- A sex toy company that makes products primarily for women had an ad campaign rejected by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
- The company claims that the MTA has a double standard when it comes to ads it will approve and is filing a lawsuit against them.
- The company is accusing the MTA of gender bias, arguing that more explicit ads promoting sexual health to men have been allowed to run in the past.
- The MTA says it plans to defend itself in the lawsuit.
MTA Rejects Marketing Campaign
A sex toy company by the name of Dame Products announced Tuesday that it is suing New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, accusing the organization of gender bias after their ad campaign was denied.
Dame is a Brooklyn-based start-up that makes vibrators and sex toys primarily for women. The company says that its contact with the MTA began back in July, when it reached out to propose a product marketing campaign that would run on subways, buses, and other MTA locations. The company claims it was given the green light to start developing ads.
Dame started working with the MTA’s ad agency, Outfront Media, to create them. However, Dame says that once their team submitted those advertisements, they were rejected.
The MTA cited their newly updated policy on advertising and said these ads promoted a “sexually oriented business,” which their policy does not allow. The MTA then posted an FAQ on their advertising policy that included this rule.
“The MTA Advertising Policy prohibits any advertisement that promotes a ‘sexually oriented business,’ and advertisements for sex toys or devices for any gender fall within this category,” their statement reads.
Dame, however, thinks that the MTA’s choice reflects a double standard with what the MTA does and does not consider to be too sexually explicit.
In their lawsuit, Dame is seeking damages and rights to run their ads with the MTA. Alexandra Fine, a co-founder and CEO of Dame, told Vice that she thinks their decision violates Dame’s first amendment right to free speech.
“We’re arguing that the MTA’s arbitrary censorship is unconstitutional because they have not clearly defined the term ‘sexually-oriented business,” Fine said. “It’s fully at their discretion who gets to use their platform, and that sort of censorship violates our first amendment rights.”
Comparisons to Other Ads
The ad in the campaign all depict images of the vibrators. Some include customer reviews on them, along with the slogan: “Toys, for sex.”
One just shows the slogan, while another includes the phrase “you come first.”
The only one with any human body parts shows a man and a woman’s hands touching, holding one of the products, along with a statistic about satisfaction rates that does not include any explicit language.
Dame claims that these ads are not nearly as suggestive as other ads that run on subways. Specifically, ads that are targeted to men. On their website, they point out companies that make medication for erectile dysfunction often use phallic imagery in their ads, but still are allowed to run on the subway.
In other cases, the companies also use suggestive phrases, ideas, or spell out what the product is directly.
Dame also pointed to ads run by the Museum of Sex and a bedsheet company called Brooklinen that include more explicit images and phrases. Those ads are also allowed to run on the subway.
In their lawsuit, Dame claims that the MTA allows ads for breast implants and condoms as well. Dame argues that in comparison, their ads were not as suggestive or graphic.
In a complaint obtained by Vice, Dame says that the MTA tolerates ads that cater to the sexual needs of men, but not women.
“The MTA’s decision to reject Dame’s advertisements reflects no legitimate principle of law. Instead, it reveals the MTA’s sexism, its decision to privilege male interests in its advertising choices, and its fundamental misunderstanding of Dame’s products, which have transformed the sexual health and wellness of more than 100,000 consumers,” the complaint reads.
On its website, Dame goes on to say that this issue also goes beyond basic sexual pleasure. They claim that their products are catered towards health benefits as well.
“Vibrators are regularly prescribed by doctors as a drug-free, affordable solution for low-libido, arousal disorders, and sexual function issues for those recovering from abuse, cancer, and more,” a statement reads. “If vibrator companies can’t advertise, those people won’t know what options are available to them.”
Past Complaints Against MTA
This is not the first time a company has accused the MTA of gender discrimination when it comes to advertising. In 2015, Thinx, a period underwear company, was told by the MTA’s ad agency that its ads depicting a grapefruit and egg yolk were too explicit. Its photos of women wearing the product accompanied by the slogan “underwear for women with periods” were also allegedly rejected.
They went public with this rejection and ended up getting approved to run their ads.
Dame is also taking a very public approach with their situation. The company is encouraging people to use the hashtag #DerailSexism to join a conversation about the MTA’s decision. One user pointed out that while these ads are banned on the subway, women who use public transport are often subject to sexual harassment.
Still, a spokesperson for the MTA defended their decision. They told Reuters that the organization is “constitutionally entitled to draw reasonable content-based distinctions.”
The MTA also says they plan to defend themselves against the lawsuit.
Was an Iowa Official Asked to Resign Over His Love of Tupac? He Says He Doubts It
- Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after sending a mass email to all 4,300 employees encouraging them to celebrate Tupac’s birthday.
- AP news obtained 350 pages of emails between Foxhoven and staff, which included quotes, lyrics, or other references to the rapper that he sent in hopes of uplifting his staff.
- The messages were mostly met with praise, but at least one staff member complained.
- Foxhoven was abruptly asked to resign without an explanation other than the office wanting to move “in a new direction,” but he says he doesn’t believe his love of Tupac was the reason for the decision.
Foxhoven Asked to Resign
A former Iowa official, who many believe was fired over his love of Tupac Shakur, says he thinks his firing had nothing to do with his support of the rapper.
Jerry Foxhoven, the former director of Iowa’s Department of Human Services, was ordered to resign from his job days after he sent a mass email to employees celebrating Tupac.
On Tuesday, the Associated Press issued a report that said it had obtained emails that showed Foxhoven routinely sent messages to employees about Tupac. According to AP News, the agency released 350 pages of email with the words “Tupac” or “2Pac” in then, which were sent to and from Foxhoven’s account during is two-years on the job.
The mass email in question was sent on June 14 and was sent to all 4,300 agent employees. In it, Foxhoven reminded employees that Father’s day was just a few days away and coincided with Tupac’s birthday. He encouraged staff to celebrate by listening to one of his songs and included what he said was an “inspiration quote” from the artist: “Pay no mind to those who talk behind your back, it simply means that you are 2 steps ahead.”
Along with celebrating the rapper’s birthday, Foxhoven also noted that he was celebrating his two-year anniversary as director and thanked the staff for their work.
The following workday, Governor Kim Reynolds’ chief of staff asked him to resign.
Here is the email 66 year old Jerry Foxhoven sent to his staff, the day he was fired.— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
He notes 2Pac’s bday is also Father’s day
“Hard to believe he has been gone for almost 23 years”
By all accounts, a kind email pic.twitter.com/ohSxSVpzJL
Longrunning Love For Tupac
Foxhoven says he had been a huge Tupac fan since the ‘90s. “I’m a 66-year-old white guy from the Midwest who likes rap music, who likes Tupac!” he told NPR.
Foxhoven hosted weekly “Tupac Fridays” to play his music in the office and even celebrated his 65th birthday with Tupac-themed cookies, including ones decorated with the words “Thug Life.”
OMG he had a birthday party and his staff, knowing his love for tupac, brought him tupac themed baked goods 😭 pic.twitter.com/T3Fk76ASo3— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
However, he was also known to quote other celebrities in holiday-themed messages. In other emails, Foxhoven marked the anniversary of the rapper’s death and sent a Valentine’s day message that shared lyrics and quotes about love.
Jerry celebrates Valentine’s Day with, you guessed it: more Tupac quotes for his 4,000 staff at the Iowa Department of Human Services pic.twitter.com/Z208dgYmjT— Tim Mak (@timkmak) July 17, 2019
Foxhoven also allegedly told employees that Tupac’s lyrics inspired him to improve the company’s culture, specifically pointing to lyrics like “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”
Many praised Foxhoven for using his love of hip hop music to lift up the workplace, “I love your 2Pac messages,” one manager wrote June 14. “And the fact that you still send them (despite the haters) makes me appreciate them even more.”
“You are such a breath of fresh air Jerry!” another staff member wrote. “Thanks for all you do, to lift us up and help us feel better about what we do than we have felt in a long time!”
However, not everyone was a fan of the messages. According to AP News, at least one person complaining to lawmakers last year about them.
Motivation For Firing Unclear
Foxhoven’s departure comes after numerous controversies at the agency including difficult contract negotiations with companies that run the Medicaid program, a trial concerning alleged mistreatment of boys at a state juvenile home, and an increase in deaths at a center for the disabled.
While it hasn’t been confirmed that Foxhoven was pushed to leave over various Tupac messages, the timing is making many suspicious. Employees have been speculating that the two must be linked, thought Foxhoven has said they might not be.
In a text message to AP News, he said believed that the governor had made the decision to “go in a different direction” before he sent his mass email. He said he wasn’t given a reason for the resignation request, but added that he doubted Tupac was a factor.
“I think it’s a coincidence,” Foxhoven told The New York Times in a phone interview, adding that the governor’s office had requested a meeting with him days before he sent the email.
“I always try to assume the best of everybody, and I can’t imagine that [the governor] would base her decision on the Tupac incident,” he told NPR. “If this is the reason, I’m really disappointed.”
However, Foxhoven also told NPR that his tenure at the Department of Human Services ended without warning or a chance for an orderly transition. He said he was not even granted a meeting with Reynolds and added that the governor’s chief of staff confiscated his cellphone and ID cards on the spot, ordering him not to return to his office.
Foxhoven also said that many directors do not serve long terms and said that his two-year tenure meant that he had outlasted many of his predecessors. Foxhoven, who had previously worked as a lawyer, professor, and children’s rights advocate, told the Times that he believed Reynolds was simply filling posts with “more political people.”
Pat Garrett, a spokesperson for the governor, told the AP: “As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven and now Gov. Reynolds is looking forward to taking DHS in a new direction.”
According to the AP: “The governor’s office has refused to elaborate on those factors, despite an Iowa law that requires state agencies to release the “documented reasons and rationale” when employees resign instead of being terminated.”
For now, Gerd W. Clabaugh, the director of the Department of Public Health, will serve as interim director of human services.
As for Foxhoven, he told NPR that he was glad his emails are making headlines because it allows for discussions about stereotypes and music. He then noted being especially upset by a recent story about a 17-year-old teen in Arizona who was fatally stabbed by a man who said the victim’s rap music made him feel “unsafe.”
“It’s important for us to break down those stereotypes: if you listen to rap music, you’re a criminal or dangerous. It’s not true at all,” he said., adding that he hoped his situation could lead to “having open discussions about race and what we have in common, instead of what separates us.”
See what others are saying: (AP News) (The New York Times) (NPR)
Bill Pickett to Lil Nas X: The Untold Story of Black Cowboys…
Cowboys are the ultimate Americana. They are an image ingrained in our culture and ever-present in film and television throughout the years. There are old western movies starring John Wayne, the classic TV show The Lone Ranger, and famous outlaws like Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy. What you may not know, however, is some of these classic images have actually whitewashed the real history of cowboys in the American West.
Because while most of our classic references of cowboys are traditionally white men, many cowboys weren’t white. Historians estimate one in four cowboys in the wild west were black. This is the untold story of black cowboys in the American West.
Former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad Discriminated Against Openly Gay Official, Jury Finds
- On Monday, an eight-person jury in Polk County, Iowa found that former governor, Terry Branstad, discriminated against a state official because of his sexual orientation.
- The former official, Chris Godfrey, filed the lawsuit against Branstad as well as other officials in the state of Iowa in January 2012.
- After seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the jury awarding Godfrey $1.5 million for emotional distress.
- Branstad resigned as Governor in May 2017, after he was appointed as the U.S. Ambassador to China, a role he still holds.
A jury in Iowa awarded former state official Chris Godfrey $1.5 million after they determined that he had been discriminated against for his sexual orientation by the governor at the time, Terry Branstad.
Godfrey, who was Iowa’s commissioner of workers’ compensation, filed a lawsuit against Branstad, the state of Iowa, and other state officials in January 2012. Court records show that after seven years, the case finally went to trial in June 2019 and ended six weeks later with the decision to award Godfrey.
The former state official was awarded $1 million for being denied his constitutional due process rights and another $500,000 for the discrimination and retaliation he faced.
How This Happened
Godfrey was appointed Iowa’s workers’ compensation commissioner in 2006 and was reappointed just before Terry Branstad became Iowa’s governor in 2011. Godfrey says that once Branstad came into office, he asked Godfrey to resign from his role. The state official refused and as a result, his salary was cut by almost $40,000.
In Iowa, a commissioner holds their position for 6 years to protect it from partisan politics. However, the governor is able to ask a commissioner to step down from their role and if that request is refused, the governor can reduce the commissioner’s pay. According to local reports, Godfrey was one of 29 appointees Branstad asked to resign when he came into office.
Throughout the lawsuit, Branstad insisted he did not know Godfrey’s sexual orientation and asked him to resign due to concerns that businesses had.
However as the case continued, Branstad later admitted that Godfrey had only received positive reviews.
When the lawsuit went to trial in June 2019, Godfrey’s lawyer argued that he was shunned by Branstad’s office because he was the only openly gay man working as an executive at the time. The attorney noted specific examples, like how Godfrey was not invited to a retreat for Branstad’s department heads and executive staff.
In addition to Godfrey, other officials in Iowa have spoken out about Branstad, like current Polk County Supervisor Matt McCoy.
During the trial, McCoy testified that Branstad’s administration was a “men’s club,” and added that “being gay in 2011 through 2015 was not an easy thing and [Godfrey] was definitely experiencing discrimination.”
As for Godfrey, he explained that the lawsuit for him was about getting justice. “After I had been asked to resign twice, after my pay was slashed, I felt obviously personally attacked, I needed justice,” he told the court.
What happened to Branstad?
As for the former governor, in December 2016 he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to China by President Donald Trump. Branstad was later confirmed in May 2017, after a vote 82 to 13, and he resigned as governor two days later.
According to The Economist, Branstad and China’s ambassador are “old friends,” which is considered a great compliment in Chinese culture. The two met in 1985 during Branstad’s first term as Iowa’s governor. The article notes that in 2015, Iowa’s agricultural exports to China made up $1.4 billion of the $2.3 billion exported from the U.S.