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May 18, 2016

Student starts petition to fight sexist advertising


University of Massachusetts student Paul Gels has created a petition against  what he refers to as “sexist advertising” by travel agent group Campus Vacations Inc.

The advertisement, available online on the company’s website, promotes their upcoming “Snowjam 2013” event. The advertisement depicts a young man, modestly dressed in ski attire being surrounded by bikini-clad young women.

Gels, in an event he describes as “ironic”, was handed a flyer depicting the advertisement while he was tabling for a Planned Parenthood affiliate known as “Vox.”

When he was handed the advertisement by a representative of the company, Campus Vacations Inc., he said he immediately saw it as “blatant sexism”.

Gels, a junior marketing major, stated that his initial reaction was disbelief.

“I thought it was a joke,” he said, describing the advertisement as “disgusting.” He said that the advertisement perpetuates “a society where women are just objects for (men’s) pleasure.”

As a Women’s Studies minor, Gels decided to turn his initial disgust in to action, and was prompted by the lessons learned in a particular course to form a petition in hopes of making a difference.

The class known as “Gender and Technology” is taught by Professor Banu Subramaniam and, according to the UMass Women Gender and Sexuality Studies course guide, it “explores the multiple ways in which technology and gender shape each other”.

As part of his class work, Gels ultimately decided to submit his petition with a goal of reaching 500 signatures.

The petition, entitled “Tell Campus Vacations: Stop the Sexist Ads.” is accompanied by an explanation from Paul Gels and an outline of the message to be sent to representatives.

Citing the dress of the young women of the ad in comparison to the young man, Gels argues online at the petition site that the ad “puts forth the idea that women are merely sex objects” and that the ad seems to state that “women going on these ski trips have no interest in actually skiing and more of an interest in meeting men”.

Director of Marketing and representative for the ad’s company, Campus Vacations Inc., Aaron David said, in an email about Gels’ petition that the company did not intend for this reaction.

“We apologize if anyone has found our image to be offensive in any way,” David wrote. “We definitely respect the opinions of those that petitioned and will be more sensitive to the issue for all future designs.”


With over 350 signatures as of the evening of Dec. 3 , the petition has attracted attention from a number of students, whose comments are shown along the bottom of the petition.

One commenter, a Maura Coyle of Amherst, commented that “[women] are half of the human race, time to start giving us some decency and warm skiing clothes”.

Another commenter, Mikolaj Denderski, from Poland, said, “we need to stop the culture of sexual violence”.The petition is still available online, and Gels hopes now that it will prompt a “conversation about sexist advertising”. Offering advice to students,  Gels stated at the end of his interview that “We all have a voice, when you see something like this, don’t be a bystander.”

Mitchell Scuzzarella an be reached at

14 Responses to “Student starts petition to fight sexist advertising”
  1. hm says:

    i’ve found there is usually one and only one main reason for males to major in women’s studies/get really into feminism….

  2. Acacia says:


  3. Alexander says:

    hm — “i’ve found there is usually one and only one main reason for males to major in women’s studies/get really into feminism….”

    Yes, the main reason is because they are intelligent enough to see wrongs that need righting. Wrongs such as your comment. You can’t justify your implications just because the student written about in the article (Gels) is male. That kind of thinking is the type of thing he (and many other males such as myself) are trying to rectify.

  4. Jack Sullivan says:

    I get the viewpoint that it is sexist advertising. But how does the “culture of sexual violence” become a part of or get created by this dopey flyer?

  5. Alex says:

    Well I think this Gels is an idiot. If he wanted to really stick to the this Campus Vacations Inc. he should have ignored it. I never would have looked at the ad had this article had never been written. People who are offended by the ad wouldn’t have bought their package anyway. The existence of this article only promotes this unknown company; it serves to brings people’s attention to their product. I never would have heard of this company without this article and I would have never seen the ad without it. If you want to promote real change you need to target the companies with national audiences. I have seen way worse examples of sexist advertising in national media. Exposure can only hurt companies that have a reputation to protect. Smaller ones are just trying to get their name out there, and for them any exposure is good.

  6. Howee says:

    Lighten up, Francis.

  7. Acacia says:

    What is important here, Alex, is that the sexism is being brought to the attention of those who may think that anyone offended by it need to “lighten up”, when in fact this article perfectly illustrates how far we have yet to come in terms of treating women as more than sex objects.

  8. Tim says:

    “women going on these ski trips have no interest in actually skiing and more of an interest in meeting men”.

    I think Gels is missing a key point here. Bikini Skiing is a real thing. They do it in Colorado, and its not all that uncommon there.

  9. Um says:

    Alex, I think it is a bit ridiculous to call Gels an “idiot.” Calling for change is admirable, whether on a nationwide level or just on campus.

  10. alex says:

    Calling for change is admirable, but I think his tactic was dumb. Without understanding the nature of the problem, major players involved, and having a clear goal any effort to bring about the changes are futile. The powerful always stand to lose from public exposure, the weak only benefit. I think this company is weak/unknown, and this article benefited them. Advertising gives people power through exposure, if you want to limit the effects of it don’t it attention.

    Lack of organization, defined goals direction, planned political stratgey, discipline and exicution are the reasons many nice sentiments don’t do anything. That’s why Occupy Wall Street movement failed and the Tea Partiers are around. Attempting anything less is just good gesture. It’s nice but ineffective. Anything worth doing is worth doing right. It upsets me that so many people today have nice ideas but are horribly ineffective at achieving thier goals. If you want to understand how to achieve change through protest read MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I do not applaud Gels for believing that women should not be treated as sex objects; that is just human decency. That would be like giving a gold star to everyone who thought slavery was wrong. What I do applaud Gels on is actually taking an initiative on this. So many of us sit around discussing and debating these issues yet very few of us actually act on what we believe in. I sit in class everyday and listen to students (and professors) talk about what bothers them and analyze pieces in the media and point out flaws, but the minute they leave the classroom, everything they just said disappears until the next class (and I as well am not without fault). We talk incessantly, but we never act. Do not look at this as an issue on whether or not the ad is objectifying women, because it is. Look at this as inspiration; finally someone is acting rather than talking. We have talked and analyzed and discussed objectification for far too long. Discussion is over, now it’s time for change.

  12. Lawl says:

    This dude is going to have a tough time working in marketing…

  13. rob says:

    Sorry, I forgot about freedom of speech.

  14. Kim Lentz says:

    I have been offended by sexist advertising for a long time. It’s offensive and degrades women as objects. I don’t understand why more women don’t put up a fight against this. Anyone know of a group I could join to help fight on this cause?

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