You don't have to look far to turn up a shocking amount of truly disturbing misogyny in advertising.
A friend of ours recently sent us an email noting that of all the posts we've written about design and advertising ethics, we haven't ever touched on an important and prevalent unethical advertising phenomenon -- the degrading use of women in advertising.
A cursory glance at the landscape revealed everything from campaigns that feature women who appear to be dead to those that use gross sexual imagery to sell totally non-sexy products.
Duncan Quinn advertises suits with an image of a man who appears to have strangled an underwear-clad woman on the hood of a car.
Author Douglas Rushkoff is currently posting "most or perhaps all" of his upcoming book, Life Inc: How the world became a corporation and how to take it back, at Boing Boing. DLB wants designers to read it as a call to action.
The argument in the first bit starts with Rushkoff suggesting that people increasingly often find themselves forced to make choices that go against their better judgment because they believe that these choices are the only sensible way to act under the relevant circumstances. Here's an example:
[I]n New Jersey, Carla, a telephone associate for one of the top three HMO plans in the United States...is paid a salary as well as a monthly bonus based on the number of claims she can "retire" without payment. Without resorting to fraud, Carla is supposed to discourage false claims by making all claims harder to register, in general. That's how Carla's supervisor explained it to her when she asked, point-blank, if she was supposed to mislead customers. She feels bad about it, but Carla is now the principal breadwinner in her family, her husband having lost a lot of his contracting work to the stalled market for new homes. And, in the end, she is preventing fraud. How does Carla sleep at night, knowing that she has spent her day persuading people to pay for services for which they are actually covered? After seeing a commercial on TV, she switched from Ambien to Lunesta.
The book, or at least this part of it, will attempt to evalute the generation and interpretation of the circumstances that engender this kind of ethical dissonance. Rushkoff calls the generative worldview corporatism, a mindset in which we adopt a role more like that of a share-holder than that of a member of a society. Under this mindset and the resulting set of real-world circumstances, "it's as if the world itself pushes us toward self-interested, short-term decisions," and the "more decisions we make in this way, the more we contribute to the very conditions leading to this awfully sloped landscape. In a dehumanizing and self-denying cycle, we make too many choices that--all things being equal--we'd prefer not to make."