Urban Outfitters is selling this “Dirty Hand Sanitizer” as a $7 stocking stuffer. Do the tag lines, “Wait – was that slutty?” and “A gentle, reassuring solution,” reinforce the notion that being a slut is bad and that doing naughty things makes you morally unclean? The label features only a woman. It’s sans man, which further implies that only a woman can be a “slut.” But wait – it’s supposed to be a joke, it’s made for people who get the joke, it’s ironic!
What if the hand sanitizer was sold at a religious book store or Walmart? Would that change the connotation of the message? Does the phrasing seem ironic and tongue-and-cheek because of the source not because of the words themselves? How do we distinguish between what is offensive and what is not? Is it the intention? Is it the subject matter? If a woman makes a rape joke is it less offensive than if a man does? Or are rape jokes just plain offensive? If they are, then what is the difference between a joke about sexual assault and a joke about women being dirty sluts? Girls kill themselves, millions of women are stigmatized, even more are actually oppressed around the world and deprived of basic human rights because of the simple, absurd idea that women become morally and physiologically contaminated when they become sexual. Is a hand sanitizer allowed to undermine centuries of oppression and more decades to come just because it is sold at Urban Outfitters? I don’t know. I really don’t. What do you think? Harmless in our culture? Harmful elsewhere?
[Lead Image Via. Urban Outfitters]