Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Blog. The Home of Feminism.

What are you doing on March 8, 2012?

Will you be commemorating International Women's Day by celebrating the strides women have taken toward achieving economic, political, and social equality with men? Or will you be tuning into Q104 Halifax when it announces which listener has won the chance to sexually exploit a woman in exchange for Canadian residency?

As the radio station's program director JC Douglas is quick to point out on his blog, the prize is actually a trip to Prague and four dates with women who are registered with online match making service and there is no guarantee the "winner" will find a bride. In stead of using a marketing slogan that was accurate, they knowingly chose one that was vulgar and vague. Granted it would be hard to get "men" to enter this contest if it was called "Win A Trip to Prague And Eat Dinner With a Pretty Lady Who Will Probably Not Let Your Penis Anywhere Close To Her Vulva Even With The Promise of Canadian Citizenship."

Two weeks ago, Douglas told the National Post that the contest is only "a European dating game" and he appeared genuinely flummoxed that people see the station as sanctioning human trafficking and objectifying women. Statements Douglas subsequently made in the comment section of Hillary Beaumont's post "‘Male is in the Czech’ contest hints at bigger societal problems" make me doubt the veracity of that defense.  He tried to minimize the sexually explicit nature of the contest's name and the sexist promotional image by explaining that the graphic ad appears ONLY on their blog. To me it sounds like the station knew the ad was horrible and tasteless and that the whole contest was questionable. But instead of doing the prudent thing and cancelling it, they limited their exposure to their core audience and hoped no one would notice.  Q104 thinks it's okay to objectify women so long as it improves their ratings. 

The staff of Q104 needs to stop justifying this contest and acting as if criticisms are groundless. They need to understand that many mail order brides are exploited in Canada due to loopholes in our immigration laws, a poor understanding of their rights and cultural differences. This contest normalizes the mail order bride industry which is often used as a cover for human trafficking and prostitution. Offering a human being as a "prize" -- even if it's done in jest -- is offensive. Humans are not chattel. To think otherwise insults women AND men.

I will concede that the agency chosen by Q104 appears (after a cursory internet search) to be above board. In fact, compared to other companies promising to introduce North American men to women in emerging or developing nations, Changing Hearts is  downright classy.  I wonder if the owner appreciates that after years of cultivating a sophisticated corporate image, she is now associated with a radio station that frequently runs low-brow competitions, like these:

It's not too late to show JC Douglas, the finalists, and the listeners of Q104, that this contest is demeaning and harmful. Here are a few suggestions:

1. On twitter, post a link to this post or the articles linked above.
2. On twitter, send a tweet to @Q104Halifax and tell them you're disgusted with this contest. Make sure to include the hashtags #Halifax or #MaleIsInTheCzech (if you have better hashtag, let me know in the comments).
3.  Sign this petition.
4. Comment on Q104's facebook page.
5. Tell companies who advertise on Q104 that you will not patronize their businesses. Start with BMO Hockey Heroes, This is Newfoundland and Labrador, and Steele Mazda who all advertise on the Q104 website.
6. Register a complaint with The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council.
7. Complain to Newcap Radio that one of their stations is promoting misogyny.
8. If you live in Halifax, participate in a protest organized by Bryony House.
9. Contact politicians on the local, provinicial and federal levels.


  1. Wow, as you know, I enter a LOT of contests & sweepstakes. It's a part time job of sorts. Though I've seen some weird, unappealing, & "WHY would anyone enter that?" contests, this takes the cake.

    Proud of you for taking up the torch on this.

    When you hover on the teaser it actually says "Win a mail-order bride," right after the contest to win Tom Petty tickets. I can't help but judge the "bachelors" very, very harshly.

  2. Go Nan! You are so is a terrible contest.

  3. As a citizen of Halifax I am pretty shocked by this... also that you were the first person I heard it from, Nan. Local media hasn't picked up on it and I haven't listened to Q104 for several years. (I used to. About five years ago they decided to always go for the shock - and the 18 - 35 male demographic - and they completely alienated me. I'm not a prude, but much of their subject matter, especially during the morning show, was totally inappropriate for my kids to be overhearing).

    Anyway, I signed the petition. I'm not surprised JC Douglas is being a clueless ass about this; the station recently led the (successful) protest against the CRTC's ruling yanking Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" from the airwaves. I think in his mind he somehow (and I'm not defending this!) equates the two.

    Fight the good fight, Nan. I do take some comfort from the fact that apparently the contest hasn't been successful - they've only had 9 entries. They are consistently the highest-rated station in Halifax so to have so little buy-in for one of their contests is extremely unusual. It gives me a little hope, however faint, that this is distasteful to almost everyone.

  4. Hannah, like most "facts" that opponents to this contest are coming up with, I'm not sure why you think there were only 9 entries. To this date, we've had over 50 entries. The overwhelming majority of Q104's listeners feel there is nothing wrong with this contest and are wondering what the big fuss is about.

  5. Hmm. What the big fuss is about? What the big fuss is about? Oh. I don't know. Let me just think about this for a while.

    Advertising for a mail-order bride?

    I'm sure the overwhelming majority of Q104's listeners feel there is nothing wrong with the contest. I'm also sure that the overwhelming majority of Q104's listeners are the bottom of the food chain.

    Actually, that feels a bit insulting to single-celled organisms.

  6. Well, JC Douglas, that was a direct quote from you in an article about this in the National Post recently. If the Post got it wrong, blame the Post, don't blame me.

    Certainly I don't want to hand you ammunition to discount my distaste with this whole thing. So, pardon me, I take back what I said about maybe - just maybe - the majority of your listeners not being mouth-breathing jackwads. Thanks for clearing that up.

  7. Some of @Q104Halifax's advertisers on twitter:

    Tweet them your displeasure. Especially the @BMOHockeyHeroes. I'd like to think they're cause doesn't mesh well w/this contest.

  8. @Eryn -- Yes, I did manage to get a screen grab of that ad with the ghosting tag. Gross.

    The Halifax station is not only sexist, they're unoriginal: 2 other stations have run similar contests. But neither the Edmonton contest nor the New Zealand version used a marketing slogan that's a sexually explict pun, and their ads (at least) featured models in clothes, and no "groom."

    @Melanie D -- Between the Rush Limbaugh story from last week and this contest, I really appreciate internet music players that let me customize play lists and opt out of commercial radio stations.

    @Hannah -- A representative from Bryony House said they chose to stay quiet until the February Sweeps period was over, thereby defeating the radio station's ploy to bump up their ratings (and hence the rate advertisers pay) with this salacious promotion. I did listen to Q104 over the weekend via the internet. It was probably the first time I've listened to commercial radio in years. And this hardly tempted me to return to being a radio listener.

    @JC Douglas -- Let me help you understand the fuss: in a crass bid to improve your ratings, you decided it was okay to treat women like they're objects that can be awarded as a prize. Women are not cars. They are not concert tickets. They are not plane tickets to Cuba. It is demeaning to think otherwise. Q104 can try to deflect blame by quoting the legal rules and guidelines of the contest, and your unsubstantiated claims that most of your listeners are fine with the contest, but it doesn't mean squat.

    Part of being funny is playing with societal conventions and running the risk that your words or deeds will offend instead of amuse. In this instance your station went too far, and rather than concede that people have a right to be offended, you are just shrugging your shoulders and pretending that our objections are unfounded.

    Say you're sorry, and cancel the contest and the fuss will go away.

    @Nicole -- I love your comment. If your comment was a person I would drink a cup of your comment's saliva just so I could have the chance to win money from Q104. Or not. On account of my having self esteem and pride.

    @Hannah -- you know what's missing from this discussion? One single member of the public (or the Q104 staff) presenting a well-reasoned, civil, thoroughly researched post or article that proves this contest does not objectify women, make light of the issues of human trafficking, or insult the people of the Czech Republic.

    @Eryn -- Good ideas. Since the station personnel are not willing to acknowledge their mistake, it's time to turn to other venues. I've sent tweets to the MP for the riding where the station is based. I wonder if any of the bachelors are on twitter...

    • • • • • 

    Clarification: the lead to this post contains a mistake. The contest closes on March 8, the drawing will be held on March 12.

  9. Wow. 'Over FIFTY entries'. Anybody else reminded of Dr. Evil in Austin Powers demanding "ONE MILLION DOLLARS"?

    Go Nan. This contest is so not cool (sorry).

  10. Really there are no words. Just yuck.

  11. Well... I think its not the right way to go about gathering listeners I would agree.

    Except number 5:
    none of them are promoting the contest. Why not get ahold of the weathernetwork next since they allow their weather to show up on the site?

    Stick to arguments you can win. Harassing advertisers of the station (NOT THE PROMOTION) aren't the culprit. And many have agreements in place way before the contest ever began.

    Bugging them you just look like a bunch of bra burners. Stick to the ones who created it.

    A few of the advertisers contribute greatly to many of the causes you would feel very strongly about. Whether its getting sick kids to specialists, helping out families when their homes burn down, christmas gifts for kids who don't have any, hockey teams, baseball teams sponsorships, community events and so on and so on. Of all the many (and I mean many) things they sponsor, you get all tied up on this one and want to harass them.

    Go bug the station. Leave the advertisers alone. You never know (BRYONY HOUSE), you may be coming to look for financial help next.

    Just my 2 bits.

  12. @allison -- This comment made me laugh. And that is…cool.

    @Jennifer -- I agree. Except for the "no words" part. As you can see, I have MANY, angry words and I want to use them allllllllll up.

    @Anonymous --

    First, let me clarify that there is no association between this blog and Bryony House. I am not aware of the tactics they are using to publicize this story or their protest. You should contact them directly with concerns. Also, please don't let my actions or suggestions impact your impression of that organization.

    Secondly, the Q104 site links to the Environment Canada Weather forecasts via this free widget. They are not advertisers.

    Finally, it's very appropriate and effective to contact the groups and companies advertising on Q104. The station's goal is to increase their audience (as measured by the Bureau of Broadcast Measurement during sweeps periods, ie February 2 - 29) in order to increase the rates they can charge for advertising. Since the station is objectifying women in the name of profits, it's reasonable to thwart their goal by lobbying their advertisers to take their business elsewhere, or ask them to apply pressure to end the contest. As proof that this tactic is very effective, I offer up this article: "For Rush Limbaugh advertisers, backlash could hit hard in social media age".

  13. @Nan
    You don't know what you're talking about with ratings and how they are ascertained. You're out of your area of 'expertise'. The BMM's are basically ignored by anyone booking radio as they are essentially determined by about 8 people who are supposed to keep track of what they listen to during the day for a week or two. No pay etc. just a few volunteers. Pointless numbers really and any grownup who buys radio would pretty much tell you that. Its a trophy for the mantle at the radio station, doesn't influence any educated buyer.

    Far as the advertisers: like I said, if you have an issue with the station, then keep it with them. Trying to incite your minions to harass your fellow Haligonians who happen to work and depend on the companies whose owners may have paid to be a sponsor on some other aspect of the station site is the wrong way to go about it.

    The weathernetwork: its advertising for them...which is why its branded as such. If some advertiser were to provide the station with a 'widget' instead of a graphic, would that appease? Whats the difference? They allow their widget to be displayed on the site. Don't see you getting all upset at them. Why don't you hold a 'sit in' and let them know you'll never check the weather again :)

    Protesting at the station is not going to do a thing. Jumping up and down and complaining outside is pointless. If anything, you'll drive more interest to the station and more listeners. Thats about it. Surely there are better ways for people to spend their time.

    Far as the station: they do a huge amount of community support as well. More than any other station by far. Thousands and thousands of dollars to the community. Again: sick kids, fundraising for cancer, toy drives, every friggin hockey/soccer/timbit team this side of montreal comes knocking for something and they oblige.

    Without their community support, without many of their advertisers community support, there would be alot more hurting people in this province. You should weigh all that compared to a silly contest and see what is more important.

    Why don't you go protest the bus strike, hang out in front of Ken Wilson's place of business or jump up and down in front of our useless mayor. Do more good for everyone involved.

  14. @Anonymous --

    If my information about BMM is incorrect, I apologize. That's what my research (admittedly limited to online web pages) indicated was used to set advertising rates for stations.

    There's an easy way to determine if Environment Canada pays for ad space on Q104: contact Environment Canada, tell them they are "advertising" on this blog (I added the widget for this purpose) and you are offended by the content. Let me know the response you receive.

    Q104's charitable and fund-raising activities do not excuse their decision to create and promote a sexist contest that is vulgar and devalues women.

    Also, I live in northern British Columbia so I won't be at the protest today, but can (and have) listened to Q104 online.

  15. That contest is so gross! And insulting! Gah! retiring to hide under covers with pillow over head...

  16. Northern BC? Man you must be bored.
    Explains this whole blog post.

    I'm sure the Q isn't overly concerned if all 10 of you don't listen to their station any longer.

    The 'protest' was a bit of a washout since you weren't actually there to witness the 'event'. Apparently the 99.99% of women in Nova Scotia weren't offended enough to bother to show up. I'm guessing about a dozen showed up? Something like that. Bit of a non-event.

    So, life goes on. Q got national attention. The house of commons mention helped boost them to fame. Here it is if you missed it (I like the shot of the guy in the back trying not to laugh)

    It wasn't a big deal. Never was. Just a contest put on by a radio station and the winners get to go on an adventure to the other side of the world, go on a few dates with a couple women and if there are any sparks, great, if not.. what a heck of a trip.

    If I was single, I would have put my name in at the drop of a hat. What it has to do with prostitution and human trafficking is beyond the rest of the world.

  17. @planetnomad -- YES! The contest is disgusting but I am heartened to see on Twitter, Facebook, and the news that men and women find the contest crass and distasteful. That's a small measure of success. The local MP even spoke about the contest in the House of Commons.

    @anonymous -- I am unmoved by your cynicism, your personal insults or inability to prove that my opinions or concerns as represented in this post are not valid.

  18. I think if Q104's sponsors don't pull their ads from the station then they are condoning the discriminatory and derogatory way that women are referred to on air. If the sponsors like steel Mazda feel like that about women then they can do without this woman's money in their pocket. I have no sympathy whatsoever for anyone that condones this type of attitude.