2 Jane Anger on challenging sexism in advertising through WiP
It became quickly very obvious that there were lots of issues we wanted to tackle, like sexism in advertising for instance. I mean that was a real galvaniser because at the time there were a lot of adverts that were perfectly acceptable to be completely sexist, and we were exercised about that. Because some of that was appearing with our own industry specifically within the professional printing magazines for printers.
So then the reaction in those days was, well, let’s do something about it, you know. You get four or five people and OK we’ll meet round at such and such a place and we’ll try and work out what we’re going to do.
One of the things we wrote about was there was a His and Hers Hitachi ad, for a stereo system so His: the door was open and there was all the technical specs; and there was Hers and the door was closed and it was all about the looks of it. And that kind of thing was happening all the time.
In the printing magazines you used to get women draped across the printing machinery all the time and so we thought well OK, well let’s write about it to the people concerned. Let’s write letters, which we did. And I think then their response was to ring up and see if somebody would write a piece. Good on ’em, so I wrote a piece. So it felt like actually, even by making a small noise, you could get heard.
There was a receptiveness. We did feel that, OK we can make a difference. And that’s what we wanted to do – make a difference. Let’s change the world, let’s try it, let’s change it, let’s challenge it, let’s be a thorn in the side, let’s do it. And you did feel then that you could do that.
You can’t always now. Oh I’m more cynical about things now. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try and change the world, but you could make an impact. Corporate forces were not so clever and blasé about, I mean now they’ve gone back to it and they don’t care, some of them, but you could actually challenge and make an impact, and then their poor behaviour would be evident and that could have consequences.
Certainly within an industry, you know, if you’re challenging that in the printing world, where publishers are placing their printing, well they have to be thinking ‘OK, who’s going to be placing that printing with us and are they going to be happy that we’re putting women across machines?’
I’m sure they didn’t articulate it in that way but the fact that women were shouting about it and that we did have some senior women, I just think gave us the impetus to carrying on trying really.