'Just nudity': Censored lingerie ad accused of 'tokenising' lesbians

Penny Burfitt
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
The advertisement features nudity, but Honey Birdette argues it's a double standard that demands its censorship. Photo: Honey Birdette

Honey Birdette has come under fire from some members of the LGBTQ+ community with an advertisement used by the company accused of fetishising lesbian relationships.

The photograph features several same-sex couples embracing fully nude, all painted to resemble a large rainbow pride flag, with a nude female couple front and centre.

Director of Honey Birdette, Eloise Monaghan who posed for the shoot with her wife, says the censorship is ‘frightening’ and argued any pushback against the ad was anti-woman and anti-LGBTQI+.

The full image will be too much for Australian censors. Photo: Instagram/eloisemonaghan

Other queer women, however, don’t agree.

Groups are pushing back against the ad, arguing it is an example of ‘rainbow washing’ and exploits lesbian sexuality in the pursuit of lingerie sales.

Queer women say the ad ‘tokenises lesbians’

Liz Waterhouse runs online activism sight Listening 2 Lesbians, which documents and records violence and discrimination against lesbians worldwide, with a focus on gay communities living under oppressive legislation.

She has no time for the ad, which she accuses of ‘rainbow washing’ and ‘tokenising lesbianism’.

She argues the fight is not between the sexually-liberated and the sexually-conservative, but rather about how this specific representation of sexuality plays into tropes and harmful patriarchal stereotypes.

“The conversation about sexual objectification is often seen through the frame of empowerment vs censorship and I think that’s a really misleading frame,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.

“It does feel like tokenising lesbians. This is not about appealing to a bunch of dykes it’s about appealing to a mainstream audience.”

‘This isn’t fluid this is just nudity’

Honey Birdette has come under fire for messaging and a lack of inclusivity in the past. Photo: Getty Images

Liz questions the motivations of the advertisement, and points out the representation of people is not as diverse as the multi-coloured overlay suggests.

“It strikes me as a very difficult conversation to have when you’re talking to someone who is making money off the sexual objectification of women, and I don’t think you can deny that’s what Honey Birdette does,” she says.

“Coincidently everyone (in the advertisement) is able-bodied to the extent we can see. They’re thin, they are conventionally attractive, they are white and that’s a very narrow cast of focus.”

It’s a sentiment some have echoed in the comments on the campaign shared to Eloise Monaghan’s social media pages.

“I wish you could have included some people of colour, ages and shapes. LGBT isn't just young, skinny and white,” one woman wrote.

“This isn’t fluid this is just nudity,” another wrote.

Self-censorship

The image was self-censored for the Australian market over fears the advertising authority would crack down over its depiction of female nudity.

Director of Honey Birdette Eloise Monaghan, who posed for the shoot with her wife, said the need for censorship was ‘frightening’ and argued any pushback against the ad wou anti-woman and anti-LGBTQI+.

The debate has prompted the company to launch a petition calling for changes to censorship laws which has already racked up 76,290 signatures.

Support for the campaign

This message was included above the petition. Photo: Honey Birdette

Many loved the campaign and shared hundreds of comments praising the image.

“This is absolutely beautiful!!! I love it! “ one woman wrote.

“Love is Love!” another wrote.

Eloise prefaced her post by posing two questions.

“What is the difference between a male and a female nipple? What is the difference between a heterosexual couple and a gay couple embracing in advertising?” the caption read.

“We’re not in the business of just creating controversy. We’re in the business of creating love, and these new ad regulations are stricter than they’ve ever been,” Eloise told news.com.au.

Eloise (pictured right) insists the advertisement is an expression of equality. Photo: Instagram/eloisemonaghan

‘Not pro-lesbian’

Collective Shout, however, pushed back against the ad, agreeing that it promoted harmful depictions of queer women.

“Far from promoting equality, Honey Birdette’s long history of porn-inspired depictions of lesbian sexuality further entrenches sexist and harmful stereotypes of lesbians as male entertainment,” they tweeted.

“Plenty of lesbians have been calling this out for many years, but their voices are not typically heard,” one woman agreed.

Liz slams the idea that the ad is empowering.

“It’s not pro-woman and not pro-lesbian,” she says.

“It is pro-capitalist and it will sell underwear, which is what Honey Birdette is about.”

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