Hanes Tagless Underwear Ad Campaign Uses Slurs

Wow, really just wow.  

If it were artwork I think the ads would be really thought provoking and interesting about the weight of certain words and the stereotypes they carry with them.

The campaign is not art however it is an AD and is idiotic, I mean for real. This AD is being used to sell tagless underwear I find it offensive and fucked-up to use these hurtful words for commercial gain. Also as my friend Robin questioned “Who designed it? How do they know about the baggage of dragging those words around?” And she’s right. Had this been done by an activist artist, who had experience with the slur (tag) in question, attempting to interrogate the way we use these words and live with their weight and horror it would be one thing but it’s not it’s another big business company trying to be shocking and offensive. They are trying to say that these tags carry baggage and with all those tags wouldn’t it be better to have tagless underwear. That’s not a reason to use this type of language to me.

The Paki one carries extra weight since these were created by the Bombay division of McCann Erickson and most of us know of the antagonism between India and Pakistan but they are all an attempt to use the pain of words that have used to insult, dehumanize and destroy people’s self-worth to sell some underwear. No, wait I need to repeat that: They are using the words nigger, paki and faggot to sell tagless underwear.

via towelroad

Whew *deep breath* OKay now that I’ve got that out of my system what do you guys think?

Edited To Add: Talking to Catherine below made me wonder, exactly who is being targeted by this ad campaign? It’s not people of African diaspora, Queer folks or Pakistanis because you don’t court csomeone by using a word they associate with pain and terror, so exactly who are they courting by playing to stereotypes?
*sigh* Do I even need to say it?

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17 responses to “Hanes Tagless Underwear Ad Campaign Uses Slurs

  1. Catherine Squires

    This reminds me of Benetton’s naive (in my opinion) ad campaign that used race to “shock” consumers into “thinking” about racism (if you’re too young to remember, they put an angelic, blonde white toddler next to a black toddler with his har twisted into horns, etc.). This foolish idea that it is the “tag” that is the problem rather than the histories and sentiments that created “tags” like n****r and f****t. And I hate it when people act as if removing labels would be the same as removing the power imbalances and prejudices that make the labels mean what they do. Hanes should be ashamed, and I doubt they’ll even try to put these into circulation in the States…..but who knows?

  2. And I hate it when people act as if removing labels would be the same as removing the power imbalances and prejudices that make the labels mean what they do.

    Exactly! Even if we could remove the slurs (tags) from the world lexicon the power imbalances and bigotry that birthed them would still be into effect.
    Shocking is not the same as addressing real world issues and it’s basically using very painful words to try and sell underwear. I should be beyond being surprised by this kind of ignorance but apparently I’m not.
    Like you said I doubt they’ll put them out in the States but it makes me wonder exactly where they are being but into circulation and who they are targeting?

  3. This is the ultimate fucking ad logic: “People will see it, our ads will stay in their heads!”

    Of course the bullshit excuse is that it’s “edgy” and can only sit on privilege to believe that anti-racism can be delivered through a few words on an ad without any fucking context. To even dare to conceive it could be that easy can only come from a racist mindset to begin with.

  4. I gotta say, those images leave me pretty much speechless. Is this a UK thing?

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  6. They seriously thought an underwear campaign would be appropriate for this? So glad you wrote about this. I used to buy Hanes.

  7. Those ads make me dark sick-to-the-stomach miserable. I cannot imagine how anyone would want their product associated with that feeling. All I can think (hope) is maybe an Indian ad agency didn’t realize how powerful those words were?

  8. Am now able to better articulate – the idea of evoking feelings and ideas like this to sell a product is just reprehensible.

  9. O_o

    Wow, I am speechless. I just… an underwear ad? WHY?!?!

  10. Chris-
    To even dare to conceive it could be that easy can only come from a racist mindset to begin with.

    You hit the nail on the head with that quote.

    Kate –
    I actually don’t know for syre where their gonna be using the imagery but my understanding seems to be that these are ads that are meant to run in India and nowhere else. So problematic especially when you factor in India’s very recent history of colonialism and racism.

    vito-
    Yeah, it was such a shock to see the ad and the reactions from people kind of shrugging their shoulders and asking “Offensive or Effective”, like it had to be asked at all.

  11. Alanna-
    Given India’s very recent history with British colonialism and the enduring ties between the countries I would think they know the terms and the insults that go along with them (because of the imagery in the ad) if they actually understand the weight of the words? I hope not.
    But like you said it still makes me sick to see them and think of someone coming up wioth them.

    Oyce –
    Exactly, an underwear ad! I don’t know who thought this was a good idea but really….so far from the realm of okay.

  12. brownblackandqueer

    “And I hate it when people act as if removing labels would be the same as removing the power imbalances and prejudices that make the labels mean what they do.” You’ve already been lauded, Catherine, but thanks again for saying this. It seems so simple, and yet I think it needs to be hammered into our brains. It’s not just some name-calling, it’s systematic racism, sexism, classism, ableism, you know the routine.

    I wrote about this on my blog too. Actually, I’m at work at GLAAD and one of my co-workers saw the ad on my screen and was like “oooh! pretty! what is that?” only to have me maximize it so he could see that, yes, it does say “faggot” and “nigger.” It’s not necessarily worse that it’s an attractive ad, because it’s already so despicable as is.

    I’m thinking… would it be different if there were one ad of the same concept that included a list of labels that apply to many different identities? Could be fat, gay, ugly, bitch, etc. What’s really the part that’s so offensive? The use of words that really just aren’t acceptable? Or the stereotypes attached to them? Or is it just that underwear ads have no business equating sewn-in tags with identity tags?

  13. brownblackandqueer –
    I think that part of it is the words used but that’s not all. I think that by putting these words/tags/labels in this kind of context they’re trivializing the stereotypes by comparing them to a tag in the back of your underwear. The message conflicts with the art that seems to be saying these are huge burdens but an underwear tag is not a huge burden and it’s under your power to rip/cut them out. These tags are not under our control they are thrust upon us. The comparison is just so hugely false.

    Beyond that they don’t seem to be trying to interrogate the steretypes that the figures are dragging around at all they are in fact accepting them as part of the tag/label. I see the stereotypes but where in the ad is the disruption around them. There is none.

    I think it’s these two problems are definitely tangled in the reason that people are so angry about the ads along with the use of very powerful/hurtful words to sell underwear.

  14. IPG apologizes for fake Hanes ads created by rogue employees without knowledge of client or agency. For details, see our statement at http://apology4fakehanesads.wordpress.com/.

  15. ok , i work in advertsing in india and i just want to tell your guys that these STUPID, THOUGHTLESS, ….am speechless ads were done in order to win some advertsing awards internationally ….infact they havent even had a release in India.

    they were released in one newspaper so that they are eligible for entries….

    they are truly, truly disgusting!!!!

  16. reemus –
    Thanks for letting us know about that, I had wondered if they were running anywhere in India. It’s good to know it was only rogue employees and they only ran once.

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