Confused Swedish Ad Board Says 'Distracted Boyfriend Meme' Is Sexist

from the i-think-you're-missing-the-point dept

It's pretty difficult to have been on the internet over the past year or so and not come across the distracted boyfriend meme. It has been everywhere. And, unlike many other memes, this one's popularity has shown little sign of waning. If somehow you did miss it, uh, welcome back to the internet after a year away? The meme involves a stock photo of what appears to be a guy checking out a girl who just walked by him, while his somewhat unhappy girlfriend looks angrily at him. Then to make it "meme-like" you put captions over all three characters. Here was one of the early ones that kicked off the meme:

There are thousands of other ones, some of which are actually kinda funny.

The reason this is in the news again is that the Swedish ISP Banhof attempted to use the meme in an advertisement on Facebook and Instagram:

A bunch of people complained that the ad was sexist, and reported it to the Swedish Advertising Ombudsman, who recently agreed that the ad was sexist.

"It portrays women as interchangeable objects, and that only their appearance is interesting," wrote the ombudsman, which was unanimous in its decision. It added that there was no link between the services provided by Bahnhof and the objectified image of the women.

"According to the committee, the objectification is reinforced by the fact that women are designated as workplace representatives while the man, as the recipient of the advertisement, is being produced as an individual," the judgment said.

Some of the reviewers involved in the decision also said that the advert presented "degrading" stereotypical views of both women and men. "It gives the impression that men might change female partners in the same way they change jobs. One notifier pointed out that Bahnhof may put off female applicants with the advertisement," the judgment stated.

That feels... like a particularly humorless way to read a meme (it should be noted, FWIW, that the same photographer has a similar stock image with the gender roles reversed).

Also, the meme doesn't seem to be commentary about women being interchangeable objects (if anything, it's about what a jackass the guy is), but especially it's use as an ad here seems to be a lot more about playing off the popularity of the meme, and making Banhof seem hip and on top of what all the internet kids are into these days. Amusingly, Banhof noted this in its own statement -- while mocking its own late-to-the-game use of this meme:

"Everyone who follows the internet and meme culture knows how the meme is used and interpreted. [Whether someone is a] man, woman or neutral gender is often irrelevant in this context. We are an internet company and are conversant in this, as are those who would look for a job with us, so we turned to that target group," the statement continued. "If we should be punished for anything, it's for using an old and tired meme."

It's unclear from the reporting if there's any actual punishment for Banhof, or if it just can't keep using that advertisement (though, given that this has now received a ton of press attention, it probably has given the company a lot more attention). Either way, Sweden's Advertising Ombudsman needs to lighten up a bit and maybe enjoy a meme.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 3:38pm

    "If we should be punished for anything, it's for using an old and tired meme."

    They owned up to it. Can't we get them a lighter sentence, Judge?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 3:45pm

    Meme

    It's all about me. Me me me me me me me me me!!!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ironicbutwhocares, 2 Oct 2018 @ 4:00pm

    whatever

    its great to bring this stuff to our attention .. but really the only thing that i get out of this, is that this confirms that i really don't need to be selling things on the internet to these folks. Since they have no common sense with regards to all things internet -they are probably not the kind of people i would want to be involved in any type of internet based sales transaction with.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 8:35am

      Re: whatever

      You missed the point entirely and don't seem to have read the article.

      The offended group is not the target group for the ad.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Hero, 2 Oct 2018 @ 4:57pm

    Smell the Glove

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 2 Oct 2018 @ 5:04pm

    Jackass and intercultural differences

    "...it's about what a jackass this guy is..."

    It's amazing how a man who looked at a beautiful woman is a jackass, and yet regularly here in the [southwest] United States both men and women look at people they find attractive, often with a smile.

    That's in these United States. There are other countries, and whole continents, where macho men are raised, taught, and encouraged to appreciate the female form. Those people are not jackasses... they simply have a different culture.

    If you see a cute doggie rubbing his ear you're allowed to smile, look more, and feel warm and fuzzy. Your own doggies don't give you a mean look, withhold affection, or in any way seek to "punish" you (or call you a jackass) for this.

    Apparently in our desire for political correctness we want nobody other than unattached people admiring beauty. That's not just a violation of our right to expression, but probably hastens the path to 1984 -- if we can't think it, we can't do it.

    E

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 5:13pm

      Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

      This has literally nothing to do with political correctness, your idea of a "macho man" is wrong, and your take is stupid.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Killercool (profile), 2 Oct 2018 @ 5:42pm

        Re: Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

        Look up "political correctness," "sexism," and then "machismo," just for fun.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:48am

          Re: Re: Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

          Oh look at that, a bunch of white neck beards on youtube crying about their freedoms and how snowflake liberals are personally attacking them while they live in their basement.

          Go pound sand.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • icon
            Killercool (profile), 6 Oct 2018 @ 2:30am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

            Denying the existence of something that is very real, no matter how problematic it is, solves nothing.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Thad (profile), 2 Oct 2018 @ 5:45pm

      Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

      If you see a cute doggie rubbing his ear you're allowed to smile, look more, and feel warm and fuzzy. Your own doggies don't give you a mean look, withhold affection, or in any way seek to "punish" you (or call you a jackass) for this.

      Well, first of all, if the first analogy your mind goes to is "women = dogs", and you don't see any problem with that...well, dude, this is probably an issue where you should be talking a lot less and listening a lot more.

      Second, clearly you have never met my dog.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Bruce C., 2 Oct 2018 @ 6:07pm

      Re: fixed that for you...

      "It's not so amazing how a man who looked at a beautiful woman while in the company of his girlfriend is a jackass. "

      That's not political correctness, that's respect for your relationship.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 6:20pm

      Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

      "It's amazing how a man who looked at a beautiful woman is a jackass"


      Yes, absolutely .... when done while out on a date with your significant other.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Oct 2018 @ 7:16pm

      macho men

      What is a “macho” man? What makes “macho” men intrinsically better than other men? For what reason should I want to be a “macho” man?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 8:06pm

        Re:

        None. From everything I've heard and seen, being a "macho" man means flexing your muscles, being a jerk (especially to women), drinking lots of beer, and yelling "'Murica!" at the world.

        I'll pass thanks. I'm perfectly fine with playing video games, reading, and having an IQ level above 89.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Oct 2018 @ 10:28pm

          Re: Re:

          being a "macho" man means flexing your muscles, being a jerk (especially to women), drinking lots of beer, and yelling "'Murica!" at the world

          So…Immortan Joe, but in America?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Toom1275 (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:36am

          Re: Re:

          "I contend that the names 'pickup artist' and 'garbage man' be swapped. Way more appropriate on both counts that way."

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 12:20am

      Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

      "It's amazing how a man who looked at a beautiful woman is a jackass, and yet regularly here in the [southwest] United States both men and women look at people they find attractive, often with a smile"

      There's a difference between giving someone a compliment and making a public display of how much more fantastic you think a stranger looks than your own girlfriend. Even if true, it's a dick move to make in front of her in front of a crowd of people.

      "Your own doggies don't give you a mean look, withhold affection, or in any way seek to "punish" you (or call you a jackass) for this."

      So women need to act more like dogs, got it.

      /s

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 4:55am

      Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

      *If you see a cute doggie rubbing his ear you're allowed to smile, look more, and feel warm and fuzzy. Your own doggies don't give you a mean look, withhold affection, or in any way seek to "punish" you (or call you a jackass) for this.*

      Did you just, in all honesty and apparently without reflection, suggest that a sentient being of the opposite gender should be happy to be treated as a non-sentient pet?

      *There are other countries, and whole continents, where macho men are raised, taught, and encouraged to appreciate the female form. Those people are not jackasses... they simply have a different culture.*

      Appreciating the female form is NOT the issue here. Making other people uncomfortable in public spaces is.

      And, apparently, equating women with dogs to be petted is ALSO an issue. The concept of being "macho" implies - in most of the world, today - to be an artifact of the 18th century.

      <i>"Apparently in our desire for political correctness we want nobody other than unattached people admiring beauty."</i>

      That's not the message I got. What I got was that a person walking and talking with their s.o. would rightly be considered a bit of a douche in the situation depicted in the image.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 3 Oct 2018 @ 7:14am

      Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

      There are other countries, and whole continents, where macho men are raised, taught, and encouraged to appreciate the female form. Those people are not jackasses... they simply have a different culture.

      Of course not, but you may find they're predominantly backwards with a reputation for being horrible places to be a woman. We're not just decorations for you to ogle, Ehud. We are not things!

      If you see a cute doggie rubbing his ear you're allowed to smile, look more, and feel warm and fuzzy. Your own doggies don't give you a mean look, withhold affection, or in any way seek to "punish" you (or call you a jackass) for this.

      They're doggies. Animals. We're human beings. Okay, mate, let's turn this around. You're out with your missus and a muscular black guy walks past. He's well ripped, and your missus takes a good, long, admiring look at him. How do you feel?

      Apparently in our desire for political correctness we want nobody other than unattached people admiring beauty.

      There's "admiring beauty" and "perving on total strangers because they're hot."

      That's not just a violation of our right to expression, but probably hastens the path to 1984 -- if we can't think it, we can't do it.

      Your right to be a perverted creep may be inalienable per the Constitution, but socially -- good luck with that.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 8:37am

        Re: Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

        Look up the word "attractive", and "attract" in any dictionary not written by a social justice warrior.

        BTW, I've seen gay women do *exactly* what that meme portrays as well. I've also seen straight women do the exact same.

        Park your SJW attitude and consider that the bulk of humanity is capable of admiring the landscape without feeling a need to go camping in it.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 8:56am

          Re: Re: Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

          "Look up the word "attractive", and "attract" in any dictionary not written by a social justice warrior."

          It's not the fact that the guy is finding the person attractive that's the problem with the reaction. Perhaps if you were as interested in the actual arguments as you were in silly labels, you'd understand that.

          "BTW, I've seen gay women do *exactly* what that meme portrays as well. I've also seen straight women do the exact same."

          In front of their partners in a public place with zero repercussions, including surrounding spectators thinking they're assholes for doing it?

          People aren't offended with something the girl is happy with her boyfriend doing, by the way, they're partly reacting as to how extreme her reaction is (albeit in this case probably staged). Can you not tell the difference between being offended on the part of someone who does not have that reaction, and feeling empathy for someone who clearly is?

          "consider that the bulk of humanity is capable of admiring the landscape without feeling a need to go camping in it"

          Unlike the guy in the picture, which is the actual point of peoples' reaction to it, be that reaction amusement or to be offended.

          Personally, I find it amusing that there's as many people ranting about how other people need to not be offended as there are people saying they understand (but not necessarily agree with) the initial reaction.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 4 Oct 2018 @ 2:36am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

            I'm amused at the sheer one-sidedness of the reactions, as if only men get to drool and ogle (and either get slapped of high-fived for it) while we women are supposed to accept that boys will be boys, or something.

            I pointed out that we women also like to admire the landscape -- with corresponding repercussions. The actor Aidan Turner recently complained that women were shouting "Get your shirt off!" and openly drooling at him, making him uncomfortable. The takeaway: it's not okay to objectify others, the "objects" find it mortifying. So then, if you're going to admire someone, do it discreetly. The whole damn world doesn't need to know about it.

            And definitely don't shout, "Phwooooaaarrrrr! I'd like that in a sandwich!" with a dirty leer while you're at it, whoever you are.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 7:46am

      Re: Jackass and intercultural differences

      "There are other countries, and whole continents, where macho men are raised, taught, and encouraged to appreciate the female form."

      .. and apparently care little about tourism.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 2 Oct 2018 @ 6:11pm

    A jilted Swedish Advertising Ombudsman

    The Sweden ombudsman is only doing this because his boyfriend left him for a German dude with tight buns and a fitter bod.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 9:35pm

    “Either way, Sweden's Advertising Ombudsman needs to lighten up a bit and maybe enjoy a meme.”

    You seem to be forgetting your place, Mr. Masnick. Your place is to side with the Democrat Party, the Part of Slander, against obvious Sexiism. Your obligation is global and permanent.

    If you do not get in Line, you will suffer Consequences. LIke BIll Cosby.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Lawrence D’Oliveiro, 2 Oct 2018 @ 9:43pm

      Re: Your place is to side with the Democrat Party

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

      *wipes tears from eyes*

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Lady in Red, 2 Oct 2018 @ 9:55pm

        Re: Re: Your place is to side with the Democrat Party

        Your obviously guilty laughter triggered a memory deeply rooted in my hippocampus. It was you in the room with Brett Kavanaugh, I am 100% certain. I have a woman’s name, you have a man’s name, that means you are GUILTY!

        Hear that noise outside your door? That’s the FBI, with Avanatti, and MSNBC. CNN is circling in a chopper overhead.

        Your life is OVER! RESIGN!!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 10:25pm

        Re: Re: Your place is to side with the Democrat Party

        Look at this chorus of entitled white men justifying a sexual meme and the associated arrogated entitlement. All of them (especially Masnick) deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 2 Oct 2018 @ 10:26pm

      Re:

      Bill Cosby was arrested, tried, and convicted for rape. What consequences do you think someone should face for not adhering to a specific political orthodoxy?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 2 Oct 2018 @ 10:29pm

        Re: Re:

        All of them (especially Masnick) deserve miserable deaths while feminists laugh as they take their last gasps. Bonus: we castrate their corpses and feed them to swine? Yes.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    John Divo (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 12:15am

    My Opinion

    Well, I dont agree with you. You can't say its sexist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 3 Oct 2018 @ 1:27am

    Sure it's sexist

    If you used a white man with a whip and a black man in tatters, it would be equally clearly racist, or at least picking up racist themes.

    But opposed to the latter it's pointless sanctioning ads for sexism when the majority of consumer motion pictures is the "Romantic Comedy" category playing out the same memes. It makes little sense to start with ads when cleaning up this cesspool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 4:31am

      Re: Sure it's sexist

      It's not. Specially because there is the opposite version as well. You are comparing apples to monkeys. The romantic comedy category does have plenty of sexist examples yes but it's another beast.

      Though, it could have been less of a problem if they had distributed both versions (the girl staring and the guy staring), it'd probably have saved them the trouble of stupid moralism.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 7:35am

        Re: Re: Sure it's sexist

        Specially because there is the opposite version as well.

        Two oppositely-sexist ads don't "cancel out", and even with both versions there'd be no same-sex version.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        David, 3 Oct 2018 @ 7:37am

        Re: Re: Sure it's sexist

        Sexism does not dissolve into thin air just by additional provision of reversed imagery. You cannot counterbalance, say, a lack of women in leading positions with a suitable number of dominatrices wearing ties.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Ninja (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 2:32pm

          Re: Re: Re: Sure it's sexist

          Jesus, that's not the case. It's a joke with relationships. Sure it's disgusting in reality, sure men tend to be "forgiven" by such idiocy when women are vilified, sure we are in a stupidly chauvinist society but seriously this is just exaggerated.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 8:49pm

          Re: Re: Re: Sure it's sexist

          No, that just means you need more of them. To push out the cock-bearing filth that ruined this planet. Once the men are all gone women will sort themselves out.

          Men are now learning what it truly feels like when you scorn a woman.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 5:09am

    Hypocrisy

    It gives the impression that men might change female partners in the same way they change jobs.

    Says the man who just traded in his old wife for a hot younger model. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    NaBUru38 (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:08am

    People keep confusing authors and characters.

    The guy in the meme is sexist, not the author.

    It's like saying that Ryan Reynolds is a murderer. No, the murderer is Deadpool.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:41am

      Re:

      Erm, I get what you're saying but, not necessarily - it's a stock image so the people in it are likely to be models/actors and thus the guy is analogous to Reynolds.

      What's really happening here is that the picture has gained an extra layer of abstraction due to it being a meme. People unfamiliar with the meme are then reacting to something it was not meant to convey by the person who made the advertisement.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:21am

    Every comment in this thread represents what is wrong in this country.

    The *only* person who should be offended is the young lady *in* the picture.

    I know it's not real, but the point still matters:

    MIND. YOUR. OWN. BUSINESS.

    And stop treating everything as thought it's racist or sexist or whatever else crawled up your ass forcing your discomfort to be our discomfort.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:42am

      Re:

      "Every comment in this thread represents what is wrong in this country."

      "MIND. YOUR. OWN. BUSINESS."

      Hmmm... Are you Swedish? If not, why are you getting so angry about the way people (some of whom are not in your country) are reacting to something happening in Sweden? Especially given that you already admitted it's not real in the first place.

      "The *only* person who should be offended is the young lady *in* the picture."

      So, if it were real, none of her friends & family, etc should be offended by its use, or does that only apply to strangers?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 7:49am

      Re:

      "The *only* person who should be offended is the young lady *in* the picture."

      Which one?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 8:16am

      Re:

      "Every comment in this thread represents what is wrong in this country."

      What a silly thing to say

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:53am

    Odd.

    The objection I have to this meme is the shallow depth of field the camera has. I would love to get a clear image of the lady in the foreground.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Valkor, 3 Oct 2018 @ 9:01am

      Re: Odd.

      If by "odd" you mean that the foreground lady looks almost identical to the lady in focus, I agree.

      Seriously, are they twins?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 6:59am

    A clear attack on free speech by the Sweden's Advertising Ombudsman.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 Oct 2018 @ 7:59am

    I like how they just assumed every ones gender

    I like how they just assumed every ones gender

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anon Ymousse-Cowherd III (profile), 3 Oct 2018 @ 2:12pm

    Greetings from Sweden

    Full statement from RO (the advertising ombudsman) in swedish

    https://reklamombudsmannen.org/uttalande/bahnhof

    RO is an industry "self-regulation" organisation, they don't have any authority to actually punish misdeeds (other than verbally). However, their verdicts are often a good indicator of what to expect if lawsuits were to follow in regular courts.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    FMHilton, 4 Oct 2018 @ 12:42am

    As usual

    I read the article, and get the point. Then I read the comments and it's almost all men being pontifical jerks about a silly meme and calling each other names.

    What a buncha snowflakes.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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