Dear advertisers, can you please stop making sexist ads if I’m one of your potential customers? Dear magazines, can you please stop running sexist ads if I’m one of your potential customers?

[Edit: I’m grateful to have friends willing to engage in this conversation with me. I realized after publishing that the term I was going after was alienate rather than sexist. So the strong feelings were there, but not the proper terminology. So while these ads may not be sexist, they still alienate women grapplers]

If you’re making protective cups or jock straps and want to make sexist ads, that still sucks, but I’m obviously not a potential customer, so I won’t be buying your stuff anyway. Let me just stick to companies that COULD be selling to me, a woman in jiu jitsu. Like – soap. Soap is gender neutral, right? We all need to be clean. I avoid Fight Soap because of their obviously sexist ads and use of ring girls to sell soap, and their soft-core porn photos – to sell soap. Defense soap, however, hadn’t appeared on my sexist radar until I went to leaahh.com and read Chelsea’s  article called An analysis of advertising: Defense Soap, Jits. Mag

Note it says it's for combat ATHLETES

Note it says it’s for combat ATHLETES

The text under their name says “The Combat Athlete’s Soap,” but the text says “She’ll do cauliflower, but she won’t do ringworm.” So, dear readers, who is this selling to? Combat athletes, or men? Ding ding ding.

With one ad, Defense Soap and Jits Magazine both lost me as a potential customer.

I really liked Chelsea’s take on this:

The woman in this ad doesn’t have any agency.  Despite clearly being an athlete […] the only important thing is what she won’t do.  She’s defined by this, these restrictions that she has placed on him.  Like the women in the daughter books, she is defined (within the scope of this advertisement) by the things of value she can do for the man in the ad.

She went on further to say:

Let’s perform a little bit of a thought experiment.  Let’s change the text of this ad: “They’ll do cauliflower, but they won’t do ringworm.” […] Why does this so radically change the meaning of this ad?  Because it puts them on even footing.  It gives her agency– she decided to “do” cauliflower, just as much as he decided to “do” cauliflower.  She’s no longer a groupie, now she’s his equal, deciding autonomously  to participate in whatever shenanigans are about to go on in that shower (?) with him.  It changes from the old, time-worn narrative of “women hold the keys to sex, men have to jump through hoops to get them to give it up” to a narrative where they both mutually decided that some frisky times were appropriate in the gym showers (for reference: NOT APPROPRIATE, GUYS).  It changes the meaning of the ad from “buy Defense Soap!  Get bitches!” to “be clean!  Don’t get ringworm!  Be badass!  Have sex with attractive people!”  I have to say I like that second message a lot better.

Overall Chelsea had a very thoughtful analysis that went on much longer, included several other ads, and at the end she suggested contacting Defense Soap to give them feedback. I highly recommend going and reading her article – she doesn’t often talk about gender issues in ads, but this was a rare exception, and a wonderful, balanced read.

I went to Defense Soap‘s website and sent them this message:

I am really saddened and frustrated by your use of the text on the back of the Jits Magazine ad. It’s the one that reads “She’ll do cauliflower but she won’t do ringworm.”

I am not a WAG (Wife and Girlfriend). I am a woman in Jiu Jitsu, and a viable consumer of your product, which is SOAP, something both men and women need. Why create sexist ads to sell soap? I had considered purchasing your product, especially after reading what Guy had written on Sherdog, but this was really disheartening, to say the least, and I won’t be purchasing any.

By using this text you’ve clearly marketed to only men. Additionally, by saying “She’ll do cauliflower but she won’t do ringworm,” the woman is defined as both the keeper of the sex (men must jump through hoops to get the sex from her) and by her relationship to him – he is clearly the grappler, she is clearly the WAG (wife and girlfriend).

Changing this to THEY – THEY’ll do cauliflower but THEY won’t do ringworm – that now puts them on equal terms: they’re both grapplers, they’re both concerned for their health and partner’s safety. AND it sells to both genders, including me, a woman in BJJ.

I hope that you will stop making sexist ads. You have a gender neutral product and it would be awesome if your ads sold to both. Women are such a minority in jiu jitsu that I don’t need to be reminded or to be hedged out further by companies that could be selling to me as well. I don’t buy gear or products aimed at jiu jitsu practitioners when the companies making them produce sexist ads. Thank you for reading, and I look forward to your response.

Jiu Jiu
jiujiubjj.com

I decided to also send a message to Jits magazine, a magazine for grapplers of all genders, because they chose to run this sexist ad. Yes, Defense Soap made it, but Jits Magazine had the ability to say “Sorry, this doesn’t fit with our magazine’s motto of “Lifestyle for people who train.” Here was most of my message to them:

I am really saddened and frustrated by your choice to run Defense Soap’s ad on the back of your magazine. It’s the one that reads “She’ll do cauliflower but she won’t do ringworm.”

I am not a WAG (Wife and Girlfriend). I am a woman in Jiu Jitsu, and a potential customer of your magazine, which is for grapplers of all genders. Why publish sexist ads?

[I included why this was a sexist ad using most of the language above]

I hope you will consider changing your policy about running sexist ads. I don’t purchase products for grapplers that create or run sexist ads. I will instead stick to GiFreak magazine and the like.

I look forward to your response.

I’m a source of revenue. I’m a woman in BJJ and I like buying gear. I’ve bought from Meerkatsu, Pony Club Grappling Gear, OK Kimonos, BJJHQ (more than my fair share, to be honest), Fuji, Fenom, Isami Store, and more. I am a single woman with no family to support, and my main hobby is jiu jitsu. In other words, I’m an ideal customer.  I put my money where my mouth is, and I expect to be treated by companies as a grappler, not a grappler’s girlfriend or (potential) sex partner.

To sum up, I won’t buy from BJJ companies that produce sexist ads. This means that Defense and Jits Magazine will not be seeing money from me.

What was your reaction to that ad? Do you buy from athletic companies that produce sexist ads? Do they bother you? Does this change your opinion of Defense soap or of Jits Magazine?