Surfer Says F*$K You Billabong & The World Listened
Dear Billabong, “Show me what is possible for me as a woman if I buy your products, sell me that dream.”
Karen Knowlton is our new hero. She’s a surfer and a blogger, and she’s written something that might interest you. After viewing the most recent Billabong ad campaign featuring Otis Carey mid air stuck next to a seductive beach shot of a model in a bikini. (Not even a team surfer no doubt.) She took to the website Women 2.0 in an effort to reach someone who might listen and instigate change.
She has a simple message for the marketing managers of the surf industry, it’s one that includes empowerment and equality in a sport that has come so far in the last decade, yet continues to raise it’s ugly head every so often.
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Here are the points that Knowlton made very clear to the surf industry:
- Objectification is tired; man shredding, woman having ‘fun’ on the beach enjoying her beautiful body in perfect swimsuit.
- Get the girl on an actual surfboard (Billabong sponsors some of the world’s best surfers including Laura Enever, Courtney Conlogue, Alessa Quizon, Felicity Palmateer, Pacha Light, Isabella Nichols, Macy Callaghan, Zahli Kelly, Carly Shanahan, Josie Prendergast & Kaiani Dobbin)
- Sex sells, but just do better.
- Surfing is still a boys club but why propagate the idea that a woman’s place is on the beach not in the lineup.
- Are you telling us that Billabong makes products for men who go out there like badasses and catch awesome waves and women who lie around uncomfortable waiting to be looked at and desired.
- You’re telling us that bikinis are for display and not action.
- You’re telling us that what it all comes down to in the end is how good we look in a bikini.
Finishing with one powerful statement that should ring in the ears of marketing managers as they plan out their new season campaigns. “I’m your target market and you’re losing me. Do better.”
In fact, Knowlton was inundated with emails of gratitude from both women and men for making her point and after just a couple days and the blog post ‘went viral’. The result was, she admits much bigger and faster than she’d ever imagined. Billabong updated their campaign replacing the derogatory image with shots of their team riders.
In an article she wrote for The Inertia today, she reminded us that we all have a role to play in changing this absurd and outdated culture, “We are all responsible” she said, “I am responsible for my clicks, for resisting the cheap and easy clickbait of hyper-sexualized images or outrage mongering designed to drive ad revenue. I am also responsible for speaking out when I think something is wrong, even if nobody cares or people think I’m crazy.”
Karen’s actions and messages this week are without a doubt the most poignant and digestible for all girls in any sport or country. Understand that it’s easier than ever before to use your voice and engage in your responsibility to create positive change.
*Feature image of Billabong surfers Felicity Palmateer and Laura Enever at Jaws for the inagural women’s big wave event in 2016. Photo by WSL/Heff