Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Mail-order bride as prize
by Jody Dallaire, Dieppe Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunity between Women and Men
Public rightfully outraged by Halifax radio contest.
We all know that radio stations host contests where listeners win prizes. Sometimes the prize is a gift certificate at a local pizza or sub shop, sometimes a weekend getaway, or sometimes tickets to a local show or event. These prizes are a form of advertising to draw listeners.
A few weeks ago, I was dismayed by the prize awarded by a Halifax radio station. No, it was not a television set or some groceries. On March 12th, Halifax's Q104 gave away a mail-order bride. Yes, you heard me, a mail-order bride.
The contest promoted as: "The Male is in the Czech: The Mighty Q is giving away a 'mail-order bride'." It ran from February 20th to March 8th. March 8th, coincidentally, is celebrated around the world as International Women's Day — a day to celebrate women's achievements and to re-focus on the battles that remain in obtaining gender equality.
The contest winner is to spend five nights in Prague and go on four dates with up to four women.
The Q104 contest winner is to be flown to Prague in the Czech Republic, to date a "bevy of Czech beauties." The prize was purchased from Flying Hearts International Dating Service, a "dating service" which features only women. The contest winner is to spend 5 nights and go on four dates with up to four women.
Not surprisingly, the radio station came under fire for this contest. About 50 complaints were filed with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). The CRTC regulates and supervises the activities of Canadian broadcasters.
The radio station itself also received numerous complaints. A protest was staged in front of the radio station on International Women's Day. Some companies also stopped advertising with the radio station as a result of the contest. An online petition was organized and gathered 700 signatures.
Laurie Ehler, Executive Director of a shelter for abused women and children in Halifax, and one of the protesters, is reported as saying in the Chronicle Herald: "The mail-order bride industry is well known internationally for being very oppressive, being related to human trafficking, extreme violence against women, pornography — that's what we're against."
|Edmonton's The Bear 100.3 "Win a Wife" contest is causing some controversy with provincial cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk announcing he will pull ads from his ministry that run on the air. FRAME GRAB www.thebearrocks.com|
Meagan Leslie, a Halifax-based NDP Member of Parliament, raised the contest in a speech in the House of Commons on March 7 where she said that as a woman she was furious. She also apologized in the House of Commons for the contest, to Czech women, and to the 50,000 women of Czech descent living in Canada.
Although shocking, the contest is merely another example of how our society devalues women. In the past I have criticized a Moncton area radio station for using women's bodies virtually to promote their radio station on billboards. Halifax's radio station Q104 took it a step further by actually using real women from the Czech Republic as a "giveaway" to promote their station.
A Richibouctou woman said it best in her letter to the editor, written to a Fredericton newspaper: "This contest gives the term 'trophy wife' a whole new meaning. Women are not objects to be won. We are human beings."
This contest raises questions such as: Given that radio stations hold contests with the intention of increasing their audience — what type of listeners is the radio station seeking? What message does the radio station want to pass along to its listeners and to the general public?
In my view, this particular radio station and other media outlets that adopt similar tactics are perpetuating an unhealthy view of women in our society — that women are interchangeable objects to be coveted, rather than human beings to be courted.
The radio station has defended the contest in the media and claims not to understand what all the fuss is about. Clearly it doesn't understand — its web site continues to feature a section called "thong of the day" where viewers must click that they are 18 years or older before entering.
The station is also currently running its Mother's Day contest, which is promoted on their web site thusly: "We're looking for the 'Yummy Mommies' of Halifax! If you know a smokin' hot Mom, we want her photo. Or send us your own snapshot, luscious lady." Contest winners' photos will be featured in a calendar and will win a prize.
Public reaction to the mail-order bride contest has been heartening. At the same time, I believe that particular contest is merely one example of Q104's egregiously regressive attitudes towards women.
Q104 manager JC Douglas told the Chronicle-Herald that the station's audience is largely men in the 20-to-55 demographic. He also said he was aware of the complaints to the CRTC and the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council. Perhaps the public outrage will encourage Q104 to choose its contests more carefully in the future.
Jody Dallaire is involved in the NB women's movement and is currently elected to Dieppe city council.