Students use graffiti to combat sexism

On April 20, a creative graffiti banner was displayed in Brower Student Center. This large banner is an altered Axe Body Spray advertisement designed by students at the College. Its purpose is to counteract the sexism in the original Axe Body Spray advertisement.

Jessica Gamble, adjunct professor of women’s and gender studies, assigned this anti-sexism advertising project to two sections of her Gender and Pop Culture class. The class focuses on gender representation in media and advertising.

The project focused on challenging an existing representation of gender roles in the media. Collaboratively, the students in both classes worked to relate the book “Graffiti Women: Street Art from Five Continents” by Nicholas Ganz and the topics learned in class to create this banner. They decided to use graffiti art to accomplish a reinvention of female gender roles in advertising.

“They had the tasks of figuring out how to divide up into committees/teams, delegate responsibilities, budget for the project, collect funds for its creation, form a strategic timeline and all of the logistics from its inception through completion,” Gamble said in an e-mail interview.

According to the class’s project, the original Axe Body Spray advertisement isolated women’s body parts and included sexist remarks toward each body part. The ad was meant to portray to men that the body spray would help attract women.

In response, the student-created banner incorporates altered statements. One example was the use of the statement, “Looks like it’s been a while since I’ve met a decent man,” in place of the original, “Looks like it’s been a while.”

A copy of the advertisement was enlarged and pasted on a black backdrop. In red letters students wrote statements all around the ad. At the very bottom of the banner in white letters read “This is a deodorant AD?” Students completed the banner outdoors.

“The creation aspect was interesting and dynamic, and it was memorable to work outside with our classmates,” Casey Eriksen, sophomore biology major, said.

The creation of the banner was a collaborative effort of all the students in Gamble’s class.

“The project exceeded the class’ expectations and effectively illustrated our own reinvention of gender representations in advertising,” Eriksen said.

This is the first time the project was completed for this women’s and gender studies class. The banner will remain in the student center until April 27.

The creators hope their banner will stir critical thinking about sexist advertising among the College’s community.

Gamble said, “I love my job the most when my students are excited and enthusiastic about the course. Therefore, it’s wonderfully rewarding to see students set their own high-caliber goals only to surpass them.”