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On Second Thought, Maybe Sprint’s “Man In A Dress” Ad Wasn’t Such A Good Idea

We weren’t the only ones who questioned the transphobic potential of this ad against the AT&T and T-Mobile merger. Sprint pulled the ad after receiving complaints including a letter from REC Founder Michi Eyre (a transgender person herself) who issued an open letter explaining why she found the ad “inappropriate”:

The transgender community has recently been working towards obtaining civil rights at the state level in Maryland, Nevada and Connecticut. In addition, the GLBT community is fighting legislation in Maine that would redefine public accommodation protections to biological sex. In these states, the primary fear expressed by opponents to transgender rights is the infamous “man in a dress”.

The advertisement encourages readers to “Tell Congress to help stop AT&T’s takeover of T-Mobile.” This is the same Congress who we are trying to get to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act that would add federal regulations that would prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The opposition of ENDA also do not want “men in dresses” working for their companies.

While we agree, the depiction of this specific model in this specific dress does not look right, it does create shock and fear and sends the message “people born of one biological sex and wearing the clothes of the other biological sex is wrong.” This is a message that we have been fighting.

Eyre’s letter really clarifies the debate over the image. Several Queerty commenters wondered whether any images of men in dresses, even drag queens, were inherently transphobic. Going by her letter, the bigger issue has to do with the widespread nature of the image in light of ongoing trans rights battles. In short, it’s still OK to laugh at Dame Edna.

By:           Daniel Villarreal
On:           May 11, 2011
Tagged: , ,
  • 10 Comments
    • J. R. Braden
      J. R. Braden

      Nope. Just because some transsexual was overly sensitive about this ad doesn’t excuse your own thin skin, Queerty. “On Second Thought, Maybe Sprint’s ‘Man In A Dress’ Ad Wasn’t Such A Good Idea”??? That was what the majority of your commenters said, not what you said. You’re just using the fact that you weren’t the only people offended by this innocuous ad as an absurd argumentum ad populum logical fallacy. What’s this “On second thought” bull?

      Am I the only homo who thinks the vast majority of trannies are actively searching for reasons to be offended? The slightest bending of gender in a comedic situation sets them off like a brigade of litigious soldier ants, skeletonizing all in their path and making the LGB side of the LGBT crowd look bad by association.

      Just one man’s (provocative, but no less valid) opinion…

      May 11, 2011 at 7:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • David Gervais
      David Gervais

      In the previous story on this topic, the comments, including ones from a trans person, were from people who understood the point and were not offended because the image was not meant that way.

      The real point is that the merger is anti-competitive, even monopolistic of one technology. We understand the value of diversity, we should not call down business interests who want market diversity.

      May 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stan
      Stan

      I laughed a bit at this ad because he is wearing the same dress as the woman who appears in the T-mobile commercials.

      While I don’t think this was intended to be transphobic, it obviously can be interpreted that way. There are plenty of other things that could used for something that doesn’t make sense.

      This is also a marketing ploy by Sprint, not a legitimate grassroots campaign by consumers. I think it is highly dishonest.

      May 12, 2011 at 1:59 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Holy Shit!
      Holy Shit!

      @J. R. Braden:

      Please don’t use terms like “tranny”. It’s offensive and dehumanizing, like cocksucker or rugmuncher. Trannies are how trans people are referred to in porn.

      Also, the whole “they make us look bad by association” argument is one of the oldest, dumbest and most dangerous strawmen in the book. It’s used against whatever type of person doesn’t quite live up to what’s deemed best for The Movement- whether that be femme men, butch women, femme women, “uneducated” people of color, people who fall into whatever stereotype/trope- and is a tactic of division rather than unity. Trans people are marginalized enough all ready *outside* the LGBTQ community.

      If you object to someone taking offense at something, take a moment to consider that you do not possess their experiences/perspective, and therefore you might not be able to appreciate why they find it offensive. Men, particularly cis men, are afforded much privilege in the world, which frequently clouds their ability to see and appreciate the struggles of others. Try and look past your privilege. If trans people are offended, it’s likely not because we’re looking for reasons to be, but rather because we’ve been raised in a culture that regards us with ridicule and violence.

      May 12, 2011 at 8:50 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • J. R. Braden
      J. R. Braden

      @Holy Shit!:
      I don’t object to *ahem* Trannies taking offense to offensive things. I am completely behind your rights to a fair and equal workplace, marriage, and your right to use whichever McDonald’s bathroom makes you comfortable; and that extends to me feeling offense when something truly offensive is directed at my transsexual friends. What I DO object to is this propensity to loudly take offense at really, really stupid things. What does that help? What problem does that solve?

      (Also, the only three transsexuals I know in real life prefer I call them trannies, in an endearing and not degrading sense, so that’s what I’ll continue to do, thanks. I’ll trust the real-life trannies on this one instead of the angry Internet tranny, if that’s okay with you.)

      Your criticism that this is a strawman argument (And it would be, if I had said *all* “trannies”, but I didn’t.), similar to what the African-American civil rights movement with through with their educational divide, is deeply flawed. You hinted at the analogy, so I’ll take it and run with it: What the trans movement seems to be going for these days looks like Dr. King going after Aunt Jemima for being an offensive brand of syrup. Can you see that happening? No, because it’s base, juvenile, and meaningless. Battles aren’t won by screaming “BIGOT!” at everything that moves, battles are won by warming the people to your cause… which is exactly the opposite of what this kind of tabloid-culture dreck does.

      You’re freaking out because a man is in a dress in a print ad. Don’t you owe it to these people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unlawfully_killed_transgender_people) to find some better way to use your time and resources to join a civil discussion about liberty and persecution? Isn’t it more important to focus on preventing another attack like what happened to Chrissy Polis than to parade around like imbeciles, screaming at an actor in a costume? If you think the answer to either of those questions is no, you’re nothing more than a provocateur and you have no place inside of a serious movement for the advancement of LGBT rights.

      Get off your soapbox and do something to make a difference, or sit down and shut up while the grown-up activists work.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:05 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jay
      Jay

      Even though I am transsexual myself I am not sure how I feel about this ad. I can see why it is offensive but also see how it they thought it would be an okay ad campaign. If you do think about it, it doesn’t make sense -in society- why a man who clearly identifies as male, holding a cigar like he was just drinking and playing poker with his buddies would put on a bright pink polka dot dress on that reveals chest hair. I would be offended if it was someone who looked like they self-identified as female who perhaps didn’t quite “pass” and had a dress on.

      And J. R. Braden, you saying tranny/trannies is as offensive as someone else calling you a fag/faggot. And your continued use of the word towards someone who just clearly said they find it offensive *proves* you just want to offend. So why don’t you sit down because you’re sounding like a fucking retard.

      May 12, 2011 at 10:42 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • J. R. Braden
      J. R. Braden

      @Jay: Actually, no. The equivalent of fag for a transexual would be something like freak, or another word that is inherently hurtful. Trannie is more like homo: Not suitable for a formal discussion, but in the company of like-minded individuals can be used as an informal classification. (i.e., I call myself a homo and that’s okay, my friends call me a homo and that’s okay, if a tobacco-chewing trucker redneck calls me a homo, this homo’s going into battle mode.) Like I said, I only know three transsexuals in real life (quite a bit more through the Interwebbernets), and the consensus among the rational ones seems to be that the word tranny can be used like I use the word homo.

      But here we go again! More thin-skinned semantic idiocy getting in the way of the big picture! (i.e.: How is this considered news instead of mindless reactionary squawking, and why is Queerty making it sound like they’re amening their views in light of evidence instead of what they’re really doing: Finding an equally rabid activist-hot-mess who agrees with them and trotting her out as vindication for their former unpopular post.)

      My insistence on using the word again in reply to the thin-skinned commenter who replied to me was to point out that 1) not everything that appears offensive on first glance is worth being offended over, and often has nothing to do with our movement or has a positive view of our movement and is being misinterpreted, and 2) she was making my own point about being overly reactionary by over-reacting to an irrelevant part of my comment and ignoring the actual argument.

      I must point out, though, that while the word tranny can be used in friendly, sexual, or assaulting language–what matters is the context–that there is absolutely no context when the word retard can be unoffensive. As an Asperger’s sufferer myself, the fact that you would bandy about the word retard as if it was just a fun little insult is legitimately insulting. (Honestly, my Asperger’s puts me well beyond the emotional level of letting blog commenters ruin my day with 6 little letters–think of Asperger’s people as Vulcans and you’ll understand where we’re coming from–but I do see serious potential harm if another neurologically diverse individual with more of an emotional drive than I have found this discussion and saw that people fighting for human rights were also using a terrible slur against them. That really could crush someone.

      I’m done talking about semantics. How about we talk about shit that matters… like why Queerty is trying to turn us against a company that has always been supportive of our cause because of a misinterpretation of comedy.

      May 12, 2011 at 11:20 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • declanto
      declanto

      If I can own the term “queer”, the transsexuals can own “Tranny”.

      May 12, 2011 at 1:09 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • WillBFair
      WillBFair

      I don’t think it’s offensive for another reason. The cigar and chest hair and man’s haircut make this an excercize in what we used to call gender bending. There’s a whole tradition of gay men wearing skirts and combat boots. The joke was to point out the silliness of grossly conflicting gender items. I always thought it was hilarious, much sillier than your standard drag queen.
      It’s a form of camp, and in that regard, this ad works. Maybe it’s a cultural difference between gay men and trans people. And normally I’m sensitive to their concerns. But I do think they’re are being too sensitive here. The picture is not of a trans person trying to pass in a cruel society. It’s of a gender bending straight guy, sans heels, in a polka dot dress. It’s old time gender bending. And on that level, it’s funny.

      May 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • fuzzy
      fuzzy

      Hey, if a guy wants to wear a polka-dot dress, he should be able to, no matter how he self-identifies. To that end, this ad bothers me because it implies that there is something inherently wrong with dressing outside the gender norm – you just have to “think” about it to figure out it’s wrong. That’s no a message that makes me feel accepted in society, and I’m neither male nor a polka-dot dress aficionado.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:57 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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