More sexist headlines.

So this was the headline that greeted me when I opened the Herald on line:  “Chris Cairn’s wife accuses Marc Ellis of harassment.” Now, I am not a fan of either Chris Cairn Cairns or Marc Ellis, so wish a pox on both of them. But what galls me about this particular headline is that, once again, some fool copy or sub editor has decided that the female who is the subject of the story should be reduced to the status of someone’s wife. In the article she complains of being mistreated as a senior business woman in Ellis’s ad agency, so it is not as if she is some teeny bopper that Cairns hooked up with in order to bolster his self-image. But in the eyes of the Herald editorial staff, she is just the female appendage of a dodgy ex-jock filing court papers against another ex-jock celebrity. Surely they can do better.

The really sad part of this particular episode is that it seems to be reflective of the casual sexism and misogyny that permeates NZ.  For all the women who have achieved high positions in politics, academia, arts and law (not so much the corporate world), there appears to be this ingrained backward gender weirdness on the part of a significant number of the male population. Come to think of it, sexism and misogyny are the flip side of the coin known as bloke culture–the latter cannot exist without the former.

One interesting aspect of the story is that she was appointed by Ellis to work for his ad agency in the first place. How did that happen? Was she the best qualified person for the job or did the hire have something to do with the fact that she IS Mrs. Cairns? That would add another layer of provincial small mindedness to the equation. The article also mentions that Ellis is the director and sole shareholder of the ad agency, which has as its client Toyota.

Toyota? How did one of the largest vehicle manufacturers on earth happen to award a contract to what is by all appearances a boutique ad firm with no proven track record? Was it because Ellis is seen as representative of the NZ sales demographic that Toyota is targeting? And is that demographic the blokes? That is the only explanation that makes sense to me, but if that is the case then Toyota needs to think harder about that target demographic because Ellis is certainly not representative of it (after all, his blokey larrikin ute-driving days supposedly ended a while ago and he is now portrayed as a responsible businessman, although Mrs. Cairns complaint would suggest otherwise). And if it is the blokes that Toyota is sales targeting, has it not paused to think of the female role in bloke culture? Or does it assume that all women associated with blokes are content with their status as appendages or side kicks to the alpha individual and share his tastes and interests? If so, it has not done enough due diligence with its market research (as well as on Mr. Ellis).

In any event, the headline sucks even though the sexism, nepotism, cronyism, harassment and dubious business practice implicit in the story may well prove true.

4 thoughts on “More sexist headlines.

  1. Basically Disagree. There is plenty of sexism around but the media are simply using the infamous celebrity status of a husband to create a spat between two celebrities making it newsworthy.

    There is a very strong segment of Toyota’s market that relies on a “blokie” demographic. Farmers, rural people and townie wannabes. Recall the “Bugger” ads. Toyota has different marketing approaches for different models and customer segments. Ellis is a former All Black who successfully set up a consumer business and had a high profile media career. Toyota obviously saw value in his pitch. I doubt they want him to market the Yaris.

    Not all of us are or want to be highly conformed, politically correct metrosexuals.

    At one time the PM, Governor General, Head of Judiciary, Head of NZ largest company (Telecom), Head of largest Government dept were all women. I simply don’t agree that New Zealand is “permeated” by misogynism. Thankfully it has not gone done the horrible American academic road of “microagression” and taking offence where none intended. Virtually anything can be labelled casual “…ism” if you try hard enough.

    That said I do not defend either Ellis or Cairns. Ellis may well have harrassed his employee and Cairns is corrupt.

  2. Phil:
    I think that the story could have been written without once mentioning Mr. Cairns. I fully understand why Toyota would want to target blokes as a sales demographic but am just pointing out that they do not seem to have fought about the downside of bloke culture (not that they have to to make money). Selected women making it to the top is not representative of the norm when it comes to gender relations, IMO.

    Luddite: That is an odd remark, and a bit of a troll at that. Plus, you are quite mistaken. I have plenty of flaws but being sexist is not one of them, and you have no basis for asserting otherwise.

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