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Aug 17 2007

The right to choose mini-storage

Blamer Maria sends in this link to a photo of a Manhattan billboard. The billboard advertises mini-storage. It has a picture of a wire clothes hanger and the words “Your closet space is shrinking as fast as her right to choose.”

It’s delightful the way the hanger image is a sort of visual double-entendre. Abortion, closet space; it’s a natural! Co opting — for the purpose of selling mini-storage — an image that for decades has been emblematic of violent oppression may seem, at first blush, to trivialize it, but see here: as long as it’s done cleverly, and serves capitalist enterprise, how wrong can it be?

46 comments

1 ping

  1. Tupe

    This reminds me of the pro-choice comercial that ran a few years ago. It showed clips of women doing such every day activities as kicking soccer balls, cooking dinner for their families and standing with calm, dedicated expressions in front of the blowing American flag. The national anthem grew out of the ambient music and at the end there was some one-liner about the freedom to choose. It just makes me think of a tampon comercial: With new American Brand Abortions you too can go camping, swimming and horseback riding while you express your patriotic spirit!

  2. The Reverend B. Dagger Lee

    In their defense, Manhattan Storage has been doing a variety of political-left ads over the last few years. I quite liked one that had a little plastic green army man, and that said something like “My owner’s mother put me here until the real fighting ends.”

    But we do have the jaded media advertising junkie monkey on our backs here in NYC.

  3. Antelope

    I like it. A lot of other sites are talking about how the anti-choice forces, and even the muddled middle, obviously don’t think much about the consequences for women if they ever won what they think they want. This might actually make ‘em think just by being in a surprising place & from a surprising source – so they don’t just tune it out as “feminazi propaganda.” Sad but true.

  4. Paris

    To plagiarize a fellow fag: if I’m in need of more womb space, I’ll keep them in mind.

  5. Lara

    I can’t tell what’s more disturbing: the advertisement or the fact that the airheads at Bust actually think this shit is “feminist”….
    Can someone please tell me?

  6. Arianna

    Sorry for this being the first comment I’ve made in a damn long time but… when was right clicking on this blog disabled? It makes it frightfully annoying to open links/comments/threads without being able to put them in new tabs :/

  7. amuffins

    I didn’t get the hanger thing until reading this post, but maybe if you’re born after abortion has been legal, you don’t realize how truly gruesome the consequences of making it illegal are. I do like this ad though. It’s better than their “Your closet’s so small, it makes Paris look deep” add. I can definitely see why someone would feel it trivializes the issue, but at the same time, I feel like the use of “her right to choose” made it more identifiable that the abortion debate isn’t just about those other bad people who live irresponsible, hedonistic lives. It’s “her”, as in your girlfriend or wife, the one you’re sharing the closet with. I like that sense of the slogan, but maybe this wasn’t their intention. And if they’re going to be marketing their product anyway, they might as well raise political issues while they’re at it. But I’m really open to considering whatever critiques of the ad people have.

  8. Funambulator

    Arianna, if you’re on Firefox or IE, you can hold down shift while left clikcing and the link will open in a new window. I don’t know about other browsers, though.

  9. Funambulator

    Here is the comment I left there.

    “Co-opting the experience of desperate women who died from having coat hangers shoved up their vaginas, in order to make a profit for your mini-storage company, is awesome.

    Seriously, I don’t live in NYC – am I missing some context here?”

    I’ve never been on their site before, so I don’t know what kind of response to expect. Are they ‘the fun kind’?

  10. Rainbow Girl

    You gals need to relax and learn to be pragmatic. Where would feminism be without the indispensible support of local storage businesses?

  11. chingona

    These ads have been getting a lot of thumbs up on the, shall we say, more accessible, feminist sites. They seem to see it as raising awareness of the real consequences of the current political trends. I feel a little uncomfortable with these ads, for the reasons Twisty illuminated but for which I didn’t have the right words until I read them here (as is often the case – I owe Twisty for finally understanding why Law and Order – SVU bothered me so much). On the other hand, anti-choice groups are outraged by these ads. Is the enemy of my enemy my friend?

  12. Becker

    The pronouns give me pause. “Your” closet space, “her” right to choose. I suppose “your” is meant as a plural pronoun (you as a couple, you as y’all) but some how I read it–and perhaps it’s because I’m a guy–as divisive. You (dude) are losing something just like she (her) is losing something.

    As far as co-opting the violence of abortion, I think I’m all for it in this case. Hanger=abortion has become such a cliched symbol that people who don’t care can easily gloss over it. This reframes the metaphor into something more permanent, in the same way that traditional advertising reframes “family dinner” or “blow job”, and could be an interesting example (along with the toy soldier example above) of ways to work progressive values into the advertising fabric.

    Or something. I need a shower and food so I can think about this better.

  13. Marytracy9

    “As long as it serves capitalist enterprise”
    That’s used to justify pretty much everything in this world. As long as money is being made out of it, it will be done. The fact that it’s immoral is entirely irrelevant. Nice.

  14. Mamasquab

    I’ve seen those ads, and yeah, they’re “the fun kind.” I see what Twisty means, but I’d also much rather have reminders of the consequences of restricting abortion rights be plastered all over Manhattan than preserve a dignified silence. I don’t really think it matters whether the storage company makes a buck in the process. Why shouldn’t they? If we insist on political alliances with only those of pure heart and clean hands, we are going to be pretty isolated. Come to that, my own hands and heart aren’t always perfectly pure either.

  15. delphyne

    Didn’t one million women marching on Washington raise the issue of the right for US women to have access to legal abortion? Aren’t NARAL and Planned Parenthood doing the same day in day out? But people are still grateful to a storage company who use women’s pain to boost their sales. Does anybody really think that the scumbag advertising “creatives” who came up with this shabby little concept would stop fucking their girlfriends if abortion did become illegal?

    So many women are pathetically grateful, even when there’s absolutely nothing to be grateful for.

    Don’t forget a lot of sadistic men get cheap thrills from the thought of women getting hurt – coathangers are probably a bit of a joke to them. I used a similar argument in another place but would anybody be pleased if someone was using a swastika in their advertising? I mean it keeps the need to fight anti-semitism at the front of our minds doesn’t it?

  16. Daniel

    Hey folks. I just stopped by to repost a comment I saw about this billboard on feministing. I realize my input may not be entirely welcome here, and I’m certainly not a woman so I can’t claim to have nearly the same kind of experience as the rest of you when it comes to these kind of issues, but I was kind of saddened by some of the reactions here. For example:

    “So many women are pathetically grateful, even when there’s absolutely nothing to be grateful for.”

    Really? There isn’t? Well again, I’m not a woman so I’m not going to argue with you myself, but here’s what another woman had to say on the matter:

    Hey, I think that it is time for abortion to “come out of the closet” hee hee. No really, I think that us pro choicers are sometimes too afraid of getting the other side riled up that we tend to be careful. EVERYday I am inundated with billboards put up by the anti choicers. They range from a picture of a baby that says “I’m a baby, not a blob”, well duh, at that point, to a picture of an African American baby with the caption “Abortion, the number one killer of African Americans. OR the one with Jesus that asks “Hurting After an Abortion? We can help” I deal with the multitude of churches around here that have marquees saying “Aren’t you Glad your mother was pro life?” Ummm…she wasn’t and still isn’t, she is very adamantly pro choice, thankyouverymuch!

    Yes the hanger represents something vulgar, it is vulgar to think that before abortion was legal, that some women were so desperate that they felt that was their last resort.

    I am so glad to FINALLY see a pro choice billboard, I just wish that they were here in Michigan.”

    So there’s the other side of it. You know who else is angered by this billboard? The Roman Catholic league.

  17. delphyne

    If this company was concerned about a woman’s right to abortion they would sponsor an unambiguous billboard proclaiming their support for maintaining its legality without mention of their services. Instead they’ve used it as a vehicle to advertise themselves and make a joke at women’s expense.

    Also if you think what’s wrong with using the imagery of a coathanger in this context is that it’s vulgar, Daniel, I suggest you stick one up yourself (I’m sure you can think of an orifice) and see if “vulgar” is the first word that springs to mind. Sadistic is probably the word you are looking for.

    Apologies for my directness but I’m not sure how to get that point across any other way. Men are able to be smug and complacent because it doesn’t happen to them. Try putting yourself in a woman’s shoes for a change.

  18. thebewilderness

    The subtext of the advertisment is an equivalence between how those silly women are about their closet space and their abortion rights.
    Greedy, selfish, and silly is the frame.

  19. delphyne

    I should have written “If you agree that what’s wrong with using the imagery of a coathanger…..Daniel”

  20. kiki

    http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/f/frank-dissent.html

    Daniel, a little primer for you from one of the “folks”.

  21. kiki

    Sorry, link worked when I tired. Hmm Article, “Commodify Your Dissent” by Thomas Frank.

  22. Daniel

    “The subtext of the advertisment is an equivalence between how those silly women are about their closet space and their abortion rights.
    Greedy, selfish, and silly is the frame.” Wow. Ok.

    kiki- Sorry, but the link won’t load for me. I’m not sure what the problem is. Maybe I need a subscription or something?

    Oh, and I’m not sure if you were referring to this, but I said “folks” because I wasn’t sure if there had only been women posting in this thread so far. And I didn’t want to say “guys” because I figure that’s an example of male power structure being pervasive in our everyday speech or whatever. I know, maybe that’s stupid. I was probably being over sensitive when I did that. Sorry.

    “Men are able to be smug and complacent because it doesn’t happen to them. Try putting yourself in a woman’s shoes for a change.”

    You could probably point out a few examples I’m not aware of, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t happen to many women nowadays either. At least not in this country, or to people of my generation. My being smug and complacent probably has more to do with my being young (I’m 20) than it does being a man. I realize some of you guys might have been around when this type of thing was still happening all the time in this country, or at least are old enough to have known people who had it affect their lives or the lives of their loved ones. But please don’t assume that I’ve never put myself into a woman’s shoes, or that I’m incapable of it. You don’t know me. I was raised by my mom. Sometimes I wish I had been born a woman, even though I understand how much it sucks sometimes being a woman in this culture (at least as much as a man CAN understand it).

    Believe me, even if it means that I would never have been born, I wish that our species had never devolved into a violent patriarchy all those thousands of years ago. Most likely, it’s going to destroy us. In my opinion.

    I figured I was going to embarrass myself posting here. But like most people, I can be a bit reactionary when I see something which I don’t agree with.

    Don’t worry, I’ll be sure to shove a coat hanger up my ass if that’ll enlighten me. And in the future I’ll refrain from throwing my hat into the ring here. I know that it’s not really my place. Oh well. I still love this blog.

  23. Daniel

    Thanks kiki, didn’t see your second post until I posted mine. I’ll look it up.

  24. Sean

    “You don’t know me.” -Daniel

    I really wish people would stop using this as an argument when someone points out an inconsistency or flaw in their own argument. It’s called textual analysis. Delphyne and thebewilderness’s arguments are perfectly reasonable readings of the underlying assumptions within the main text and Daniel’s text. To claim that they “don’t know you” (which, I would assume, is an obvious given for nearly any parties interacting on a blog) is more a revelation of unrealized ideas and/or poor argumentative skills on the part of the speaker than anything. I think what people are most afraid of when it comes to feminism, especially of the radical kind (I’m thinking of Catharine MacKinnon), is the deftness of textual analysis that’s involved. Feminism does not let people hide behind an “ideal language” and notions of a universally understood self, precisely because those ideals are the bases of patriarchal dominance and systems of power.

  25. Twisty

    Nice blaming, Sean.

  26. Daniel

    Sean-

    Yeah, on some level I had that idea when I was writing it. I shouldn’t have said that. It’s lazy.

  27. Tupe

    Can we please stop asking male bodied folks to imagine themselves in female bodies? This doesn’t help feminism; having them imagine themselves as everyday beneficiaries of patriachy does. As my mother has reminded me, male-female analogies in matters of reproductive health are irrelevant, useless and impossible. There is no male-bodied equivolent of the pregnant female body.

  28. delphyne

    “Feminism does not let people hide behind an “ideal language” and notions of a universally understood self, precisely because those ideals are the bases of patriarchal dominance and systems of power.”

    Indeed and it’s astonishing how many sexist men use the argument to try and stop discussions. I have never ever heard it from a woman.

    The way I read it is that the man doesn’t actually know himself (being unaware of most of his unexamined male privilege and sexism) and he projects that lack of knowledge of himself on to the woman who is holding him to account.

    Daniel, the visceral reaction you have to the *suggestion* of having a coathanger shoved up your ass is what you need to concentrate on. How offended were you when I said that to you? Realise that a similar offense is being caused to women who see the coathanger billboard, the difference being that coathangers actually have featured in the experiences of women as a class.

  29. Daniel

    You’re right, delphyne. It invalidated the rest of my post. I know that as a male in this society I have a certain amount of an ingrained sense of male privilege and sexism in me. But I’m still young, and I still have a lot to work through, so hopefully I can examine myself and work through those elements of my personality in time. Thank you. Yes, I was projecting. I apologize.

    By the way, I was really just being kind of sarcastic when I made the comment about shoving the coat hanger up my ass. It wouldn’t be the first odd thing that’s been up there. You didn’t really offend me all that much. Certainly I could get pretty pissed off at such a violent suggestion directed at me under certain circumstances, but this is the internet, and you said in your original post that you apologized for your directness and that it was the only way you could think of to get your point across.

    I hear you. Besides, I sincerely doubt if a coat hanger up the ass could cause nearly as much pain or damage as it would in a back alley abortion.

  30. delphyne

    Oh FFS you get my point fine however you try and wriggle away from it. You’ve just admitted that what I said would anger you in certain circumstances and that it was a violent suggestion (you’re right of course, it was, as is the billboard). My apology was more for the benefit of the people here on this blog who are generally a civil group. I’d talk to you quite differently if we met face to face.

  31. Daniel

    “My apology was more for the benefit of the people here on this blog who are generally a civil group.”

    I get it. But regardless of who it was for, I was saying that I understood what you were saying. If you want to say I’m not civil, fine. Go ahead and keep insulting me. I guess I must deserve it. But I don’t see how I was being any less civil than you were when you made your initial suggestion, re:coat hanger up my ass. I didn’t say that it didn’t anger me at all, just that I understood your point and since this is the internet, where people tend to be assholes by default, I try not to get too offended by things like that.

    Still, thanks for pointing out my projecting and making me think of it that way. As you suggest, this is supposed to be a civil discourse, and you made an awesome point when you said that. Not that you need me to tell you that, or that you even give a shit. But I will anyway. So… Thanks.

    As for the billboard being a violent suggestion, I agree. But I guess my point to begin with was that it’s context was admirable, from the point of view of many feminists who aren’t yourself. Perhaps even some radical feminists, even if they don’t fit your own definition of the term.

    My impression was that it’s advertising a small local storage company, and seeing as how a previous poster pointed out that they’ve run similar ads on different subjects in the past I really think it’s wrong to assume that the ad was designed by some evil, sadistic, woman-hating advertising execs who think coat hanger abortions are funny. How do you even know that a woman didn’t design that ad?

    I believe that it’s purpose aside from being an advertisement, is to accurately illustrate a harsh reality, which is that as pro-life groups gain more power and women’s right to choose diminishes, such horrible sadistic practices could easily become commonplace again. Yes, it’s an advertisement. Yes, it’s there to make money for a company. Such is capitalism. That doesn’t mean the message isn’t sincere.

  32. Daniel

    On second thought, I should have said “That doesn’t mean the message isn’t sincere, even if misguided or insensitive in it’s execution.” These people aren’t the enemy.

  33. ironmaiden

    Blech.

    As I sat here reading all of the comments, I couldn’t get the image of what that experience would really be like and feel like out of my mind.

    That, to me, says that this ad is not only inappropriate, but painfully offensive.

    Like another poster said above, if the company really gave 2 shits about choice, it would advocate choice. Instead, it used a horrifying image to sell meaningless closet space.

    Give me a break.

  34. Lara

    I am so sick of the blind faith people have in capitalism…
    Why, as deplphyne pointed out, are we even the slightest bit thankful, no, even ok, with this lousy advertisement and the money-hungry scumbags who created it? Why? Wake up and smell the crepes people!
    Just to respond to some others, the billboard is most certainly NOT created by feminists, but rather by people who couldn’t give two shits about women’s rights or wellness.
    Why the faith in capitalism???

  35. Anna

    Lara–

    “Just to respond to some others, the billboard is most certainly NOT created by feminists, but rather by people who couldn’t give two shits about women’s rights or wellness.”

    How do you know?

  36. thebewilderness

    Daniel, the young ignorant sprout, here to inform the radical old feminists on what’s what in advertising: “On second thought, I should have said “That doesn’t mean the message isn’t sincere, even if misguided or insensitive in it’s execution.” These people aren’t the enemy.”

    Indeed, they are the spear carriers of the patriarchy, in charge of propaganda for people like you to defend.

  37. Colleen

    Twisty: THANK YOU SO FUCKING MUCH! You’re the only one saying that this ad makes light of the most disgusting, dark and traumatic experience many women have ever been through. I heart you a wicked fucking lot! (I’m from Boston, in case ya couldn’t guess.)

    Daniel: Even if we assume that “these people aren’t the enemy,” that they truly and with pure heart intended to promote feminist ideals while simultaneously selling storage space, they’re clearly operating from unexamined patriarchal privilege–yes, EVEN IF A WOMAN CREATED THIS AD, she’s operating from unexamined privilege. Are you saying that no one should point out that feminist sympathizers are (accidentally) working against feminism just ’cause they WANT to work towards it? Sorry, dude, this ain’t kindergarten soccer: Trying your absolute bestest is nice, but it still doesn’t help us if you unintentionally score points for the other team. This ad makes a joke of a powerful pro-choice symbol, it trivializes the unimaginably painful experiences of the women for whom it is not merely a symbol, and it (further) normalizes the mocking of feminism. Even if we somehow knew that they meant to help, they wouldn’t get a free pass.

    And for the record, telling us all that “Oh, I’m only 20, so maybe I can (accidentally) offend you and not incur any consequences…” doesn’t fly. I’m 23. Roe v. Wade is 11 years older than I am. Your ignorance isn’t a result of your youth, but of your penis. Feel free to speak up, but when your theories contradict our experience, don’t expect that you won’t get schooled just ’cause you’re young.

  38. Becker

    I tried to post something in response to Daniel, but I may have screwed up. Or else it’s moderated.

    Either way I had my shower and food, and here’s my take on our storage service in Manhattan: They are a storage service in Manhattan.

    Manhattan, where there are a lot of services, and so their marketing needs some pretty serious focusing unless they just want to throw themselves open to all and everyone.

    So who needs space? Young consumerist liberal young professionals. Young enough to remember toy soldiers, and too young to remember what coat hangers really meant.

    It’s a pretty smart target, and pretty smart marketing no matter the detractors. At least their campaign wasn’t “You need room for the Drano.”

  39. Feminist Avatar

    I think the ‘your’/ ‘her’ pronouns are used in quite a disturbing way. As if to suggest ‘your’- the human being reading this add- needs storage, but ‘her’- the outside other who is not you even if you are a woman- rights are shrinking. A shortage of storage is something that is real and affects you, women’s rights are something in the ether that is meaningless. ‘You’ can enjoy this add because it is not talking about ‘you’.

    It trivialises and marginalises a woman’s right to choose and centralises storage as a meaningful concern.

  40. Feminist Avatar

    sorry ‘add’ should read ‘ad’.

  41. delphyne

    “So who needs space? Young consumerist liberal young professionals. Young enough to remember toy soldiers, and too young to remember what coat hangers really meant.”

    If they didn’t think their target audience understood what coathangers symbolised they wouldn’t have used the image in the first place. It also doesn’t take much of an imagination to make the connection to what a coathanger would be used for in an illegal abortion if you weren’t aware of it already.

    “but… U DONT KNOW ME!!!!111!!1!

    Internets: Serious fucking business.

    in b4 b&”

    I think in using this particular lingo Daniel has just outed himself as one of the internet criminals who has been attacking feminist websites and stalking feminist bloggers these past two weeks. They have this bizarre idea that if they come and debate “rationally”, their criminality ought to be ignored by the people they attack. A bit like a mugger demanding his victim sit down for a chat with him.

    May I suggest a ban.

  42. Twisty

    I don’t know what Daniel is, but anytime a dude uses Feministing as his URL, and the discussion becomes the dude trying to explain himself, I get tired.

    BANNED for boring me.

  43. RamblinRabbit

    In addition to the coathanger/abortion reference, which is infuriating, the implication that women should make themselves feel better about their shrinking options by buying more stuff is repulsive. Doesn’t get much more empowerful than that.

  44. MarilynJean

    Before Twisty, I, too would have celebrated this ad and been as delphyne said, “pathetically grateful”. But thanks to all the awesome blaming I am learning, I had to stop and think about this one. You should have a billboard instead, Twisty.

  45. Mini storage

    Just to respond to some others, the billboard is most certainly NOT created by feminists, but rather by people who couldn’t give two shits about women’s rights or wellness.

  46. K.A.

    I know this is old news, but thank goodness someone had the same reaction I did! I first learned of it on another feminist site where it was lauded by all. I just found Twisty’s take on it, and it articulates perfectly what my visceral response was.

    Thanks again, Twisty. You have a new reader.

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