This 'Retro' Clothing Ad Is 'Modesty Culture' 101

December 21st 2016

Laura Donovan

British clothing retailer JOY is facing intense online scrutiny for a satirical ad, which markets its dresses as the perfect way to "show your boyfriend's Mum you're the girl to take care of her little prince."

JOY Facebook

JOY Facebook

The ad states:

"Show your boyfriend’s mom you’re the girl to take care of her little prince in beautiful dresses that scream marriage material. Keen length skirts exude class while respectable necklines mean father-in-law won’t have a heart attack when you lean across the table for a second helping of roast potatoes."

The ad clearly missed the mark with JOY customers.


JOY told MailOnline that the ad was meant to be "satire," which was created after a customer recently voiced challenges in finding a good outfit for meeting her significant other's parents:

"We acknowledge that we missed the mark with our phrasing and apologize deeply to all our customers who feel offended, as this was certainly not our intention. We treasure and value our customers greatly. We would like to reiterate to all our customers that this was not intended to upset you or to demean anyone in any way, and we are deeply saddened to have inadvertently promoted a misogynistic view that we do not stand by nor follow."

While ads like this may seem harmless, there is something insidiously damaging about its language, which puts the onus on the woman to hide her cleavage under a "respectable neckline," away from the eyes of her Father-in-Law. In a 2015 piece for Time Magazine, author Jennifer Mathieu asked a poignant question about the policing of women's attire: "If rape culture is defined as a culture that normalizes sexual assault and finds ways to blame said assault on victims, modesty culture is certainly the twin to such disordered thinking. If it’s all the responsibility of the woman to keep the man 'in check' through what she wears, then if he crosses the line, doesn’t that suggest she’s at fault somehow?"

[H/T Indy100]