Transphobic Ad: We Need to Be Proactvie

Author: Oded Yaron (translated by Yanir Dekel for A Wider Bridge)
Source: Haaretz
Published: March 9, 2017

Studio C only benefits from the negative buzz around its transphobic ads. We need to reach a critical mass of avoiding to go there, to make sure they understand that offensive commercials simply don’t pay off. Oded Yaron, Haaretz contributor, explains.

In an attempt to show how cool and exclusive to women it is, Studio C, the women’s fitness club chain, has released a series of videos about a man (Moshe Ashkenazi) who is desperate to get fit and is willing to do anything to infiltrate into the fitness classes – even turning into a ludicrous caricature and a joke at the expense of transgender women. Last week, a new video ad was uploaded, where the Ashkenazi caricature is trying to get into the classes, with the help of the very-well-shaped Orna Datz. But the plot of the grotesque transgender never comes off. The studio receptionist makes it clear that Studio C is only for real women.

This offending advertising raises three options.

1. Studio C network is run by idiots;

2. They know very well that if they scratch the correct wound it will get them great titles – which means free advertising;

3. Studio C decided in light of the Trump ear and flooding news that’s related to transgender people and public bathrooms in the United States, it is better for them to clarify their position on the issue. Maybe they made a cold calculation: it pays off to annoy the LGBTQ community, because if we strum on enough racist and transphobic strings, we will attract enough females who feel more comfortable with “real women”.

From their response to the rising wave of criticism it seems that Studio C is very surprised that this representation of transgender women in the context in question offends a whole population. “The purpose of the videos is to illustrate the mission of the fitness clubs that are tailored to women, in a significant comic way,” they wrote on their Facebook page. “The chain apologizes if public sentiment was hurt by the videos and states that it had no intention to convey a message of this type, either directly or indirectly”. Perhaps, one can think, the first option is correct , and someone made a mistake in judgment.

However, a breezy scroll on the studio’s Facebook page indicates that the second option is much more accurate, and Studio C is just playing dumb. If it was a dumb mistake of someone reveling in his own sophistication, so be it. But as noted by the club, it is not the first video in the series, but at least the third. The first video, that was uploaded to Facebook a month ago, describes a meeting of Ashkenazi with a friend who had recently given birth, but who boasts an enviable flat stomach. She tells him her secret, and of course he also wants to join. So he begins his attempts at infiltration in his transgender character. This video also, back then, received many angry responses.

“How come all these businesses are so disconnected from their audience and try to do something ‘viral’ and ‘humorous’ at the expense of entire communities that are offended by you? I will never go into a place like this that erases transgender people,” potential client Lihi Karni wrote, for example, in a comment a month ago.

The response of the club shows a lot. “From every complaint we learn and improve,” the club replied to her . “Studio C, is not discriminatory of any person with gender history, sexual orientation and / or feelings. The campaign, designed to create advertising buzz, is humorous and there was no intention to harm any particular sector. The intention of the videos was to show a man masquerading as a woman to enter studio C and nothing else. There was no intention of relating to transgender women. We apologize to you and to anyone who was offended by the videos. ”

Indeed, the studio did not lie. They learned and improved. The first video got 180 thousand views and hundreds of angry responses. Another video, which was uploaded on February 1st, has already gained more than 400 thousand views, while critical responses continue to flow. In other words, Studio C knew very well that the series of ads was offensive, and they knew it was a month ago. They could respond with a sincere apology and remove the videos, but instead chose to continue to upload more videos.

So it turns out that the statements of network administrators and operators of its Facebook page were worth their very-well-shaped buns. Although not everyone there may be transphobic, unequivocally we’re dealing with Klick-ophiles who don’t care if someone gets hurt along the way. For results you have to work, right? That is also probably what they tell “real women” who burn their money and their calories there.

On a personal note, if you had asked me 20 years ago, I would say that I don’t understand transgender people and how some of them can actually damage their bodies to change their sex ( this was a real conversation). But if you ask me today, I’d say in shame that sometimes I still can’t understand, but I KNOW it’s not their problem, but mine and dozens of others in an environment saturated with representations like the one by Studio C.

Now it only remains to figure out how to hit Studio C strongly enough for them to understand that offensive commercials simply don’t pay off. For even this very column plays into their hands. In fact, that’s exactly what they dreamed of: free advertising. It’s great for them on the one hand, and on the other, not for people who doubt them, like me. After all, we also exist because of clicks, and outraged columns are the porn of decent newspapers.

The simple answer, at least on the face of it, is a boycott. Everyone knows that it is not so simple. Until we reach a critical mass, the boycott is just playing into their hands. Sporadic anger and angry posts, or even events and protest pages on Facebook only create buzz around them. But what can you do?; this is the only way. We need something organized, focused and continuing to make sure that it really hurts.