By LINDA MOSS
Seemingly reflecting the national zeitgeist regarding sexual harassment, a story about a Montclair ice cream shop’s controversial logo, which some claimed was offensive to women, went viral and was picked up by media outlets around the world.
The brouhaha over Dairy Air Ice Cream Co., a new business at the corner of Bloomfield Avenue and Park Street, was reported far and wide, by not only local newspapers but New York metro TV stations, the Associated Press, Great Britain’s Daily Mail, the New York Post, New York Magazine, the Boston Herald, USA Today, the Toronto Sun, Food & Wine, and such websites as Delish.com and The Daily Dot. Michael Bierut, a Yale University graphic design professor, even tweeted about the logo.
The debate and controversy began when Amy Tingle, owner of The Creative Caravan in Montclair, posted an open letter on Facebook to Dairy Air’s owners. She blasted the design of their logo, which depicts a cartoon cow sporting blond braids and a jaunty French beret, with a curvy, very human-looking rear end jutting out. The cow’s butt has a heart with the initials “DA,” for Dairy Air, within it.
“It is offensive and sickening,” Tingle wrote of the logo. “A hyper-sexualized, obviously female cow with her ass upended and poking through a circle, tail raised up, waiting for what? I’m not sure, but I do know that I am repulsed and offended.”
Tingle – and many agreed with her criticism – drew a connection between the logo and the way women are treated and perceived in America.
“This kind of marketing scheme is the reason we currently have a sexual predator in the White House,” Tingle wrote, asking the owners to revise the logo.
Last Saturday Tingle held a meeting at her studio on South Fullerton Avenue for anyone interested in discussing the issues surrounding the logo, whether they found it sexist and offensive or just thought it was funny. The press was barred from that discussion, and Tingle this week declined to comment on the meeting.
In the wake of Tingle’s letter Dairy Air’s manager, Natalie DeRosa, said on Facebook that the shop planned to change the logo, to make it more “fun” and less “sexy.”
On social media some accused the logo’s critics of being too politically correct, arguing that the logo was meant to be light-hearted and that it was only a cartoon.
Eva Goldfarb, a Montclair State University professor of public health, said that in a year marked by men in Hollywood, Washington, fashion and the tech industry being accused of gross and pervasive sexual harassment it’s no surprise that Dairy Air’s logo struck a chord with women, angering many.
“We are in a new cultural environment,” said Goldfarb, whose area of expertise is human sexuality.
“For decades women’s bodies and the sexualization of women’s bodies has been used to sell products without comment. ‘Sex sells’ has just been something that we’ve all said and repeated and it hasn’t been thought about deeply about what that means and what the deeper message now means. … We’re now looking at what’s going on behind the scenes and what is happening to women in industry and in politics and Hollywood and in media and the implications of that for everyone, for women in particular, but for everyone.”
Dairy Air’s owners probably didn’t realize the implications of their logo, Goldfarb said.
“I think there was an obliviousness,” she said. “When you sexualize women’s bodies, it’s a continuum that goes to our ability to sexually assault them because we dehumanize them. And so it’s not about an ice cream store, it’s about a whole culture and how we sexualize and objectify women’s bodies.”
Tingle’s partner contacted Carol J. Adams, author of “The Pornography of Meat,” through Facebook to ask her to weigh in on the controversial logo. Adams’ book includes photos of product ads that she believe reflect misogyny.
On Facebook Adams posted that the logo “participates in rape-culture normalization of sexual exploitation,” “makes the cow’s suffering in being both pregnant and lactating disappear,” “makes her a willing victim,” “implies that females, human or non-human want to be seen as sexy body parts,” “all the puns ‘udder,’ ‘cheeky’ are ways to minimize your concerns and let the dominant attitude to women (and cows) prevail,” and “it participates in misogyny, in the depiction of the feminized cow, parading her body, and in the reporting on this, and attacks on women like you.”