Soft-porn construction hoardings: Just who does Malmaison think it will attract with it’s “Dressed to Drill’ imagery?

The picture on the hoarding of the Malmaison hotel, Manchester.Jeanette Winterson, author of the hugely successful ‘Oranges are Not the Only Fruit’ who’s been awarded a role of Professor of New Writing at Manchester University, is well-placed to comment on the building hoardings she sees outside her former hotel of choice; the Malmaison. In The Guardian: she asks: ‘How pretty do you have to be to work on a building site?’. The hotel is currently fronted by construction hoardings with soft-porn version of ‘women at work’ a blonde, skinny model donning a strapless dress, full make-up, hard hat and wielding a drill.

Feminism has supposedly triumphed, but as Winterson points out: “Yet the pay gap is widening; reported incidents of rape and domestic violence are rising; women are not getting to the top of their professions; anorexia and self-harm are increasing. When we talk about sexual abuse, largely we are talking about men abusing women and girls.” Wanting to see what the public at large felt about the advertising, Winterson then conducted a straw poll outside the hotel.

She explained: ‘Some taxi drivers, parked opposite, liked the hoarding. A few people said they didn’t notice it because the images are “normal”. Some thought it was a joke. Maybe it is a joke. The joke is that as Britain falls down the equality ladder behind Rwanda and Nicaragua, and Victoria Beckham is named entrepreneur of the year for dressing us all in size zero – some great clothes, but the same skinny models, the same skinny message – the nearest most women will get to being on the board is a strapless dress and a hard hat outside Malmaison.”

My next trip to Manchester certainly won’t include a stay at the Malmaison, which is a power we forget. Women have power as consumers to not just avoid certain brands, but tell them why we won’t be buying. Malmaison should work with their construction company and advertisers to create imagery that is appealing to both genders rather than patronise men and alienate female travellers. A progressive message for a brand that claims to be at the forefront of modernity and great customer service – neither of which it shows with these hoardings.

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