No Comment: A “Younger, Hotter” Virgin

Just in case we hadn’t fully internalized the message that women are most valued for their youth and beauty, Virgin America has introduced a new “younger, hotter” advertising campaign with slogans like “Fool around with a younger, hotter airline” (pictured left) and “Dump your old airline for a younger, hotter one.” 61-year-old Virgin CEO Richard Branson (pictured here with an employee) has responded to charges of sexist advertising by saying, “The old-fashioned way of promoting products and businesses has worked for centuries.”  Touché, Sir Branson.  Demeaning women has worked for centuries–good point–so why not bank on it?

The popular Virgin America, named America’s top airline this past fall, is no stranger to controversy and allegations of sexism. In 2010, the Virgin America-backed reality show “Fly Girl,” which followed Virgin flight attendants, was roundly criticized for bringing back ’60s stereotypes of ditzy stewardesses.

Selling products by using women’s bodies is not a new strategy. Nor is preying on women’s fears of aging and being “replaceable.” But both are harmful. Virgin’s new advertising campaign reinforces the idea that the value of girls and women is in their “hotness.” Girls and women get the message that no matter what contributions they may make to society, they are ultimately commodities to be replaced and upgraded for younger, hotter models.

UPDATE: Virgin America has responded to the petition by noting that their ‘younger, hotter’ ad campaigns feature men as well as women. We’re not sure it helps their case that their ageism also demeans men. Moreover, this trope is overwhelmingly used to describe men’s attitudes towards women. Demi Moore and Madonna aside, the idea of “dumping” for “younger and hotter” plays on deep-seated ideas about the power dynamic between men and women.

In its response, Virgin also made several other points. This post has been updated to remove references to discrimination lawsuits, which were not against Virgin America, but Virgin Blue, a separate Branson-run airline. In addition, the “Still Red Hot” video campaign previously referenced was by Virgin Atlantic, an unaffiliated Virgin-brand airline.

Adapted from Femometer.com with permission.

Photo of Virgin Airlines billboard by the author. All rights reserved.

Comments

  1. Thanks for this blog! I wrote a letter to Virgin Customer Service and signed the petition. What a horrible message to be sending to women, young girls, and men for that matter, that it is acceptable for men to just replace one woman with another. I hope enough people get behind this petition.

  2. I happened upon your comments to Virgin Americas ad campaign by accident. The word miscontrue comes to mind when I read your summation of the campaign. I know that the MS.blog would cease to exist if the art of controversy about sensitive subjects went away…….so………could the campaign be talking about the “entire” airline personna….aircraft, on board offerings,paint schemes,food choices etc.etc etc ….Think about it…..inanimate objects can portray hotness too..Lil Red Corvettes……..Talk amongst yourselves

  3. I have to say that I have a quick wit and great sense of humor. And I really appreciate quirky advertising. However, everytime I drive by one of Virgin’s billboards on my way to work, it makes me sad and uncomfortable. I have had so many friends, both male and female, with fathers, mothers, husbands or wives who have cheated on them and left them to carry on with their lives and caring for young children. The irony, or perhaps not, is many of the infidelities started while their family member was traveling.

    I understand Mr. Branson is keen with words and can ‘spin’ his campaign in any way he wants, but the message is painful and actually not that clever. I’m sure he spent millions on a flashy young ad agency, and everyone thought they were being hip and cutting edge. For those of us who have watched the devastation of infidelity, his campaign comes across as sophomoric and obvious, as though a high schooler with no real life experiences dreamed up the campaign.

    As an affluent business person, last month was my last flight on Virgin…ever.

    Sincerely,

    Kathryn

  4. Belle of Acadia says:

    How demeaning… damn those evil, greedy CEO’s. Anyone ever heard the saying “you can’t eat money”? I do not support big corporations such as Wal-Mart- as the gap between the extremely poor and rich continues to grow.

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