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?
*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.