“I think it’s clear that what we’re supposed to understand from this image is the traumatic consequence of drinking too much — which is, you might hook up with someone who isn’t young, or who doesn’t meet the conventional norms of beauty,” says Peter C. van Wyck, a professor in Concordia’s Department of Communications.
“The implication that a middle-aged woman could ‘happen to you’ as the result of an incapacity is socially and politically unacceptable. It suggests older women aren’t legitimate objects of desire.”
An independent, not-for-profit organization, Éduc’alcool runs programs designed to encourage Quebecers to make “enlightened, responsible decisions” about drinking.
According to Hubert Sacy, director general of Éduc'alcool, this ad was tested on four focus groups of two men and two women. In an email reply to van Wyck’s complaint, Sacy reported that the focus groups gave the advertisement a grade of 9/10 and he claims nobody detected any ageism or sexism in the campaign.
‘Is this something we want to accept?’
“That they tested this with young people and nobody found a problem is in itself problematic,” says van Wyck, who plans to use the Éduc’alcool poster as a launch pad for in-class discussions on ethics and imagery in his introductory Communication Theory course this term (COMS 240). “It highlights the real importance of what we teach in communication and media studies.”
Van Wyck believes that in order to think critically about visual consumption, students need to ask themselves what they’re accepting when they look at an image without questioning it.