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October 2014 Print Issue

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Advertisement urged women to attend speaker series

Sexism thumbnailA newspaper advertisement encouraging Calgary women to attend a well-known speaker series instead may alienate them, according to communications and gender politics experts.

Unique Lives and Experiences is a lecture series that brings individuals to major cities to speak about their careers and stories.

Taking place at the EPCOR Centre, the series includes speakers such as primatologist Jane Goodall, author Maya Angelou, and actress Sigourney Weaver.

An advertisement for the series - which ran in the Calgary Herald on Sept. 20 compares the event to "Monday Night Football for women in Calgary."

Shari Graydon of Informed Opinions, a website that works to promote gender equalityin the media, says Unique Lives and Experiences clearly offers something of value.

But the advertisement's "reductive stereotypes insult both (its) speakers and audience. Many women like football and enjoy sporting events, and the inspirational accomplishments of Jane Goodall and Maya Angelou transcend gender."

The advertisement also suggests that the series is an "ideal Trojan horse because it really helps to exonerate some companies-not all- from the glut of 'what have you done lately for women's issues."

Graydon says these comments betray a surprising disrespect for those issues and imply that corporate ticket buyers are cynically trying to appease their female employees or customers, instead of doing something more substantive to advance women's equality.

Janni Aragon, a senior political science professor at the University of Victoria with an interest in gender politics also took issue with the advertisement.

Sexism screenshotThis ad that was published in the Calgary Herald on Sept. 20, has some women offended when it compares the a series with all female speakers to "Monday Night Football for women in Calgary."

Photo from www.calgaryherald.com

In response to the recommendation "companies buy tickets for their female employees in lieu of tickets to sporting events," Aragon says.

"I honestly don't think that if this was Tony Robbins, Ken Blanchard or other big names in this business, even Deepak Chopra, that you'd have a comment that would say 'buy your male employees tickets for this, they'll enjoy it.' They wouldn't focus on that this is just for men."

"But because we have a slate of women speakers, obviously only women would be interested," Aragon added sarcastically.

The advertisement was placed in the entertainment section of the Calgary Herald as a business profile-advertising feature. It also appeared online but with no indication it was an ad.

The price for a business profile ad in the Calgary Herald is listed as being $3,000 for a half page ad including story, photography and online exposure.

Inquiries made regarding who is accountable for the editorial content of the advertisements placed in the Calgary Herald were unanswered.

The quotes in the ad comparing the series to Monday Night Football for women in Calgary and describing it as a Trojan Horse are attributed to Howard Szigeti, the president of Let's Talk Entertainment.

That's the company that runs the Unique Lives and Experiences lectures series.

Szigeti was unable to comment when Let's Talk Entertainment was repeatedly contacted to discuss the advertisement.

This is the first year the series has come to Calgary, after appearing in Toronto, Vancouver, Denver and San Jose.

The first speaker in the series, Maya Angelou appeared in Calgary last month and the rest are scheduled to appear throughout 2013.

Lucie Arnaz will speak about her career that started on her mother's show Here's Lucy, and Amanda Lindhout, a former journalist will share her experience as a hostage in southern Somalia.

Goodall will speak about her work with primates and Weaver will conclude the series in May, speaking about her acting career.

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