A recent description of Amsterdam which appeared on WOW Air’s homepage is complicit in marketing and objectifying female sex trade workers, Hildur Lilliendahl Viggósdóttir and Steinunn Rögnvaldsdóttir write in an online article posted on knuz.is yesterday.
Hildur and Steinunn take particular issue with a section entitled Hash and Whores (“Hass og hórar”), which appeared in the Icelandic version of WOW Air’s online promotional description of Amsterdam. In this section, WOW Air is recorded as describing the red light district in the following terms: “in window after window prostitutes pose as they wait for their next customer. Many of the women are old and worn-out, but some could be said to be more fresh-looking. Well, my dear old chaps, the grass is not always greener.”
Hildur and Steinunn criticize WOW Air for marketing women’s bodies and for insinuating that it is acceptable to have sex with some female sex workers (the “fresh-looking ones”) but offensive to do so with the “old and worn out” ones. They also express dismay over how the airline ignores the social causes and problems relating to the sex trade and instead depicts it as a refreshing aspect of a summer holiday in Amsterdam.
Knuz magazine calls on WOW Air to comply with Icelandic law (article 2, section 13, nr. 96/2000) by providing evidence of the company’s gender equality policy. They also offer WOW Air an alternative description of Amsterdam’s red light district, one which encourages travellers to consider social issues behind Amsterdam’s sex trade. While WOW Air has not posted Hildur and Steinunn’s description, it did remove the aforementioned quotation and re-name the section, from “Hash and Whores” to “About Hash and Whores.” As of this afternoon, WOW Air appears to have removed the contested section altogether.
Vísir reported how WOW Air’s public relations officer, Svanhvít Friðriksdóttir, issued an apology to anyone who may have been hurt or offended by the advertisement. Svanhvít admitted that the wording of the text was unfortunate, but commented that failing to bring up the red light district in Amsterdam was equivalent to not mentioning the Eiffel Tower in a discussion of Paris. She also pointed out that a majority of WOW Air’s managerial staff are women.
Hildur responded by re-iterating her initial request that WOW Air provide evidence of a gender equality policy as required by law, and further indicated that a majority of women in managerial positions is neither tantamount to such a policy nor necessarily safeguards against sexist discourse.