The uproar over Spicer Greene [Jewelers’] latest billboard [“Sometimes, it’s OK to throw rocks at girls …” taken down April 4] is being observed in a vacuum, but they have been peppering us with sexist ads for months.
The first one I noticed was an image of a young woman “flicking off” the passer-by albeit with her left ring finger. It was accompanied with the copy, “She’s tired of waiting.” This one was cute, though highlighted that rather nasty, passive-aggressive feeling women develop toward a partner who is not moving fast enough to buy them the golden ticket to begin dress shopping.
That ad was followed by a seasonal one proclaiming “Wise men bring gifts” — OK, they can have that one. I enjoyed the pun. However, around that time I realized what an implicit effect Spicer Greene’s Goebbels-like propaganda was having on a co-worker. She began coming to work and complaining every day that her husband needed to buy her jewelry for Christmas. She would go so far as to update me on the status of their bank accounts and credit card bill and whether those reflected a jewelry-level purchase.
Around this time, I began noticing the radio ads letting us know that men should be buying women gifts for all of the “little things they do.” Gone appear to be the days when a couple is a partnership, each working to accomplish the goals of the household, whether that be having clean laundry or getting kids to soccer practice. Now you need to bribe and pet your partner for their participation in life. Soon after I first noticed these ads, said colleague began downward spiral toward Christmas-gift-angst-induced irritability.
Post-holidays, up went a sign with an engagement ring simply saying “prove it.” This goes back to my beef with the first ad — it legitimizes and encourages engagement-driven relationship terrorism. And everyone knows you shouldn’t negotiate with terrorists.
With these as the antecedents to the [recently replaced] billboard, it feels as though our overall feminist leaning and progressive community might indeed be justified in our agitation with this piece of marketing. Add to that the American political zeitgeist, the fear of “felines” being grabbed and a piece of advertising that in any way hints at sexist violence is simply ill-advised.
— Natalie Chotiner
Editor’s note: When contacted by Xpress, Spicer Greene Jewelers’ co-owner Eva-Michelle Spicer offered the following response: “I’m sorry that you find our billboards to be sexist. They are meant to advertise giving jewelry and purchasing jewelry for yourself (which is how we make a living). If you own a restaurant, you advertise buying food when you’re hungry. We advertise giving jewelry. For millennia, jewelry has been used as a symbol of affection and status. The pharaohs adorned themselves and their queens with precious stones — this isn’t something I invented. Even gentoo penguins give a pebble (that they search the entire beach for) to their intended. It’s a symbol of love. Of course, you don’t have to receive jewelry to be loved! But I don’t sell cards or shoes or anything else for that matter, I sell jewelry (and we have for 91 years right here in downtown Asheville). Our billboards are simply a way to advertise buying that jewelry for a loved one. We are honored to help people select their engagement rings, and it isn’t always a man buying for a woman. We are proud to help many same-sex couples get engaged! As a culture, we honor the tradition of wedding rings, no matter who is presenting the ring. We’re also delighted to get to help women celebrate themselves — we buy jewelry for ourselves. Women’s (and men’s for that matter) self-purchase is a big part of our industry. If you haven’t bought yourself something nice lately, come see me! Sincerely, Eva-Michelle (the woman behind the billboards)”