Friday, January 18, 2008

Using sex appeal to promote charitable giving

There's an effort underway by sfconnect to encourage people to volunteer their time for a variety of different charitable ends. While the initiative is a worthwhile one, the overt use of - and appeal to - sexiness is a mistake.

One version of the bus shelter posters features a young woman with ample bosom wearing a t-shirt which reads "Volunteering is sexy". It's supported by her coy expression and suggestive stance.

Using sexuality to promote products and services can certainly be effective in some categories: cars, perfume, jewelery and liquor to name a few. The question is whether in this kind of situation, and for this purpose, it is the right thing to do.

Encouraging people to volunteer because it might make them appear sexy sends a poor message about the values of sfconnect. It draws upon a societal convention and in doing so reinforces a bias. Our basis for peer respect and likeability should be based on something more tangible and substantial than 'how we look'. Even if 'sexy' is being used in a less literal and more euphemistic way, it is still suggesting that motivation for donating time and effort be undertaken not for one's own reason, but for how it will look to others.

Charity organizations really should aspire to a higher standard in their efforts to grow its volunteer franchise.

1 comment:

LazySusan said...

I think that my reaction to this would be very different if they had used either A) an actual sexy person or B) a model that appears sexy in the current language of the media. The woman they chose doesn't have any of the trappings of the sex symbols used to sell mainstream products (your blog describes her as buxom, but she isn't - by media terms she's just "plain"). Also, placing her in the t-shirt with no pants might have worked, but since when are high-rise jeans sexy?