An open letter to Westpac: Why don’t you stop getting Stuffed?

Hey Westpac,

We’ve been together for quite a few years now, since I was a poor student in Dunedin and permanently overdrawn, so I feel like we’re at that point in our relationship where I can give you a bit of friendly advice. Y’know, like old friends over a gently steaming cup of tea. The Tim Tams are on me.

I was pretty horrified early last year when you came out with the whole ‘A man is not a financial plan’ line as part of International Women’s Day (what were you thinking!). It was condescending, rude and straight out of the 1950s in its patronising tone. But I told you what I thought and you pretended like everything was fine and we just went on with our lives, didn’t we?

But the other day, when I saw your homepage takeover of Stuff.co.nz, I nearly lost my breakfast (Bircher muesli with raspberries, for the record – messy, when upchucked all over the iPad). It wasn’t so much what you were doing, but the context it appeared in. Here’s what it looked like:

Now that’s excellent that you’re doing the Women of Influence thing and there’s even Auntie Helen down in the corner checking out Auntie Kate up the top like they're jolly hockey sticks old chums. What I don’t so much approve of is ‘Smokin’ Scarlett’ and Stuff.co.nz’s habit of featuring gratuitously sexualised women in photos with beat-up stories that are largely irrelevant to the everyday reader and belittling to the average woman. Particularly when real women of influence often go ignored in the media in favour of the 'sexy' ones.

You could say it’s just a co-incidence; unlucky, even. But on Stuff again this morning, there’s another, similar example of a token woman appearing in a sexualised context:

Your campaign about women of influence is dead in the water in a sexist media environment such as that provided by Stuff.co.nz.  Or by the NZ Herald, for that matter, which saw fit to publish this shock-jock style column by Bob Jones last week, a text that was redolent of the worst kind of rape culture. Such media environments are entirely incongruent for your campaign's direction.

So what should you do with your (fantastic) Women of Influence campaign? Well, feel free to come and join the Idealog family over here in the happy corner. We'll even share our crayons. Here at Idealog, we try to create a media environment that celebrates smart women; women of influence; women who are doing stuff and going large and finding ways to change things. You won’t see us posting gratuitously sexualised images of women as link bait, insulting women, focusing on women's appearance rather than acts, or writing stories about who the ‘sexiest’ woman is.

Here at Idealog, where women make up more than half our readership, we won’t tell you that you need to shape your bum, or call you a ‘drunkorexic’ or put fat fear into you for using contraceptives. (And that's just the tip of the iceberg.)

So wake up, Westpac, and join the revolution.

With love and disappointment,

Hazel