Monday, February 8, 2010


diesel ad

When I was a young girl, I was obsessed with fashion. I wanted to be a fashion designer when I grew up, and I spent hours poring through Seventeen, Glamour, and Vogue. I had entire walls in my bedroom plastered with pages from these magazines and, like many girls my age, I used these publications as my reference point for how to style my hair, do my makeup, and as my lens into the larger world.

I heard an interesting statistic recently in the documentary “America the Beautiful.” They said that 70% of women and girls feel bad about themselves after just 3 minutes of looking through fashion magazines. I believe it. The magazine pages on my walls as a girl were soon joined by poster-sized pages of meticulously transcribed calorie charts.

A month or two ago I purchased mascara online and was offered a 6-month subscription to Lucky magazine as a “free gift”. Because it's next to impossible for me to say no to something called a free gift, I accepted. It's a useless magazine, dedicated to retail therapy, with no pretense of intellectual content. I could live with that. But when I flipped through the pages of the March issue and saw the above ad, I was appalled. It's hard to render me speechless, but that's just about where I am with this. It's so far off the charts that I don't know what to say. I could boycott Diesel, but I don't wear Diesel. I'm not their target market. And that's the problem, because they would never dare try that crap on adult women. They know we'd be up in arms.

But girls are vulnerable. They're being told in way too many places that being stupid (say, for example, taking digital photos of your crotch, presumably to post online, while being pursued by a lion) is ok. Better than ok, that it's what makes them fun. Obviously capitalizing on the insecurities of young women isn't new, but this is definitely a low point. I understand that these companies are in business to make money, but I don't believe it has to be done this way. In fact, I think it's their responsibility not to do it this way.

Needless to say, I'll be canceling my free gift.


Unknown said...

This post immediately made me think of this current "controversy"

Lindsey Vonn is an Olympic athlete! On the cover of Sports Illustrated!

I think people need to be outraged at Diesel (and those like them and the mags that buy the ads) and be supportive of female athletes.

Too much conversation here for just a simple comment... your post is so personal and I think universal.

outofthedark said...

what an excellent post!
will be sharing a link to this on Facebook and that okay?

Strongrrl said...

Ami: thanks for the link and the comment.

Heather: By all means, spread the word! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This add is just shocking!!!

Janet Metzger, Artist said...

I don't even know what to say, I'm so appalled!

Alphabet Dancer said...

Yuck to the Nth degree. I wonder what Ad company runs the campaign for Diesel. Those "hotshots" oughta be called out as well. Sadly female objectification is ubiquitous & so they figure they have to pump it up another notch. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Hi Julie,

Et first I was horrified by this add. I found it sexist, diminishing on so on.

However, after looking at the all campaign I am not sure anymore.

I do believe that there is nothing sexist in this campaign except if we are looking at on add only.

It is just them trying to target teenagers through the silly things they are doing, like in so many teens movies.

I am still against this campaign - as I do believe that you do not level from the bottom- but not appeal anymore.

Strongrrl said...

Leila: Thanks for the link. It's good to have the complete context. I think the original concept of the campaign had potential, but it was executed poorly (and typically). Seeing it in it's entirety does give more perspective and it may warrant a follow-up post. Merci et bisous!

Strongrrl said...

Leila: one more thing: I disagree that the campaign isn't sexist. If you look at all the ads, many of them have crotches and breasts front and center. They also often imply that the girls are about to take (sexual) risks, and thereby have fun. Most of the ads featuring men show them taking different kinds of risks: stupid in their own way (more physically stupid).

My point, however, wasn't about the ads being sexist but about the typical message that they give to young girls about how/who they need to be to be. If they don't flash their tits, they're prudes/boring/uptight, etc.

Theory said...

Noticed this today. Looks like there's some sort of street campaign. Which just goes with the stupid.


Dawning Colour said...

(Clicked over here from your post on, so I'm a first-time reader, but I enjoyed this article)

As a teenager, I, too, plastered fashion pictures on my walls. I was encouraged to pursue modeling, but (even being naturally thin and 5' 9"), I was practical enough to realize that I wouldn't be very happy trying to keep my weight below 120. So I thought, perhaps, I would apply my love of writing to the field of fashion, but soon realized--reading article after article about how we women don't smell good enough until we smell like , or our smiles aren't alluring enough without , etc.--that the magazines really have nothing to do with women and everything to do with "things" being sold to a target market (which just happens to be women).

The Diesel ads elicited a response of, "Whuuuu...?"; that is to say, I wasn't moved to any real emotion of desire or interest, I was just confused by what the ad was supposed to elicit in an audience. A woman photographing her crotch makes me want a swimsuit? Well, I guess if Diesel is relying on the definition of stupid as being "dazed and unable to think clearly," then this particular ad left me feeling quite "stupid," but it didn't sell their product.

Heaven help the young girls of our world--these ads should come with the warning that "stupid" may seem cool before common sense sets in, but "stupid" also comes with lingering effects that aren't so easy to replace (or forget) as last year's fashion trends.