Posted by: stelladuffy | April 27, 2012

why is it always women?

Dear Lush,
Your video of a performance artist highlighting the plight of animals abused in cosmetic research has caused a bit of a fuss, hasn’t it?
I suppose that’s what you wanted. To get people talking. To get them discussing.
Well, you’ve certainly done that.

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard people saying today :
– that it’s shocking and saddening to see images that YET AGAIN use a woman being degraded to make a point
– that you have, yet again, bought into the ‘horrible compromise‘ (your phrase) that presenting another beaten/broken woman is worth it.
– in your (bare) justification linked above you say you are sorry to any women who have been subjected to violence and might be reminded of it by this campaign. Not good enough. By limiting your apology only to those who have been actual victims of violence you disregard the fact that we ALL live in a society demeaned and degraded by violence against women.
– that I, along with many many others, will not shop with you again because you clearly feel it is OK to present images of abused women in your campaign.
– that you have done yourselves a great disservice by not acknowledging that ALL abuse is part of a continuum.
– that your video is naive at best and flagrantly misogynist at worst.
– that it’s irrelevant whether or not the performance artist herself came up with the performance concept, there have always been women who put other women furthest down on their list of concerns (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).
– that OF COURSE we support the banning of animal testing for cosmetics, many of us were around when Anita Roddick started these campaigns, it’s hardly new. But we firmly believe you have created a damaging, dangerous, and anti-woman piece of imagery.

You know what, Lush? There are women – and girls – that EXACTLY the same things are happening to, day in, day out, right now. Women and girls having acid thrown in their faces, women and girls being blinded, women and girls being ‘correctively’ raped, women and girls being beaten, women and girls being raped, women and girls being blindfolded, women and girls being sold into sex slavery, women and girls being abused by people they know well, women and girls being abused by strangers.

Perhaps you’d like to get behind the campaigns confronting those issues too? You might even like to donate to them, your massively successful high street chains across Europe probably have a few pennies to spare.
Here’s some links :
Women’s Aid
End Violence Against Women
Home Office

Of course, you only need to enter “violence” + “women” into a search engine to see the many many images. Images your campaign has chosen both to copy in its attempt to sensationalise, and to disregard in failing to acknowledge the extent of the anti-woman brutality it is copying.

If your campaign is to work, it’s going to need to acknowledge there is a spectrum of abuse of power.
Your single-issue activity has simply alienated very very many people who should be on your side.
It’s not an ‘either/or’ issue – violence is violence is violence – using one damaging issue to highlight another damaging issue simply pits those of us who want to make a difference us against each other.
Which is, of course, where the big boys with the big bucks want us to be.


  1. The irony is that your article is far more misogynistic than the campaign itself is probably lost on you.

  2. In what way misogynist? Do explain.

    Interesting that you’ve chosen to comment, but not to leave your full name or contact details for you.

  3. Great blogpost.
    I think ‘Helen’ means that you are referring to women as ‘usual’ victims – which is actually not misogynistic, just portraying reality for what it is. But portraying misogyny is not misogyny in itself.

  4. totallly agree with you stella. hi jacking another and in my mind more serious issue to highlight one that is in my mind of lesser importance is gross dishonesty and misguided-ness. But of course I would be accused of not caring about animals which it not true. People who think animals are more important than people, children and women make me sick. Animal cruelty is part of a continuum as you say, of general cruelty, but animals are NOT more important than people, they are part of the environmental issues. Animal rights campaigners in my experience are usually dysfunctional people who are not very good at human relationships.

  5. Would you rather Lush used an animal in their window to highlight the issue? Would that have been more acceptable? Or would you rather Lush just didn’t do anything at all except ask people to sign a petition? Jacqui, of the female sex, was used because it is mainly women who buy cosmetics and is something that the primary target market of Lush can relate to.

    I think Lucy is wrong to say that animals are not more important than people, they may not have the opposable thumb or the ability to speak but that doesn’t mean they don’t feel pain and doesn’t mean we should subject them to it.

    The campaign was never intended to offend or cause flashbacks or reminders of assault, rape or sexual abuse against women. I understand how it can allow you to be reminded or exposed to such thoughts but this was not what Lush had attempted to do and I think you need to be aware of that.

  6. As someone who has suffered serious sexual violence in my life I am a little saddened to see so many women leaping to assume that everything with a woman in is derogatory. I think it trivialises the real issues if everytime a woman isn’t shown in a wonderful comfortable position we jump up an down and cry wolf.

    Please don’t hate on me just sharing my own opinion in a debate, I respect yours so please also respect mine:)

  7. I’m curious as to whether you would disagree with this campaign if a man had been used. The woman used in this campaign stunt was a willing participant which immediately throws your argument out of the window, unless of course you are implying that victims of abuse are willing participants as well?

    Women can tune into any television channel and be forced to witness scenes of sexual abuse and violence on programmes which are made for the sole purpose of entertainment, for example Eastenders. It;s not that I don’t agree with charities that help victims of the situations you mention, but the Lush campaign is against animal testing, it doesn’t intend to address the problems you so easily find in this campaign. Your slightly strange interpretation of the stunt which reenacted what happens to animals on a daily basis says more about your opinion of women than that of Lush’s. I watched this video as a woman and wasn’t offended by it, I find it empowering that a woman chose to do this and has created such a response for such a meaningful cause, and if you had looked into the ‘victim’ performer used in the stunt you might be surprised that your interpretation is completely unjustified.

  8. As has already been pointed out – Lush is a commercial venture. Full stop. The cutesy blackboard writing and quirky packaging is not a home-made stand at a festival. The products are not the same as you could make in your kitchen.
    The marketing men have everything figured out.

  9. I’m not sure I see where them being a shop comes into either the bloggers point or the subsequent comments, StellaDuffy was making the point she felt it was in bad taste, most charities are commercial organisations also, they rely on donation and tax breaks to survive (Not that I don’t support that just pointing out a fact)



    Lush actively supports women’s charities / campaigns / organisations too, the campaigns tend to be human rights, animal rights and environmental.

    When I saw the video, the fact that a woman played the role of the animal is not what stood out to me. She was not representing a woman/women, I saw a representation of the millions of animals that suffer and die mercilessly in the name of ‘beauty’. And this was how it was portrayed and communicated.

    I am more offended by the adverts everyday on tv and in magazines that sell false hopes and ideals to the public as to how women should look and behave, and I believe they set woman way further back than a campaign against animal testing for cosmetics.

  12. Lush do care about women’s charities and campaigns so long as these women are in developing countries. If this company cared about the wellbeing of women in the developed world they may choose to pay above-award wages, make an effort to ensure that their employees can have a decent work-life balance, support maternity leave etc etc. In short, they could treat the employees on the ground – the ones who actually make them money – with some respect, lip service is not enough.
    This lack of respect extends to the product range: the new soap for men is called Dirty and of course it’s blue. The new soap for women is a jarring pink and is called Lust. They’ve finally made it into the kitchen with a solid dishwashing detergent, great! Releasing it for Mothers Day? Downright offensive.
    This company had a chance to be something genuinely different. Not perfect but honest and complex, it could have been for the new millenium what the Body Shop tried to be for the 80’s. Instead they’ve chosen a cut-throat attitude to people, mostly women, and a sexed-up cutesy kitsch image. Sad.

  13. There’s plenty of material out there that Lush could have used to make their point without having to drag violence against women in to the equation. Not that they obviously intended to raise issues of violence against women but they should have had the foresight. If you really want to make a point about animal testing then you state your intentions on your shop windows and donate to the people that know what they are doing. This is ethics approached by marketing people, what did they expect to happen?

    For all those that say that violence against people is more important, I don’t see why human energy and resources cannot be used to tackle many issues at once, no?

  14. Sorry, forgot to say that I enjoyed the response you made Stella.

  15. thanks all for your responses. good to have so many viewpoints, and yes, I do feel Lush made a mistake here, unintentionally, and have been trying to dig themselves out of it.

  16. “well as a man i dont think a women should have been used, they are not important enough to feature in such an important role!” i obviously do not think this but it is just something else that could have been said. if a man had have been featured you would have just complained why it wasnt a woman and were women not strong enough to go through the ordeal? just as many men suffer abuse, sexual and violent, we just dont complain as much. the idea of the campaign was not to use an animal but to use a human! not a woman not a man but a human!

  17. also CATTLEMARKET? “marketing MEN” bit sexist go check how many men work at lush marketing….

  18. Not sure what you’re on about here Simon. No, if a man had been used as the ‘victim’ I would not have preferred it to have been a woman. I see plenty of violence against women around me as it is, I wouldn’t ask for more.

    Further, if those making this piece of work intended to stress that it had been humans, not men or women doing the perpetrating, then a flesh-coloured bodysuit, very clearly emphasising the ‘vitcim’ as a woman was either a naive or inflammatory choice of costume. One way shows little thought, which is depressing, the other shows actual antagonism and intention to provoke.

    Overall, I’d personally prefer people didn’t make sensationalist ‘art’ that draws attention to themselves. All this has done is promote Lush and the performance artist. Certainly none of the attention has been about the campaign. If you look at the responses in the Guardian piece and even this blog and the messages above, you’ll see almost none of the discussion is about the merits or otherwise of animal testing. It is all about the ‘protest’ itself. Surely that alone tells you it was a failed attempt to draw attention to an important issue? The issue (cosmetic testing continuing on animals despite a general belief that it is now banned) isn’t the topic on anyone’s lips – what everyone’s talking about is the WAY that issue was shared. Sadly, in this case, the medium is very far from being the message.

  19. stella – really liked your article – you were spot on – was thinking all the same things but not had time or talent enough to express them – you speak for a huge number of us who constantly see a rush to use violent pornographic woman abuse as marketing.

  20. thanks Heather.

  21. A friend of mine who is an animal rights activist works at Lush. She told me that not all their products are vegan. So, I would like to know where the heck they get off displaying something this unpalatable in the name of animal rights when they themselves take advantage of animals?

    I agree with your post entirely — I think this artist and Lush were extremely naive to think that just because one doesn’t intend to express violence against women means that you aren’t doing same. It was extremely offensive and I will not shop at Lush now. Nor will I support any other organization or company that uses such tactics.

  22. […] Continue reading here […]

  23. Simon is deliberately attempting to make the issue about men rather than the fact Lush decided to eroticise male violence against women. Simon you have not read Stella’s response because Stella specifically stated ‘that I, along with many many others, will not shop with you again because you clearly feel it is OK to present images of abused women in your campaign.
    – that you have done yourselves a great disservice by not acknowledging that ALL abuse is part of a continuum.
    – that your video is naive at best and flagrantly misogynist at worst.
    – that it’s irrelevant whether or not the performance artist herself came up with the performance concept, there have always been women who put other women furthest down on their list of concerns (Margaret Thatcher, anyone?).’

    Everyday we women are bombarded with eroticised images of male sexual violence against women and yet Simon refuses to recognise the fact advertising and publicity campaigns do not routinely feature images of males who have been subjected to sexualised violence. You are engaging in mansplanning.

  24. i saw the lush campaign long time ago but was never fortunate enough to come across your article. You have articulated the obscenity of this campaign very well and i wholeheartedly agree with you on the misuse of the campaign and how it raises issues of violence against women.

    Many people are afraid of addressing this issue and keep speaking about the intention of “poor lush” that was actually merely wanting to raise an issue of violence against animal. I believe there is a point missing that people do not realize and that point is the misuse of humanity and morals. lush made more than one mistake in this campaign: first they used such a horrible issue for advertising, second they used unspeakable disgusting methods that mirror violence against women and THIRD, they acted inhumanly and immorally on an important issue.

    This method of obscenity had been used by many marketers wearing the mask of human rights to touch on human emotions. Those of you who are trying to justify why it was a woman used not a man, you do not understand the point!! stella will agree with me here i’m sure that the campaign will be just as sickening even if it was done on a man. why? because they are both human, both creatures too. i do not at all agree with animal cruelty however, if you want to reach out to the human morals in others, how in anyway is it right to reach out so inhumanly and immorally??

    you kept referring to the artist as a performer but she was ACTUALLY TORTURED!!! the mouth-strap was real!! the forced feeding was real!!! the head shaving and placing drops in her eyes and things on her face was real!! how is it ok to repeat animal cruelty publicly in such a form!!! it’s more disgusting!! and it is soooooo obviously for show! for profit! wake up people! that poor girl drove her passion of fighting against animal cruelty so wrongly!! not only against women but against humanity!

    and Kyle Anthony Stubbs you made just the perfect point! this method is absolutely the opposite of what the campaign claims to be about. they could have (i am very sure) used robot animals or computer images of how animals are treated. then it would be just the precise point. they could have gotten people to sneak into the labs of where animal testing happens and shot footage! yes they can! don’t even try to say they cant because many documentary movie makers have done it already! but the reason lush did not do that, is because they wanted to catch as much attention as possible. they wanted something new and different to gain PROFIT.

    and please do not insult Art and call that sickening act an art piece. That girl wronged art, performing and HERSELF in every way. It is true that art is very effective when used to portray a message and a reality but what happened was not a performance. It was raw direct violence.

    Imagine some sick bastard decided to make an art piece of a movie that talks about child abuse and asked children to come participate to show the world what really happens. Or imagine movies like SAW or Halloween actually harmed people to show the reality of serial killers and psychopaths in the world.

    as much as you refuse to believe it, that is what lush was doing.

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