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Channeling Howard Beale (A Call to Action)

By January 22, 2009 No Comments

a screencapture of the application's demo from YouTube

(above : a screencapture of the application's demo from YouTube)

With a great deal of consternation, today I found out that Apple’s App store (for iPhone/iPod touch) is selling an application called “Wobble” – designed to pretty much animate photos of women’s breasts and buttocks making them jiggle as one shakes the iPhone.

Demo here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWC_R3-qC3I

More info here: http://chillifresh.com/wobble/

As a devoted Apple customer I was really taken aback by this. I read about this affair on a popular feminist blog and the thing that depressed me even more was the reaction of readers. Many posted responses saying that they were outraged but they seemed to accept this as just one more degrading thing we have to deal with. Not me.

I am very well aware of the power of our voices. For instance, a couple of years ago the Campaign for Consumer Free Childhood (CCFC) encouraged people to write letters to the company Hasbro, which planned to introduce a toy version of the Pussycat Dolls aimed at 6-8 year olds. After only two days of protests from the CCFC, Hasbro announced it would cancel plans to produce the dolls. So, we can make a difference.

I sent a letter to Apple (sjobs@apple.com – according to Consumerist.com top customer service executives check this account)

After a personal introduction, I wrote,

The reason why I am writing to you today is that with great heartbreak, I feel I have been let down by you in a major major way for the first time. While reading the blog Feministing, I discovered that a software called “Wobble” was approved by someone in the Apple team and made its way to the App Store. An application which, according to its demo (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FWC_R3-qC3I) allows users to animate the photos of women’s breasts and buttocks, making them jiggle in every direction.

As a woman and feminist I cannot sit back and quietly accept this. To quote Howard Beale, from the film Network: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

Why? Because, especially over the past decade, the portrayal of women in our popular culture has steadily worsened. Every day, all around us on television screens, street billboards, in the pages of magazines, on the web, and in video games, our bodies are objectified, degraded and trivialized.

This has very serious consequences for both men and women: self-objectification being the most obvious, with women who are pushed to view their body as a sex object to be consumed by the male gaze – and men feeling entitled to consume women as objects.

We deserve much more than that. Dignity and respect are the least we can ask for. They are just about vital for our health and self-esteem.

The fact that a useless application like “Wobble” made its way to the Apple store sends a negative message: that trivializing women’s bodies, reducing them to wobbling parts, is acceptable. The risk is that over time we become desensitized to such behavior. What next? We already live in a world where the number two most popular doll (for 3-6 year olds) looks like a prostitute. Our cultural environment is already saturated with portrayals of women that are degrading. It would be nice if the Apple store could be an exception, setting an example. Removing the application from the App store would send out a loud, positive message – and would make me so much more proud of you!

I hold you under such high esteem and I hope you will decide to do the right thing.

Sincerely,

(signed)

Now, if any of you are also outraged by this application, it would be great if you could also write a quick email to Apple (sjobs@apple.com), simply asking them to remove the application. Just remember what the CCFC managed to do in 48 hours!

[update – Saturday Jan. 24th]

According to this MacBidouille article (in French), Apple recently rejected a dictionary application (that formatted the site Wordreference for the iPhone) on the grounds of obscenity – because, for instance, the Italian-English dictionary contained the translation for the F-word.

And yet an application like Wobble – incredibly sexist and degrading – was approved by Apple’s App Store. As a matter of fact, in the French iTunes store, Wobble is now the 9th most downloaded (paid) application.

Infuriating.