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“Renewable Girls” Peddlar Responds

mspencers Icon Posted by Miranda Spencer

October 27th, 2010

Earlier this week, I critiqued the sale of a cheesecake calendar to help promote and sell solar panels, and asked readers to write to its purveyor, a dude called John B. I emailed him myself, writing:

I take exception to your Renewable Girls calendar. What makes you think that only heterosexual men might be interested in solar panels? Or that heterosexual men are all Neanderthals?

Moreover, by trying to sell renewable energy through cheesecake shots that make women look like vapid bimbos, you are alienating half of the market for solar panels. Women make a great many purchasing decisions in the home, and own more than half of all small businesses, so ads that irk us are not going to help alleged green entrepreneurs like yourself sell panels. IE, it’s not smart marketing.

With respect for the earth also should come respect for women. But you don’t even respect yourself, because you’re afraid to reveal your last name, Mr. “B.”

Today he wrote back the following:

Hi Miranda,

Thanks for your email and the web post.  But what didn’t you like about the calendar? 
Though the vast majority of feedback has been positive, you are not the first person to voice your disdain for the project.
I happen to agree with a lot of your points too.  The shots were over photo-shopped, “playboy style” and a tad “cheesecake”.  That was the point. 
Why is it, though, that you are raising such a fuss about this one intentionally cheesy calendar, when everyday you are bombarded with a lot more powerful, a lot more subtle examples of sexism?

I think the answer is because solar power is a progressive, elitist, techy product, and you are surprised to see it mingling with the coarser elements of society.  While you and your friends might praise solar power, it is currently ignored or vilified by millions of Americans. In order to have any chance of saving this earth, we have to include everyone.  And judging by the comments I’ve read, people who know NOTHING about solar, are loving this calendar.

You say this will alienate the market.  First of all, thank you for vesting so much power in this one calendar.  Second, I strongly disagree.  Did this calendar alter your opinion on solar?  Are you thinking to yourself: “well, I was really into that environmental, stop the earth from destroying itself thing, but now these assholes at Renewable Girls turned me off!  Back to coal for me!”  Of course not. 

This calendar was not intended for people like you, just like bikini car calendars aren’t intended for you either.  And similar to those calendars, this one isn’t stopping educated feminist women from owning (coveting, wanting, desiring) solar panels.

Thanks for the email, and I look forward to getting you and your reader’s feedback.

John B.

P.S. You don’t think the no last name thing is at all silly??

To which I responded:

Thanks for getting back to me. I see I’ve got you on the defensive.

The short answer to your rhetorical questions is that yes, sexism IS all over the place, bombarding us every day, and you’re just piling on to that and exploiting it for your own financial gain. Like racism, each and every example of it does harm.

I really don’t think people who are attracted to cheesy calendars are going to switch to solar because of the Renewable Girls, nor is anyone going to go antisolar because of it. [Nor do I]… expect you or other marketers who objectify women to change, but each and every example needs to be called out.

I don’t really expect the John B’s of this world to “get it.” And his protestations of quasi-satire don’t ring true. At least he wrote back — this past summer, I contacted the owners of the Farmers Diner in Vermont, which serves only local, organic food, to complain about the “Eat Local” women’s panties I noticed being sold in the gift shop. (There were no such briefs for men saying, for example, “100% organic beef!”). They never responded.

But people, for the record, is it so hard to understand a) demeaning female stereotypes aren’t good for the people these calendars are “for,” either and b) it’s counterproductive to market a progressive and practical idea like using alternative energy via regressive, sexist imagery. You don’t get a pass for supposed good intentions, or to put it another way: The ends don’t justify the means.

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