Racist and Sexist Ads by IceBreakers Merino Wool
I ran across one of these ads for in a window display the other day and almost walked into a telephone pole in shock. I’m pretty sure that they’ve covered every single racialized sexual stereotype you could ever think of, just to sell some hardcore mountaineering merino wool products. Let’s see:
Black people are like animals and more in touch with nature than white people? Check.
Black men are significantly more virile than any other men? Check.
Women’s power comes exclusively from their sexuality and dominating a man is the ultimate expression of such? Check.
A white woman dominating a black man is even more impressive, as white women are naturally frail, and meant for having babies, not gaining pleasure out of sex? Check.
In these images, Icebreakers places ram’s heads on black men’s bodies, demonstrating how their only worth is their physicality, considering that they quite literally have sheep’s brains. We see very thin white women riding them or shearing them (which coincidentally looks quite a lot like castrating–again with the sexual domination), and we are expected to understand that the relationship between these women and these sheep-men represents our powerful and beneficial connection to nature, not our long history of slavery and white people using black bodies for their own benefit.
Even more revolting is that the New Zealand-based company is very vocal about their company ethics. According to their website:
“Customers increasingly care about where the things they buy come from. They want to know about the ethical commitment of the companies they buy from, and what impact their purchases will have on the planet.”
Icebreakers is all about the environment. If you sign up for the emailing list, they plant a tree. The inks they use to print the packaging for their products are vegetable-based. They ship only by sea, and maintain a commitment to low-intensity farming to protect the fragile ecosystems of New Zealand. Their factories are required to provide their workers a “caring community environment,” natural light, and clean air. They promise their sheep “freedom from distress” and the “ability to display normal patterns of behavior.” Heck, even their sheep dogs are guaranteed rights!
But what about the people affected by the ads they send out? What about their right to “freedom from distress” or the “ability to display normal patterns of behavior?” How many black men wear ram’s horns on your average day?
The site is full of these contradictions, vague commitments to “a sustainable business model that doesn’t put profits ahead of the environment” while completely prioritizing profits over decades of progress in racial and gender equity.
I get it. Sex sells. Their ad certainly stopped me in my tracks and got me to spend an hour looking at their site. But I left it revolted. I think there is a line that was crossed way back when they started peppering their site with random facts like “Did you know that a single merino ram can service several hundred ewes in a season–they’re often begging to be let out of the field when mating season is over.”
Ads like these perpetuate harmful stereotypes about women’s and people of color’s worth and power. Though sex is beautiful in all its forms, we are both more than our sexuality and sex is not our only connection to nature. We are intelligent, cognizant beings, and we don’t appreciate being represented in any other way.
Who’s with me? Let’s tell them:
To email the U.S. office: email@example.com
To call the U.S. office: 866-363-7466
Click here to contact other international offices:
Their Facebook page (please don’t Like them!)
Their Twitter account.
That wasn’t enough? Check out this photo of their store opening in San Francisco (the window display that I saw).