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WGRD names bars after “girls” or how a radio station practices misogyny

October 6, 2017

The objectification of women is the norm within the media world, whether we are talking about films, TV shows, advertising or video games. Read or watch any of the videos produced by educator and feminist Jean Kilbourne and it is hard to argue this assertion.

The use of women’s bodies and their identities is also prevalent as a market gimmick. This is certainly the case with a recent effort by the Grand Rapids radio station WGRD.

On September 15, WGRD posted on their website this piece, which began by saying: 

There are plenty of places to go to enjoy the nightlife of Grand Rapids on a daily basis, and those of us who have lived here for a while know that we often have to explain the different bars to new people. So, we’ve come up with a comprehensive way to explain the bars in GR to your new-to-town friends by comparing them to girls we all know. You know… THOSE girls…

The posting then provides readers with 7 bars that are now referred to as “girls.” Here is an example:

Now, a common reaction might be, so what’s the big deal? At the bottom there is a link to bars in Grand Rapids that are named after guys. So, it seems that WGRD equally objectifies men and women. While, I believe that thinking of bars as people is a stupid idea, the notion that men and women in this culture are equally objectified is just plain nonsense. 

The hyper-objectification and sexualization of women in our media saturated world happens a great deal more than the hyper-objectification of men’s bodies. More importantly, the objectification of women’s bodies must also be seen in the context of the statistical reality of how frequently women and girls are sexually assaulted by men. In other words, the consequences to the objectification of women’s bodies is much more serious than the objectification of men’s bodies.

In addition, it is worth pointing out that WGRD has a history of objectifying women’s bodies, specifically for male pleasure.

In 2004, an intern with GRIID conducted a research project looking at the objectification of women on local radio stations and their websites. WGRD had numerous links to porn sites and used to promote the Babe of the Day. Here is one of the images (above) from the 2004 study, with a WGRD DJ posing with women in bikinis.

A year later Media Mouse conducted a study of WGRD and wrote this: 

 local Grand Rapids alternative rock station 97.9 WGRD makes extensive use of sexism and misogyny to generate an appeal to its core demographic of 25 to 34 year old adults. The study, focusing on a month long period of monitoring this winter, found that DJ David Fox repeatedly made reference to prostitutes, strippers, sex, and “hot chicks” in addition to making racist and homophobic statements.

DJ David Fox was eventually fired, but in 2007, Media Mouse did a follow up study and found that the hyper-sexualized content was still a problem. Media Mouse wrote: 

Like the websites of other radio stations in the West Michigan area, the “Babe of the Day” feature syndicates content from “Stare Magazine” that uses the slogan “we don’t even HAVE articles” to promote its “bikini and lingerie” photographs. The image featured on WGRD’s site when this review was conducted was an example the “dismemberment” of women when they are reduced to nothing more than a single body part (or set of). Essentially, there is no humanity in the photo and instead the body is presented as the only defining aspect of the woman. Based on Stare’s website, this is quite common as the majority of the photos on the website–including the header image–feature such dismemberment.

The “WGRD Girls To Be Thankful For!” feature is a contest that solicits photos from women. Women who submit photos are displayed on the website and then are eligible to win WGRD “prize packs.” Not surprisingly given the portrayals of women elsewhere on the site, photos tend to be shot in a way that represent stereotypical “male” “fantasies.”

WGRD uses the public airwaves that are technically supposed to be use to serve the public interest, not to promote the objectification of women. We encourage people to not listen to their station and to contact their Brand Manager John Walker at this e-mail John.Walker@townsquaremedia.com.

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