This past week I was having lunch with a group of machinery product reps. We were talking about new machinery introductions when one asked me if I’d ever been to a European farm machinery show.
The answer was, I’ve been to farm machinery shows on three different continents at one time or another. We started talking about the differences in style, most notably in Europe. The use of female models to help display machinery is much more common there, while it’s rare at a farm show here—at least in an overt way.
Our conversation eventually moved on to other topics, but after getting back to my office a couple of days later, I noticed the use of female models at the Lamma farm show in England had actually sparked a Twitter controversy. Agrifac had hired a model agency to provide a few young women to populate their booth at the show to help promote the brand’s sprayers.
Now, granted virtually anything from the mention of A&W hamburgers to a picture of diesel smoke seems to invite criticism from a host of Tweeps these days. Most of them should be ignored. But this one caught my attention partly because of the conversation I’d had two days earlier.
And it also hit home because within our office we had the same controversy a year ago. After posting a blog that was intended to provide a flavour of the last Agritechnica show in Germany, I included an image of a model at the Zetor tractor display. She was fully clothed, wearing a spandex body suit that matched the brand color. Walk through a mall these days and by far the majority of women are wearing half of that outfit: spandex leggings. So I wasn’t too concerned about the propriety of it.
Nevertheless, controversy broke out in our office anyway. Some were offended. Others were afraid that something like the Agrifac Twitter rage would occur. Who needs that? So we took down the image. Points of view had clearly changed since the 2007 Agritechnica. Back then we actually ran an image on the front page of the magazine of the New Holland display that included two showgirl-style models.
It seems just the idea of having female models present is what now offends. Not what they’re wearing. It’s a sign of our hyper-opinionated times, I guess. Remember the movie “Goodbye Girl”? Richard Dreyfus’ girlfriend was working as a model at a car show, and that seemed like a perfectly acceptable thing then. But so were leisure suits and disco. It was the ‘70s, right? And it’s a new century now.
That said, the question needs to be asked, why are so many now so uptight about this? (Yes, I have heard of the “Me Too” movement, thank you.) But if the models aren’t lewd or obscene and are earning a paycheque for cheerfully interacting with show goers and helping draw attention to the brand, what is the harm? It’s a thing that’s been done for decades at virtually kind of every trade event in every industry, including automotive and machinery. Have we really become that Victorian?
Do we all need to just lighten up a little bit, or am I suffering from an out-dated, post-Victorian sense of propriety? What are your thoughts on this? Let me know—NO. On second thought, don’t let me know. Just remember next time you see any woman at a trade display to cover your children’s eyes and scurry away. They might inadvertently catch a glimpse of a bare ankle.