Bimbo Bait: Is Silence or Outrage the Solution for Digital Drek?

miss bimbo 2008Early April Fool’s joke? Tasteless ploy of a 23-year old web guy for publicity and profit perhaps?

Just when you thought media influence on body image had reached the tipping point of toxicity, our pals at Beauty and the Breast (and parents, Feministing, mashable,and industry colleagues at Edelman Digital) are reporting in disgust on this new web game, Miss Bimbo making the rounds in Europe where “Girls are encouraged to compete against each other to become the “hottest, coolest, most famous bimbo in the whole world.” (video w/the creator here)

CNN reports, “When a girl signs up, they are given a naked virtual character to look after and pitted against other girls to earn “bimbo” dollars so they can dress her in sexy outfits and take her clubbing…”

I concur with Edelman Digital that a side of me didn’t want to blog this at all for fear of giving it ANY exposure, so I’m actually thrilled that advertising colleagues are crying foul rather than slough it off as another Axe ad “parody” where I was repeatedly told to “get over myself” and enjoy the irony and satire.

Nice to see there IS an ethical compass, industry limit and maybe even a pendulum swing, I suppose. Still, the fact that the Ma-Bimbo site originating in France has 1.2 million subscribers and leaked faster than a silicone implant into the U.K. sister site Miss Bimbo is disturbingly surreal.

Right now there are almost 300,000 ‘registered bimbos’ on the U.K. site, even with the outcry of foul…so who are these…um…bimbos?

miss bimbo user-data.016(Note preteen demographic climb during most vulnerable years)

When online games consistently hawk stuff and play by objectifying (as we wrote about here with custom body parts-n-billboards, viral tattoo placement etc.) Is it any wonder sexualization of teen health has evolved to this level of damage? I guess we should’ve seen this coming…after all:

American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) noted that way back in 2002-‘03 alone, breast implants nearly tripled for girls 18 and younger and over 220,000 teens under 18 had a cosmetic procedure of some kind. (including 19,000 nose jobs & 22,000 ear protrusion fixes) Here are ASAPS 2005 teen stats from the NYDaily News disputing any increases. A paradox.

The APA report (72 pg. pdf) has hammered this point home for quite some time now, and the CCFC is hosting an entire summit about the damage to kids with these appearance based cues…(alas not a moment too soon) so regardless of quibbles in stats it’s readily apparent ‘Houston, we’ve got a problem.’ In Miss Bimbo:

CNN reports, “Users are given missions, including securing plastic surgery at the game’s clinic to give their dolls bigger breasts, and they have to keep her at her target weight with diet pills, which cost 100 bimbo dollars…Breast implants sell at 11,500 bimbo dollars and net the buyer 2,000 bimbo attitudes, making her more popular on the site…And bagging a billionaire boyfriend is the most desirable way to earn the all important “mula.”

For in-depth screen shots and a peek at the mindset of a ‘self-ascribed registered bimbo’ check this blog.

My question is an over-arching query…How do we counter-market toxicity when it’s already leaked into the marketplace and seeped into psyches?

What’s the best tactic to handle this ‘virtual fashion doll’ mind pollution? (short of hoping hackers and she-geeks crash their servers in a ping war or digital malice—um, I didn’t say that out loud, did I?)

Much like I felt the ‘Breast year ever’ radio contest awarding plastic surgery to teen radio listeners on the east coast at Hot 99.5 was the bottom feeder (you can imagine what they did with those numbers in graphics, here’s one teen journalists’ views on the demeaning promo) and as much as I TRIED to ignore the Miss Booty contest controversy encouraging teens to post their backsides on the web in a Virgin Records/Bubba Sparx promo so I wouldn’t ‘fan the flames’ or give it any heat…

There’s a side of me that wonders if silence is a solution-based action in itself…

If we all hush and just say shhhhhhhhhhhhhh, and let it melt into the media maelstrom of contempt the universal reverb could actually HELP the cluelessness factor as folks begin to ‘see the problem.’

This could actually end up being a very good thing for child advocates to trot out at the CCFC summit and open new dialogue on ways to counter-market this crud by using the power of media for positive change.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll snag a screen shot for my workshop and toss it in my next remix of my Animoto to get people brainstorming on how to teach critical thinking skills particularly 23-year old web designers who claim “this is not a bad influence for young children. They learn to take care of their bimbos. The missions and goals are morally sound and teach children about the real world.”

Real as in fake breasts. Real as in fake ideals..uh, huh, yah.

What are your thoughts? How can we best counter-market cluelessness?

Raise awareness and inform or chalk it up to a web-celeb-wannabe just going for ‘shock schlock’ profiteering to pull our collective chains?

Which is better media management, sounding off or the silent treatment? Weigh in, readers…

Comments

  1. Oh, and btw, did anyone see the Today Show this morning on the cheerleader who died from plastic surgery??? ugh. Kris just sent me the video:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/23807869#23807869

  2. And here’s the article itself:
    http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/23807734/

    sigh.

  3. oh, and by the way, here’s the new stats (see above re: teen cosmetic surgery 2005, ASPS per the MSN article link above for clarity:

    “The death has focused attention on elective breast augmentation surgery, a procedure that 347,500 women of all ages chose to have in 2007 alone. That number is 6 percent higher than in 2006 and 64 percent higher than in 2000.

    Although the FDA recommends that only women 18 or older get breast implants, the number of girls under that age submitting themselves to the surgery continues to grow. In 2005, the last year for which full statistics are available, more than 3,500 girls had breast implants.”

    3500 in 2005…and that was 3 years ago, time for us to catch up with Mary McDonough at BeautyandtheBreast.org —she’s got the scoop on their site re: the latest FDA/implant/safety lobbying…

  4. i’m so glad you posted about this. ugh, i’m so ticked about that darn site.

    How goes it? Hope you’re well. We should probably talk soon, yeah? Woot.

  5. Hi Izzy, yeah, been swamped preppin’ for the CCFC gig, so been unavail to follow through…sorry for the lax response. Realistically, I’ll say things will calm down in the next coupla weeks, as I return around 4/7 from Boston.

    p.s. So is your vote ‘yes’ to call attention to the insanity despite the fact that I noticed they have a bump in subscribers from 200,000 to close to 275,000 post-media coverage? Last thing I want to do is give them any new ‘players’…argh.

    Speaking of which…did you read the CosmoGirl edition on girls being the new ‘players’ in the ‘what is sexy’ March issue? Classic case of ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’ but I’m feeling a huge disconnect in the direction of the ethics…um…two wrongs don’t make a right/3rd wave femme bedanged, etc. bleh…whatever happened to intimacy/romance vs. carnal knowledge?

    Really liked their article/analysis on ‘what is sexy/the quest to be hot’ http://tinyurl.com/34nzfx but found the irony snortably inauthentic being that it was leaping from the pages of CosmoGirl which is…er…part of the problem perpetuating those cues.

    Reminds me of those junk food ads where the models are snarfing shakes-n-fries w/reckless abandon and wafer thin-waistlines…a disconnected juxtaposition.

    It would be like ‘Miss Bimbo’ sponsored by Dove Campaign for Real Beauty or something…

    Guess I’m notably cranky about the whole sexualized slop bit, as I’ve been prepping my talk for CCFC and therefore hip-deep in WAY too much research with ‘evidence’ out the wazoo on damage to kids’ self-worth that’s a bit crazy-making.

    And even that ‘whorses’ /Strutz toy line made my tweens’ gal pals recoil with “WHAT is THAT thing?–omg, that’s gross—the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen!”

    Ah…but they haven’t seen ‘Miss Bimbo’ yet…(bleh.) Chin up… bugger on as Churchill would say! ;-)

  6. Thanks for taking a strong stand on this, Amy. Quite frankly I want girls to value themselves including mind, spirit and body. When girls concentrate on the body only they are negating the amazing minds and brains they’ve been given. It does not lead to a very happy or fulfilling life.

  7. Robyn, so nice to hear from you…and great to see you promoting the Age of Conversation ‘bum rush’ to boot! I’ll be posting on that today too.

    And yes…I agree…Body image LINKS a child’s emotional and physical health.

    Consumer-oriented media has grown into a virtual 24/7 presence with ‘always on’ behavioral messaging that accentuates fears and nurtures obsessions.

    This Bimbo game has most subscribers in the 9-16 age range, at VERY high risk of exploitation, heavily bombarded with appearance based cues that mine their insecurities for profit.

    Already:

    · 20% of adolescents meet lifetime criteria for depression; also associated with high risk substance abuse, cognitive impairment, disruptive behavioral/mood disorders, academic failure, suicide and comorbid anxiety disorders, etc. —Journal of Abnormal Psychology
    · In 2002-‘03 alone, breast implants nearly tripled for girls 18 and younger , & over 220,000 teens under 18 had a cosmetic procedure of some kind. (including 19,000 nose jobs & 22,000 ear protrusion fixes) –American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery.
    · Boys are exposed to a steady stream of steroid abusing sports heroes & buffed muscled videogame icons, and already 26% of male adolescents don’t like their bodies or have dysmorphia issues. (American Journal of Drug & Alcohol Abuse)
    · More than 80% of 10 year olds fret over their weight, & almost half of 10/11 year olds try dieting. — National Eating Disorders

    And my favorite quote from Senator Harkin sums it all…
    “We are pouring acid on their innocence.”

    Thanks for dropping by, it’s an honor!

  8. Oh Boy, Amy. What a “bimtastic” display of body image salt sprayed on the proverbial gaping wound of female body image development. So much for modeling positive self worth. Let’s not forget that these are adults making decisions to promote this garbage to our young people ages 9-16 years!

    I’m a disturbed that some of these girls are likening it to dressing up dolls. I don’t remember exchanging bimbo dollars or asking for boob jobs to get a better rating when I dressed up dolls in the past, do you?

    Studies are now showing that girls are regarding dieting as “normal” behavior. That in fact it is “abnormal” to not diet! This is not surprising since all they see are diet ads, toys, TV, games, friends, and mentors dieting. Will plastic surgery also be “normalized” to the point in which it will be “abnormal” to NOT get plastic surgery? A scary thought.

    Looking forward to meeting you next week, Amy!

    Dr. Robyn

    Can we have a game where they can make bucks and gain value by using their brains and their creativity instead of pumping up their boobs and bagging a billionaire?

  9. Workin’ on it!!!!!!!! Can’t wait to talk to you in Boston next week!!! :-) best, Amy

  10. btw, while I was on Izzy’s site a minute ago, I found this link to ‘tramp stamps’ at ToysRus —lower body tattoos that evidently are not exactly the usual Hannah Montana/Disney fare: http://www.cockeyed.com/citizen/lowerback/lowerback.shtml

    Although I didn’t find the uber-crude one mentioned on her blog…um, yet.

  11. Thanks, for the post, and opening my eyes to this. If you were silent on the matter I wouldn’t have known about this and be able to add my outrage to the blogsphere.

    Which underlies the point that, when asking the question “is Silence or Outrage an appropriate response”, I say go with outrage. Silence implies a tacit acceptance. Say it loud and strong. Speak up and add a dissenting voice. It’s a fundamental part of what makes a democracy work.

  12. Thanks, for the weigh in, Clint.

    Yah, I guess I’m still licking my wounds from the time-sink of ‘saying it loud and strong’ with the massive ‘Target’ reframing of my context for the sexualization normalization post back in January. http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=969

    The Bimbo site is clearly more overt, and a ‘direct hit’ on vapid values (vs. the innuendo of the Target billboard fully clothed) but frankly…the intrinsic and purposeful marketing ploy being used is the same: sexism, objectification, ‘vagina value’ vs. self-worth as a human being, and all ‘appearance-based’ fluff.

    That said, I’d be flaming rampant toxicity all day if I wrote about every one of ‘em which is why I was trying to position a ’roundup’ of the overall ‘normalization’ of this kind of slop that’s soul-eroding and damaging to kids’ healthy sexuality on the Target piece…(‘Hooters girl in training’ toddler tees, etc.)

    ‘Bimbo’ has received pretty universal condemnation from anyone past their teens (though players of the ‘game’ in article commentary seem to trot out the ‘censorship and over-reaction’ card, claiming its ‘fun and not really meant for kids.) yah. Tell that to the 9-16 year old demo base.

    I have no problem going for the jugular on this one, or even the more subtle ‘whorses’ of the Strutz toy line, I just don’t want them getting extra press.

    That said, I agree with you fully that silence is tacit approval in some form, much like standing by and listening to a racist spew venom without speaking out with zeal.

    Media is just SO powerful, it can backfire into ‘fuel’ instead of ‘water’ to squelch a smoldering fire so I want to make sure this Bimbo bit gets full flaming of the proper sort.

  13. btw, here’s a great piece from the U.K. Guardian (oldie but goodie)

    How the web became a sexists paradise:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2007/apr/06/gender.blogging

  14. okay, so when I read Lisa’s post just now, I see the Huffington Post linked back to Miss Bimbo referencing at as ‘thinking it was tongue in cheek: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jessica-wakeman/my-pet-bimbo_b_93629.html

    Jessica Wakeman updates her article here revealing Miss Bimbo has had so much traffic/brouhaha that the site’s not fully functioning right now: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jessica-wakeman/miss-bimbo-off-her-diet-p_b_94055.html

    And yeah, she writes about it well. But here’s the thing…

    The ‘satire and parody’ defense has been used and abused ad infinitum.

    It’s landing on tweenagers again and again, just like the misogynistic misfire I wrote about last year in this outrageously racist/sexist MTV cartoon with women on leashes in bikinis. http://www.shapingyouth.org/blog/?p=45

    Oh, yah. That’s right. They declared that one tongue in cheek too.

    I’m SOOOOO sick and flippin’ tired of ‘SATIRE’ under under the guise of wink and nod cleverisms that are toxic.

    Just like my industry colleagues say ‘Axe cologne BomChickaWaWa girls’ are a ‘spoof’ it does NOT negate the impact it’s having on kids in any of the ambient advertising examples! Kids are pummeled by this absurd mind-pollution at ALL ages and these kinds of cues are just flippin’ irresponsible.

    Intention doesn’t subvert exposure…

    One whiff of a middleschool classroom will tell you boys are buying into Axe, and though they’re no doubt savvy enough to discern that it’s not meant to be a literal context, they’re still impacted by the elementary notion of ‘wear this/get this’ wannabe enticement.

    Ambient advertising is everywhere, you don’t have to ‘play the game’ or ‘buy the product’ or even ‘watch the commercial’ to be impacted by the hyper-objectification of raunchy poses and sleazy ‘satire.’

    Say what you will about ‘tongue in cheek’ the cues are toxic and landing on kids in ever-increasing regularity. bleh.

  15. Somehow, revisiting this one again just makes me wonder how we can get through to the 23-year old guy who doesn’t want his little sister called a Bimbo, but is creating a web furor by designing same?! sheesh: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnctjTF4cuo

  16. Cosmetic surgery is a personal choice. Someone should not judge another for having cosmetic surgery. There are many people who are very secure with themselves but still undergo plastic surgery.

  17. Consuelo, did you READ the post? There’s a big difference between personal choice for aesthetic/self esteem purposes and seeding these ‘you’re not good enough’ body alteration messages to TEENS and CHILDREN as opportunistic sport to mine insecurity for profit…

    It’s heinously discordant from an ethical perspective to use media to trash souls and psyches when worldviews are not yet even fully formed with kids, amped up with everpresent saturation of media titillation and alteration from reality show TV to ‘Bridalplasty’ promises of being ‘perfect’ TOXIC. I have zero regard for the way these companies are allowed to target teens and youth…
    Amy Jussel recently posted..Rudolph- A Parable On Bullying- Peer Pressure &amp Soaring HighMy Profile

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