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July 11, 2001 09:17am
French Advertising Degrades Women
Source: Reuters
by: Nathalie Meistermann

(PARIS) -- French advertising increasingly degrades women with overtones of violence, sexual domination and bestiality, according to an official report published on Wednesday.

The report recommended that a 19th century law on freedom of the press should be updated to make sexual discrimination in advertising an offence and urged advertisers to promote non-sexist values in their work.

``Egalitarian adverts are rare. Discriminatory adverts are legion,'' the report said.

It was presented to the junior minister responsible for women's rights, Nicole Pery, who said advertising was perpetuating stereotypes of male dominance.

She said as little as two years ago public opinion had been indifferent to how women were depicted in advertising, but was now beginning to press for change.

Activists opposed to sexism in advertising have held protests in recent weeks outside Paris stores owned by companies perceived to exploit women to sell their products.

Their targets have included the fashion chain La City, which has run a controversial ad juxtaposing a sheep and a naked woman on all fours. The chain, which aims to serve women aged 18 to 30, says it ``dresses naked women.''

The report, commissioned by Pery's office, said traditional sexist images of women as housewives or temptresses were increasingly giving way in advertising to what it called ``porno chic'' scenes of bestiality, domination and violence.

Such adverts were intended to make the viewer think of sexual violence including gang rape and sado-masochism, the report said.

``For some years, and increasingly in recent months, advertising has portrayed women in ways that many people find humiliating and degrading.

``It increases the risks to human dignity with images inciting violence against women or sexual discrimination,'' the report said.

Pery presented it with an opinion poll that found 50 percent of women were often or very frequently shocked by the way women were portrayed in advertising. The same survey found 57 percent of men were rarely or never shocked by the same images.

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