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Thursday, 31 October, 2002, 12:45 GMT
Should sex sell the motor show?
Using a woman in her bra to advertise a motor show is pathetic, sexist, old-fashioned rubbish says Trade and Industry Secretary Patricia Hewitt.

Posters for the Birmingham-based fair show a woman in her underwear with the caption "The other way to your man's heart is down the M6 and off at Junction 4."

Ms Hewitt describes herself as a champion of the the car industry and is due to visit the show on Monday but sees the adverts as a "big mistake".

Nearly half of new cars are sold to women and the industry desperately needs women engineers and these images are like something from the 1950s, Ms Hewitt said.

"We all know that sex sells but haven't we got past 'boys with toys'?" she added.

Do you think the pictures reinforce old cliches? Does it imply to you that cars are only for men? Do images like this put women off working in the motor industry or should we accept that sex will always sell? Tell us what you think of the advertising campaign.

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

What's all the fuss about. The model got paid to make the advert, the percentage of the population who enjoyed looking at it is probably greater than those who do not. Finally, due to Patricia Hewitt's comments there was a lot of free advertising for the show. I am both a mother and have a successful career and see no harm in these types of adverts, in fact it could be considered that these adverts play on men's weakness.
Caron, England

Get a life - it's an advert and it works! Effective advertising it targets an audience - plain and simple! Same as the advert of four naked black men for the new television series.
Will Meredith, England

Whoever thinks up these ads should remember that gay people buy cars, too.
Peter Hyde, Canada

Why not? It's used to sell everything else and saves an advertiser having to put much thought into his advert! Perhaps Ms Hewitt should concentrate on dealing with more important things like price rigging in the industry, if using sex to sell cars is so offensive, how come it increases sales?
Fred, England

Using sex to sell a product is barbaric!

Lisa, USA
The most shocking thing about this sort of advertising is that there are women that are willing to participate in it. Equally horrible is the fact that millions of women consistently tolerate these disgraceful advertisements and continue to buy the products. Wake up women! Using sex to sell a product is barbaric!
Lisa, USA

Men are ridiculed in many UK adverts without complaint. It seems ludicrous therefore that women feel they deserve special treatment over this relatively minor issue.
Mark Proudfoot, UK

I think the issue here is not one of sexism, but rather of the ideals the ad presents about the physical appearance of people. Society should not be focused on perfection of the outside, but the beauty of the inside.
Darin, USA

Frankly, I think all the furore is just a storm in a C-cup! Get a life!
Rob, UK

It's just a cheap, unimaginative effort

Ruth, UK
Lots of people here are saying "Sex sells". Well, I guess I'm the sort of person the auto makers would love to rush out and buy a car and, well, this poster doesn't sell anything to me. It just turns me right off as it's just a cheap, unimaginative effort.
Ruth, UK

Patricia Hewitt et al make the sexist (not to say homophobic) assumption that a picture of a woman appeals only to men. Just look at the ads and cover pages of any women's magazines to see that she is wrong.
Stefan Inglin, UK

Why does it always seem to be ugly women who complain about the use of beautiful girls in advertising?
Kulu, UK (British European)

Of course it is sexist but why the sudden outcry? Scantily clad women are used to sell virtually everything else.
Ol, UK

She has had more airtime on this issue than any other

Paul, UK
Unbelievable! Surely the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry has more important issues than worrying about an advert which she considers to be being slightly politically incorrect! She has had more airtime on this issue than any other. What is the point of Patricia Hewitt?
Paul, UK

To deny car companies the right to use sex in advertisements is to impose barriers to freedom of speech. Provided the adverts don't violate community standards of decency and legality, there's no reason why one person's opinion should matter more than another's.
Jared Laneus, Canada

In Japan I have never seen an advert like that and more adverts are related to family or masculinity. I just envy the situation in Britain. Adverts should vary so female beauty, of course, can be used for it.
Kei Mitomi, Japan

'Typical men!' 'Typical women!'

Katie/David, Wales, UK
Pathetic, out-dated sexist stereotypes are alive and kicking in most adverts these days and the assumptions that they try to sell us about both women and men are equally cringe-making. Most seem to imagine us all nodding obediently in agreement, making reassuring remarks such as 'typical men' or 'typical women'! When ads, such as the one for a certain brand of toilet tissue, feature caricatures of transgendered people, they seem to want to portray anyone outside their precious gender binaries as grotesque as possible. Ah... typical gendered people!
Katie/David, Wales, UK

It certainly wouldn't put me off working in the motor industry - even I'm not so childish as to react like that. I agree it seems old-fashioned to me, but evidently it's designed to appeal to an old-fashioned audience. It should be judged purely on whether it succeeds in attracting people. As for Mrs. Hulme's comments above, the answer is simple: let the small boy go to the show. There is nothing wrong with half-naked women, the human body is a perfectly natural thing.
Jackie, UK

This advert is offensive to men by suggesting that we are all slaves to our love of women and fast cars, I demand that our Men's minister speaks out about this- oh, wait a minute, there's no men's minister, because everything is great for men these days! Silly me.
John Harris, UK

I think that Patricia hewitt is right, unfortunately her argument is a subtle one about old and inappropriate stereo types that the tabloid press , not surprisingly want to whip up as an anti PC storm in a tea cup.
Hazel, England

The advert is plainly designed to create precisely this reaction. If it were the first to do so it would be imaginative, but it can't even claim that distinction.
Guy Chapman, UK

Women continue to be objectified in the advertising world. It wouldn't be so much of a concern if more men could get over their teenage years and progress further than the male concept that women are here for our amusement.
Stu Power, Sweden

I was at the motor show on Sunday and most of the people visiting were male. It may be true that 40% of cars bought are bought by women but advertising is geared to men because men like looking at cars at motor shows, women don't. You won't get the NEC full of women looking at cars. Get over it and stop acting like a prude!
Ian, UK

A fast car with an attractive person in it is a very nice fantasy. It brightens life up a bit - and we sure need to get away from the drab. No need to feel threatened if the person in the car is the same sex as you, it's not reality, it's just an aspiration.
Caroline, UK

Women submit to being used like pets, for amusement of men

The ad is a dull, dopey, conformism-inducing re-run of the "retro" 1950s, and I agree completely with the Trade and Industry Secretary. I grew up in the stifling cultural insipidity of the 50s. There were auto shows in which young women in bathing suits were perched (by men) ridiculously on the bonnets of cars which were designed with chrome bumpers designed to look like protruding breasts. Women will always be in a servile position as long as they submit to being used like pets, for asinine amusement of men in this way.

No problem! Shows the power women have over men. And brings a moment's pleasure in an increasingly pleasureless world. Puts them in the driving seat if you ask me!
John Marchant, France

Why not focus on important things like the state of the manufacturing industry?

Sam B, UK
My message to Patricia Hewitt is that we can talk about sexy woman and fast cars later in the pub! Why not focus on important things like the state of the manufacturing industry and jobs being sent to the Far East?
Sam B, UK

I think the ad is amusing and sexy. Viewed in a modern context by a successful young woman (I'm 26), I don't find it patronising or sexist, particularly given the knowing smile on the model's face. If anyone's being demeaned I see it more as the men than the woman in the ad (because it suggests all men are predictable and esily led!)
Fur, UK

To "Fur", UK: Yup, you've got it ! They are !
Alan Hall, UK

I'd like to have seen Patricia Hewitt as the poster girl - that would have got me there! Brmm Brmm!
James, UK

Using a page three mentality in adverts debases everyone

Sandra, UK
Sometimes, when sex is used in a comedic way, it can be in good taste, and will offend no-one. But it's demeaning when sex is portrayed as a "power tool". Using a page three mentality in adverts debases everyone - those who participate in such adverts, those who commission them and those who think that banning such adverts is "puritanical". I think Ms. Hewitt's comments are justified.
Sandra, UK

The river flows both ways, watch some adverts and you will see men emasculated, humiliated and made to look stupid and or incompetent.
Ken, UK

If women are considered an aid in selling cars why are there not more of them employed in car showrooms? Seems like jobs for the boys!
Annette Cooper, England

Sex sells, Patricia. It's a powerful human instinct that's responsible for producing you and the rest of us. It's not such a bad thing really. Cars come a close second for many men and I guess not for women.
Russell, England

I was hoping that the days had passed when women were seen first and foremost as sexual objects. I wonder how many of the contributors to this debate would welcome pictures of their wives, sisters and daughters to be used in this way!
Anne Guerin, UK

I don't hear Ms Hewitt complaining too strongly about a half-naked Thierry Henry's purring French accent in a recent car ad. And where is Labour's Minister for Men to highlight the shameless exploitation of men in that female-targeted Renault advert?
Andy, UK

The advert was designed by a woman

Nick Toye, UK
Most women I know have rather more of a sense of humour than the dour Ms Hewitt. The advert is clearly a joke and was apparently designed by a woman.
Nick Toye, UK

I think we have become so desensitised to nudity and sex to sell just about everything, it passes most of us by. I like the way Patricia Hewitt has spoken about this because we should not be blindly carrying on with such repetitive advertising imagery. The fact that a woman designed the advert says a lot about female attitudes towards this matter within the design industry. It's actually OK to use the female form to grab male (and female) attention, just as long as it does not undermine the female intellect. Be a bit more original next time though please.
Kate Hall, Nottingham, UK

I bet if the advert was poking fun at men no-one would have batted an eyelid. In Sheffield town centre any bra or lingerie billboard is daubed in black paint within hours of going up, yet next to one of these protests is a huge advert for the new BBC2 drama Babyfather showing four naked men which has remained untouched! Dual standards?
Steven Leicester, Sheffield, UK

Women - toys in bikinis!

Laura M, England
So I walk into work today to my male-dominated office in my male-dominated engineering industry to hear the blokes going on about women moaning about this advert and the fact that this model looked "particularly tasty". Using women in bikinis to sell anything is outdated, outmoded, patronises men and makes the work place even harder for women. This advert shows how some advertisers view women - toys in bikinis! Young women are the ones we're trying to encourage into engineering, young women are the biggest growth area in car purchases. The Trade and Industry Minister has this one right!
Laura M, England

No, sex has nothing to do with cars. They should be kept separate. How do you explain to a small boy that he can't go to the motor show to look at the cars with his daddy because there are semi-naked women there?
Mrs Hulme, England

The actual point Hewitt was making was a good one: The country needs engineers, generally there are not enough qualified engineers graduating from our universities and there are intelligent women out there that are put off from becoming engineers by this sort of advert. Anyone who disagrees with that is living in a different decade.
Rob, UK

Works for me!
Ben, Kent, UK

Isn't there more to men than sex? It gets a little tired after a while...
Mid, Canada

Old hat Eighties Spare Rib-style feminism

Gus Swan, UK
I'm more interested in what the response to the ad says about Patricia Hewitt. The manufacturing industry is in ongoing decline, and the government has no apparent strategy to reverse that: yet this is all the Secretary of State has to say? Old hat Eighties Spare Rib-style feminism. Naturally, a gobbit of New Labour Puritanism has to come with a 'statistic': which is that 50% of cars are sold to women. Yeah, but do 50% of performance cars get sold to women, and are 50% of motor show visitors women? Very much doubt it. Ms Hewitt would probably like an ad with a family (ethnic, natch) urging you to visit the motor show to view the latest low-emission diesel people carrier. Give me a break.
Gus Swan, UK

Why should I have to look at pictures of half naked women when I read articles about cars, photography or hifi's? Why cant I look at pictures of half naked men? Surely the press and advertising arent that out of touch they believe only men are interested in such subjects.
Sarah, UK

The same criticism can be made with beer industry: why in beer ads the men are only targeted? It is not only men who drink in this country...
James, UK

There are a plethora of sexist advertisements demeaning men nowadays in the media which we men take with good humour - if anything it is Ms Hewitt's response that is dated.
John Motture, UK

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