Student starts petition to fight sexist advertising

By Mitchell Scuzzarella


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 [email protected].