RYAN GRIFFIS

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Sexy or Sexism?

background: a group of (non-organized) media activists "liberated" 2 Coors Lite billboards (see image below) in Portland, Oregon and wanted their action and 'cause' made public without risking exposure themselves. At their request a press release was drafted and sent to local media, which received some sympathetic responses from (mostly women) journalists. This resulted in several published stories and interviews as well as a televised interview.

coors billboard altered


For immediate release 6.2.2002
"here's sexism": coors lite billboards improved by media activists in Portland, Oregon
An unidentified group of media activists has begun a series of media improvements with the alteration of two billboards in Portland Oregon: one on SE 11th Ave and Madison, the other on Arthur Road, between SW 1st and 2nd Aves. Two billboards advertising Coors Lite with images of buxom twin models accompanied by the phrase "here's to twins" were modified by the group to read "here's sexism."
These actions are rumored to be the first in a series to engage various forms of sexism within the media, called "Operation TITS" or Tactical Interventions Targeting Sexism. There is no cohesive group behind Operation TITS, and no way of knowing what the next target may be. Taking obvious cues from other media activist groups, like the Billboard Liberation Front, these actions initiate a civic dialogue by allowing for the recognition of visible difference, debate, and dissent.
The Coors billboard alterations, while already removed, are just a small part of a wider effort by various individuals and groups practicing various forms of "civil disobedience" with the goal of highlighting various forms of institutionalized oppression and violence. Issues such as racism, class warfare, unfair trade, environmental destruction, and "third world" slavery are just some of the concerns of contemporary media activists. The actions of such activists must be understood as building on the history of US civil disobedience going back to the civil rights and earlier labor movements, but taking the current media landscape into consideration. These actions are not logically connected to the forms of anonymous property destruction practiced by groups like the ELF, as media activism targets elements of public communication that are, by nature, temporary.
As one unknown TITS activist puts it, "The target is not the people or companies producing the advertising messages, but the politics that allow for such message to even be acceptable within our culture. It's about opening the dialogue up in the public domain, rather than relegating it to an insular editorial page. It's also about challenging individual and societal desires where they are made visible."
"The blatant inequalities and violence enacted upon women are made even more insulting by the celebration of misogyny and female self-hatred found everywhere in our visual culture. The fact that so many women are killed every year in 'domestic situations' without any substantial public acknowledgement makes the use of women's bodies to sell corporate mythologies complicit violence," says another TITS participant.
see images + video:
story in Willamette Week (via Archive.org)
Video (Quicktime in pop-up)