responses have been extremely positive, we are very sorry you were offended; it was never our intention, and I am sorry for any undue stress it has caused you.

If you desire you can write me a letter at the address below and I will forward it to our ad agency.

Terry Mxxx

Just before my head exploded, I sent this.

From: buttercup
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 7:24 AM
To: ''
Subject: RE: Bus ads

Ann (and Terry)

It’s not a matter of being offended. It’s a matter of projecting the wrong message about what makes a successful, equitable relationship. I’m not offended, I’m concerned for the couples you’re encouraging to see this sort of controlling, abusive behavior as “normal.”


Haven't heard back since, and I'm not really surprised.



mehitabel said...

I think I'll be able to write a coherent comment when my blood pressure goes down somewhat. It's a good thing I don't live there, I'd be writing nasty letters to everyone I could think of to stop this kind of idiocy.

You go, woman. Tilt at that windmill for all of us!

Anonymous said...

As a woman who is a SAHM by choice I was not offended at all by the ads. My husband and I have been married for 30 yrs and have learned that the secret to a great marriage is laughter.Just because a woman does not work outside the home and does not generate an income does not mean she lives with a man who keeps her locked up. Care to share your secret for a happy marriage and successful parenting? Do you really think if a man makes a joke about his wife and her shopping that they can not have a successful, equitable relationship? Do you also assume that if a man hints that most of his income is spent on his children that he wishes he would have had a vasectomy? Have you never seen the t-shirts saying.. " My child and my money go to ----- university? What parent has not made a comment like that? I was pleased to read that the ads were written by women .. women who in my view have a sense of humor.

Marcia said...

Jamie, I commend you for the politely worded email to the organization - I bet you had to do a lot of editing to get it to sound that nonconfrontational ;)

I agree with pretty much everything you said. I also think the one about pictures-where-the-money-used-to-be is demeaning to men - sounds like his only job as a parent is to hand over the cash to the wife and let her handle all the hard stuff, like actually interacting with the kids.

While not explicitly stated, it seems to be pretty strongly implied by their cartoons and website, that all couples are expected to be male/female.

In theory, classes in parenting and improving relationships are a good idea. But they're coming across to me as pretty heavy-handed with the rigid traditional stereotypes.

Jamie Longstreth Fritz said...

Mehitabel and Marcia, thanks for seeing where I was coming from. "anonymous", thanks for missing the point entirely.

KnittingReader said...

Jamie, you always impress me! I need to start writing to companies that offend me.

Do you knit on the bus? I'd be so tempted to stab my eyes if I had to look at those cartoons.

Anonymous said...

Oh good, I'm not the only person utterly horrified by those ads...

Simbelmyne said...

These kinds of humor in a general forum is one of the things that contributes to my general discomfort discussing being a (semi)traditional married couple. Marriage is about SO much more than the economic arrangement. And I don't know one marriage where money isn't a touchy and difficult subject. Why make these jokes about it?

I would love to see gender roles discussed much more in the public forum. And, really, humor is an excellent way to get past the automatic defenses many people put up. It's possible to be humorous without being degrading. Why do these ads feel the need to go back to a time when dissing on your spouse was considered hilarious?

Thank you for writing to them, I seriously doubt they got your point, however. Sigh