The Inertia Senior Contributor

The Inertia

In the annals of women’s sport, there are a few events that will live on forever as moments of enduring spectacle: Venus Williams dressed in a teddy at the 2010 French Open, Tonya Harding ordering a hit on Nancy Kerrigan, and basically the entire paradigm of butt floss and cheerleaders that beach volleyball has become come to mind right off the bat. The good people at Roxy, apparently desperate to enter history whichever way possible, have added another moment to this list recently with their #whoamijustguess teaser for the Roxy Pro Biarritz. If you haven’t seen the video, press play above. But don’t watch it at work, or around your kids, or around your parents, or really anywhere where you don’t want people to think you are viewing softcore porn. As my girlfriend put it, when she happened upon me watching the video: “It looks like it’s about a call girl.”

The conceit, if that word can be used to describe something as meaningless as this, is that a young woman wakes up in France, puts on a shirt, checks her electronics, takes off her shirt, takes a shower, then goes to surf in a heat. They never show said girl’s face. But here’s where they etch their names into the record books of the outlandish. The story is told by focusing mostly on the mystery girl’s asshole. In a move that puts every one of those North Shore movies to shame (You know: “Here’s guys getting barreled and here’s women’s asses!”) they fit twelve butt shots into 1 minute and 46 seconds. This is the 800-meter dash of butt shots.

Aside from ass-gazing, the other discernable theme for the video is commodity fetishism – HTC electronics to be precise. They deliver four separate shots to plug a smartphone and a touch screen computer. Jeep also gets a quick shot, along with DHD surfboards, and of course, Roxy. There are no waves ridden, and even the obligatory paddle out shot ends with a view that lets the voyeur, I mean viewer, stare almost directly up the mystery sphincter.

Product placement, assholes, (and Alana Blanchard’s Instagram), this is modern women’s surfing. Young, pendulous flesh is tossed into the gristmill of the marketing spectacle and shat out the other end. What really offends when all is said and done is not the boring, one-note sexism or the aggressive product placement, it’s the idea that some pervert, somewhere is expecting us to watch this then act like we aren’t seeing exactly what they are forcing down our throats.

Why the focus on her butt? What can I say? I’m beginning to think it isn’t about sexualizing women’s bodies at all, and there is some deeper, Freudian motivation for it, perhaps relating to a prolonged anal stage of development, or latent male homosexuality that fixates on the butt as a pleasure zone. Attraction is built from innumerable elusive details, many of which have nothing to do with the vulgarities of the body. So when we talk about being “sexy” or “attractive” with either men or women why, sweet Jesus, why can’t we include everything from political beliefs to personality, to knobby knees and crooked smiles? I can’t be sure, but from the overwhelming evidence, it looks like this video was made by people who really have no idea what makes people attractive – either to the opposite sex, or to each other. Instead, they have developed a vague idea of an audience they want to appeal to using lowest-common-denominator, Beach-Barbie archetypes that they will continue to beat into the ground until the next generation of marketing hacks figures out a way to do it with slightly more “edge” – butts without bikini bottoms, anyone? Maybe check out Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” Unrated video.  Both would make for a hell of a duck diving shot.

Let’s not pile all the heat on Roxy for this one, though. HTC, Jeep, Biarritz and Aquitane Tourism, MeltyXtreme and Virgin Radio have all invested here. These are the people spending money on women’s surfing (so…that’s good), and this is the image they want to project (not so good). The choice, then, seems to be between having no investment, or having investment that requires a lot of ass in front of the camera – and all our leering eyes on the other side of the lens. The problem is that this isn’t a real choice. It’s a sucker’s bargain, and the only type of growth it will promote is making women’s competitive surfing into a Reef Girl contest.

Whatever this crap is, it aint about sport, and it definitely aint about women. It’s lazy, exploitative marketing, and it’s not the best step forward for women’s surfing. How’s that for excrement?

Steph Gilmore's Ass

A screen grab from the Roxy Pro Biarritz promotional video. Yup.

*Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story asserted that Stephanie Gilmore was the woman portrayed in this advertisement, although it has been reported elsewhere that the woman featured is Roseanne Hodge. While neither has been confirmed, the point still remains. If the screen shot of Stephanie’s relative Whitney Gilmore’s email and the DHDs were an element of misdirection, then kudos to Roxy for the redirect. Again, cheeky.

  • kiwi_surfer

    I think the reason why they do this is not necessarily to sell more stuff or promote women’s surfing, but because the marketing people who come up with this stuff have their heads so firmly in a box where they view women as bodies for male consumption. The biggest problem I have with this as a woman who surfs is it reduces me and all the other women out there to body parts, while the guys get to be… just surfers!

    The dumbest thing though is many people (especially as they get older, wiser and more critical) are waking up to the bullshit, calling it bullshit and not supporting these companies with their money. I never buy surfing mags, the only women in them are shown as body parts to sell stuff (we do surf too you know!) and I avoid buying crap promoted in this way.

    The reason why women continue to be portrayed in this way is because marketing is dominated by young males. Who have no idea what it’s like to live as a woman and be bombarded with this bullshit all the time.

    • joe

      Roxy makes bikini’s. these chicks are more “models” than “surfers”. just check out their instagrams and all the product plugs. if you dont like it, dont watch it. quit whining.

      • Kara Hawthorn

        its called establishing a high values + moral system in your culture for your children who are otherwise infected with this mindset and lose their innocence ……. not whining …….- joe.

  • Birdman

    You thought way too hard about this in a negative light. It’s France, they are open minded to the beautiful female form. She’s an elite athlete, a world champion even, and therefore her body is worth viewing not just from a sexual perspective. Keep your mind in the gutter and appreciate something else about the clip at the same time.

    • AbigailatSea

      No. She’s an elite athlete, this is an advertisement for her sport and all we are asked to do in this video is look at her ass. How can you not see that as a problem? Would you be just a little creeped out if we were treated to a long, vaseline-lensed series of shots of parko, slater, and fanning’s asses? I mean, seriously? Have you ever seen an ad for a men’s event that’s just abs and crotch shots?? The author’s point is that SHE- not just her body- is worth viewing from something other than a sexual perspective. There is no surfing in this video that purportedly advertises a professional event for women’s surfing. It’s stupid.

      • Birdman

        She must work out

    • Jean Neymar

      See above. french are discussing the matter like you’re doing here.
      It’s not about “being open minded to beautiful female form” (I’m sure we’re not alone…), it’s about the image of women in advertizing, always a sexual object, always a subject of men’s desire. Women are not only 20 years old curvy girls, and they can have other thing to do in life than being attractive and always responding to men desire. Social relationship and men/women relationship aren’t based only on sex.

      As for the image of girls in surfing, just have a look on the latest 30 days on instagram, you’ll see most of the female pro surfing posting daly pics of themselves, but only 10% on a surf, the rest being about clothes, shoes, other products and selfies. It won’t help for sure.

      • Snobo

        You know every time you mention “the female form” you creep out every woman and girl within earshot, right?

    • Roy Stuart

      Well said

  • eljee

    Totally agree. I think you’ll find that the few dissenters here have names like “Birdman”. The marketing these companies have been using have disgusted female surfers for quite a while, just this time they have finally gone too far and its obvious to everyone. The nuance here was the over-the-topness and the addition of electronics to the fetishization mix. Thanks for writing this piece.

  • Chris Cote

    Feminism is so hot right now.

    • Spedjones

      LOL. Do any of you expect that a guy who looks like Chris Cote’ would feel bad for women here? It’s payback for all those years of being shunned by the opposite sex.

    • Kara Hawthorn

      so is dumb

  • TomHouse

    I have no idea who did the marketing for this, but it’s probably important to remember that it’s a French contest, and by and large, the French have wildly different attitudes about sex and femininity than do Americans.

    • Jean Neymar

      “but it’s probably important to remember that it’s a French contest, and
      by and large, the French have wildly different attitudes about sex and
      femininity than do Americans.”

      I wouldn’t take the risk to speak for my fellow countrymen, but as a french myself, I totally agree with what Mr Endo has written, and I’m far from being alone.

      The image of women as simple sexual objects and always under the domination of men is wildly used by publicity here, and wildly despised by a lot of people. The same kind of discussion we’re having here is happening on french surfing websites.

  • Darren Mason

    Of course they do this to sell more stuff. It’s not about the contest, its about selling Roxy clothes to teenage girls. It’s the simplest oldest explanation: sex sells. It appeals to our basic animal instincts. Guys watch Roxy softcore porn. Girls watch guys getting excited about Roxy softcore porn. Girls want guys to get excited about them so they go buy Roxy thong swimsuits and HTC phones. Guys now pay attention to said “Roxy girls.” Girls buy more Roxy. Guys grow tired of Roxy porn because porn is free on the interwebs. Roxy rejoices in record sales.

    Roxy: my two daughters and I (who all surf) will not support your sex trafficking with our dollars!

  • Shannon Marie Quirk

    VIDEO: Roxy Pro Parody Unofficial Teaser #WhoAmIJustSmell

  • Dexter Hough-Snee

    From commentary booths to marketing pro comps (err commodities) it’s not that recent critique reflects that “feminism is so hot right now”…it’s that surfing’s marketing and media core demonstrate the social responsibility and moral conviction of a suburban thirteen year old boy and people of both genders are getting tired of it, at least outside of the OC and the Gold Coast. Oh wait, the next ad campaign will encourage us to save the ocean by buying plastic boardies and save the waves through paternalistic NGO mandates advising foreign communities to be more friendly to visiting surfers and embedded expats. The rhetoric is hollow and the gender discussion is the longest thread to pull in order to unravel the whole paradoxical mess that is the commodification of waveriding. Kudos, Endo.

  • Spedjones

    I get why Rosie would do it – she was never very successful as a surfer, and is getting a bit long in the tooth, so it’s now or never. And if there’s one thing we do know, it’s that Saffas don’t treat their women well, so she’s really doing just what her country folk expect.

    • Roy Stuart

      Hey watch your racist mouth, my Mother was always treated very well indeed, as were both my Grandmothers.

  • Spedjones

    or he used to. RIP TWS. Haha.

  • Spedjones

    If you want to know why TWS failed, check how few people watched that promo.

    • Amanda Mascia

      Bummer that TWS failed, but I canceled my subscription when I saw that promo…

  • robdougherty1

    I agree with samuel_strickland in that the pros are going to have to step up and speak out if they want to change this image. But, Jean Neymar, you’re right too: look at a surfer girl’s Instagram account. Laura Enever comes directly to mind. Could it be that these women FEEL sexy and LIKE feeling sexy? Before you answer, go back and take a look at the photos from the most recent ASP awards ceremony. Or ESPN Magazine’s Body Issue. Yes, sex sells but I don’t think it’s all about objectification anymore. I think sex has evolved and is actually empowering women. I wonder if these women grew up being called tomboys for surfing, were disrespected in our male dominated lineups and, when they grew into their bodies, couldn’t express themselves because they were covered in black neoprene half the day. Is it possible that these women are aware of and celebrate their sex appeal and leverage it while they’ve got it? And are guys any different? I have to admit, if I was ripped like Laird, I’d never wear a shirt either. My point? Maybe the image Roxy is conveying is one of freedom, independence, strength, beauty AND sex appeal. I got a sense of all of those symbols in the trailer.

  • Miki Dora

    More than Roxy it’s these stupid surfer chicks who are basically acting like prostitutes. If they had any brains or dare I say balls they would say no when asked to be portrayed as a sex object and not an athlete. The fact that they never show her face says this girl is nothing but a body to be used for our pleasure. These girls should be ashamed of what they do for their pimps/sponsors.

  • lyndsey

    I want to thank you so much for this article. It’s incredibly disheartening to me as a female surfer that the female pros I’m supposed to look up to and admire are so busy showing off their bodies and in particular, their backside (yes, Alana), I forget they actually surf and compete. It’s really a sad thing. Surfing is a male dominated sport, and I feel like the fraction of girls in this should be respected for their ability to hang with the best. Because each of these girls can. And that in itself is wildly sexy. I don’t know any male surfers who are consistently known for showing off their bodies more than their ability in the water. But I can name female surfer after female surfer that does. Of course, it’s great to be beautiful and sexy and feminine and celebrate that, but something feels wrong here. I think we’ve just gone too much that way. I feel like it’s all about sex appeal and little to none about appreciating athleticism and their ability to shred. The female surfers who aren’t showing off their bods? You don’t hear much about them. I remember seeing a meme recently of Alana doing a cutback, and it read, “Wait? Alana surfs?!” This is exactly my point. And I am so glad at least one other person in the world acknowledges this with me. I truly hope sponsors and other advertisers can recognize this issue, and start showing some respect not only to their athletes, but to the audience who follows them and is supposed to look up to them.

    • AbigailatSea

      No kidding. I was out at pine trees with Alana a few weeks ago, and she was ripping, but I had no idea who she was until a friend told me. No makeup, just waves, her skill was obvious but without the fluff I didn’t recognize her.

  • Dustin Boshart

    Roxy makes bikini’s, which cover’s girls butts. These girls happen to be surfers, who happen to be tan, beautiful women. Surfers are usually half naked, that’s the way it goes. You don’t hear us guys complaining every time John John shows his white thighs coming out of a barrel.
    Get over it people. Where was all this feminist power when Reef was around? Let’s be honest… most guys aren’t watching girls surf because they rip. That’s why we watch the bald man.

    • Amanda Mascia

      Give me a 2 minute promo for the Tahiti Pro only showing John John’s Ding Dong up close and I’ll shut up.

  • Howard Swanwick

    What do you expect? If there was anyone smart enough to come up with something innovative they would have done it by now.

    Just ignore this kind of shite and go surfing. A reaction is what Roxy are looking for and you’re giving them one by writing and discussing it.

  • Alex Neville

    Beating this story up only fuels the buzz already being generated by the trailer, which, I’m sure, the marketers would have been well aware of. I generally agree with your position, Tetsuhiko, but considering that they are in the business of selling products, wouldn’t the most effective course of action be just to not buy anything from any of the companies appearing in this video? Collective action, and all that.

  • Roy Stuart

    I don’t think that the birthplace of surfing was ever as prudish as the bleaters on this thread.

  • Bryan Harvey

    Are you kidding? What’s to discuss? There’s no controversy here. Aside from the fact that this video is blatant, over-the-top juvenile, ass-centric fluff, it is SO poorly executed, so transparent I almost thought it was a spoof! I would expect a little more sophistication from Quiksilver/Roxy. What exactly were they thinking? Sure, sex sells. The thing is, it’s not even sexy in the least. Sure, by now we are all numb to the bikini ass shots, flipping hair, board waxing, montages that are ALWAYS intercut with any female surfing video segments. But this video takes it to a ridiculous new level. Of course they have bikinis to sell, but please give your audience a little bit more credit and at least TRY to put something together that is respectful of these ladies that SHRED!

    Bryan Harvey
    director of photography

  • disqus_mm6swN1Mj8

    It could go either way really. Steph use to represent Roxy, but now reps Quiksilver…as a rider of DHDs, thats eluding, and the guitar, and Whitney Gilmore, and her personal style…and she won the event last year…..but why would a Roxy comp want to advertise someone else? Im pretty sure every dude would have rather seen that as Sally’s backside, since noone ever sees that because she never advertises it….and it could easily be Rosy, Roxy rider and QS surfer who every well could be a wildcard in the competition. Sly indeed for the advertisers. Janna Irons was SLAMMED for discussing this first, but its great to see Rochelle and Keala speaking up on the matter, just like in the old days…I miss when the women on tour were more vocal about how they REALLY felt about it, and not some intelligent, non-commital response so the sponsors don’t call her “difficult” and cut her funds. I would love to hear Carissa’s opinion, before Hurley, she was the only girl (aside from Bec Woods and Paige Hareb) to not have an endemic sponsor and did not have a single “sexy” photo or suggestive advertising to get people to notice her surfing, that has since changed a little as she is constantly plugging Hurley this and that, but its part of the deal. I can see how it was suppose to be “glamorous” (ala Laura Enever) and artys fartsy, a enticing peice leading up to the contest….but all it has done is garnished more views to watch her ass for 2 minutes and still go, neh. Men will now look at womens surfing as even more of a joke because now we’r turning to our assets to get attention. If that had extended it like 30 seconds, and showed the same ass in a minimal bikini (like most of the girls on tour) throwin down a power carve and boosting a serious air (not some piddly attempt)….THAT would have drawn in more to actually watch the competition.

  • Nicole Grodesky

    “Psychology offers several theories to explain how the sexualization of girls and women could influence girls’ well-being. Ample evidence testing these theories indicates that sexualization has negative effects in a variety of domains, including cognitive functioning, physical and mental health, sexuality and attitudes and beliefs.”

  • Nicole Grodesky

    “The male gaze[4] occurs when the camera puts the audience into the perspective of a heterosexual man. It may linger over the curves of a woman’s body, for instance.[5] The woman is usually displayed on two different levels: as an erotic object for both the characters within the film, as well as the spectator who is watching the film. The man emerges as the dominant power within the created film fantasy. The woman is passive to the active gaze from the man. This adds an element of ‘patriarchal’ order and it is often seen in “illusionistic narrative film”.[6] Mulvey argues that, in mainstream cinema, the male gaze typically takes precedence over the female gaze, reflecting an underlying power asymmetry.”

  • Theoldmtneer

    Funny thing is nobody has any thing to say about Arab abuse of women. But you all seem to feel this is out of line. Bring it on Roxy can’t wait for the next vid.

  • Will

    What’s wrong with showing that the world’s best female surfers are sexy too?? For a long time the women’s tour had a stigma of being butch, but girls like Steph have shown that women can rip, be feminine and sexy all at the same time. I can’t even believe the video is an issue, I have spoken to quite a few girls who can’t believe it either. In my opinion it’s more of a case of the media being out of touch with the public and trying to drum up publicity over nothing so their websites get more hits because they use words like “sex” and “surfer” in their headlines… Look at this article from Oz Over 300 comments 95% or more think that this is a non-issue… Rihanna uses sex in her videos, Abercrombie and CK use half naked men in their ads, STAB magazine have done nude photoshoots with just about every female surfer in the world, so please tell me how this is any different?

  • joe

    these pro women are paid to wear bikini’s, stay fit, look sexy, sell bikini’s = they wont be speaking up. check out the pics they post of themselves, ass shots and scantily clad peace-sign shots.. duh. they are eating it up. dont like the video? then dont watch it. there has to be bigger issues in the world to complain about.

  • joe

    Everyone upset that a bikini company is selling sex? really? stop buying their suits then, maybe? stop following your favorite pro who posts a pic of her own ass every day? tell your favorite pro with her product placement bikini shots that she shouldnt do that anymore? unfollow her?

  • mrempty

    FACT: This ad has brought more attention to womens’ surfing than ANY OTHER AD EVER. Say what you want about the content, but marketing is about eyes and resonance, and this ad worked very, very well.

    • Jean Neymar

      “but marketing is about eyes and resonance”

      The same for propaganda, and I don’t think propaganda is great.

  • gabriel medina

    Surfing is multifaceted and visual. Beyond fitness, water experience and board skills, there is style, grace and flair. All of this adds-up to the appeal and fascination of surfing, and its stars, to many others.

    The Roxy commercial doesn’t speak for surfing in its totality. But reflects a slice of it, that is real and has been around since its inception (it was restrained for a while when the Calvinists came to Hawaii in the 1800s and banned surfing seen as too hedonistic and sensual).

  • Kara Hawthorn

    YES. thank you mr. endo 4 being a sensitive man.
    ( alas, a rare thing apparently )

  • Kara Hawthorn

    exactly. they R clearly pressured 2 by their management….. very sad.
    and kelly slater in frolicking in undies (with no A -MAZ – ING face) is the only fair test….. CMON KELLY! “dare yourself” RIGHT?

  • Kara Hawthorn

    exactly. they are clearly pressured 2 by their management + too young / vulnerable to say no, thanks….. very sad…..ladies????

    till they have the courage to speak + debate, the only answer is : (drumroll….)

    kelly slater frolicking in undies! ( oh, but with NO a – maze – ing face )…..
    its only fair ! C’MON KELLY…..”dare yourself ” 🙂

  • Kara Hawthorn

    thank U for being so sensitive, mr. endo …… seriously !……
    why on earth do we actually still have 2 explain this in 2013?

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