For Heavens’ Sake, Why? — Axe, Sexism and Space Advocacy


As you recall, I wrote a post a couple of weeks ago that featured the “Nothing Beats An Astronaut” commercials for the space contest being held by Axe, makers of men’s (and women’s) body wash, shampoo, body spray, etc.

In support of the contest, which will award suborbital spaceflights to winners, Axe has also created another advertising campaign with the tagline “Leave A Man. Come Back A Hero.” The implication of the ads is that going to space would help the winner get women.

Apparently, there are those who believe that the campaign is sexist.

These, presumably, are also the sort of people who believe that fire is hot and water is wet.

Arguably, there is merit to the allegation that Axe, a product which sells itself in an arguably sexist way as being able to help guys score chicks, is also being sexist in selling space as being able to help guys score chicks.

Further, they argue, Axe is downplaying the real important factors of spaceflight by focusing on this sexist angle. Where’s the discussion of science and spin-offs?

The fact that both sides are completely in the right speaks to the greatest challenge in space advocacy.

Yes, Axe is being sexist. As odd as it is to find myself defending Axe, so what? Their entire business model is aimed at men, and aimed at helping men get women. You can’t be surprised that a contest they are sponsoring supports their business model. Nine years ago, 7 UP offered a similar contest. I would imagine view people would be surprised that they used the contest to try to convince people to drink 7 UP.

And, here’s the thing, Axe isn’t wrong. There’s ample anecdotal evidence that back in the olden days of spaceflight, women might, in fact, have been scored via the mystique of spaceflight.

Like it or not, but Axe has a set focus that guides their business. They’ve applied that focus to spaceflight. They’ve depicted spaceflight in a way that reflects their focus.

Saying they are wrong to do so is like saying that deep-field astronomers are wrong for not talking more about the benefits of microgravity science, or that orbital science principal investigators are wrong for not talking about the potential of space solar power, or that the space-based alternative energy community is wrong for not talking about the lessons that could be learned from boots-on-the-ground planetary geology, or that human exploration advocates are wrong for not talking about how astronautics can help you get babes.

As author Douglas Adams once wrote, “Space is big.”

Big enough, in fact, that it can be many things to many people. Why should we explore space? It depends on who you ask. There are countless space advocacy groups, and equally countless reasons to advocate for spaceflight. It makes it an incredibly difficult thing to explain why we should explore space when the answer depends on whose doing the talking and who they’re talking to.

And that may be the best reason for exploration that there is — that space offers so much potential, so much promise, that no one group can explain everything space can enable us to do.

Including, but not limited to, scoring chicks.

Cottage Industry

20121224-154038.jpgLooking back, my disappearance from blogging also syncs up roughly with starting a full-time job this summer. Since the job was only starting as a temporary contract position, and I didn’t want people to stop helping me look for something permanent, I didn’t say a whole lot about it publicly until things settled down somewhat. I guess now that I’ve left, it’s about as settled down as it’s going to get, so I can catch up a little bit.

Back in early July, I started working as a marketing communications specialist for Cottage Senior Living, which operates 10 assisted living facilities in Alabama, Tennessee and Mississippi, along with The Commons, Huntsville’s first 55+ Active Adult Community.

It was, to put it mildly, an interesting experience. I don’t know that my career has ever taken me into a world quite so unknown to me, and the family that founded CSL were early pioneers in the area of senior living, so I had a unique opportunity to learn about that domain from someone who was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about it, and who had a singular vision.

But, to be honest, one of the things I loved most about the job was the toys. During my original interview, they wanted me to demonstrate my design and layout abilities, so they had me put together a quick dummy newspaper ad. It was the first time I’d played with print design tools in years, and the first time I’d done newspaper-style design in over a decade. I probably worked a little longer and harder on it than I needed to simply because I was having so much fun. And when I was hired, designing for newspapers was a regular part of the job. It was a really great experience to get to go back and use skills that I’d not dusted off in 10 years one more time, and to be applying them in new ways. And newspaper ads were only a fraction of it — I got to script radio ads and help plan a video, among other projects. It was very special to me that, on the last day I worked there, I had my design work published in The Huntsville Times, where I started my professional career, for the first time in 20 years. That was just neat.

I also particularly enjoyed my work promoting The Commons. As a new project, there was a good bit of room for some creativity in planning an advertising campaign, and, when I pitched my concepts, I have never felt more like Darren Stevens on “Bewitched.” The Commons team was great folks, and I really liked working with them.

Dear Starbucks Marketing Folks

Dear Starbucks Marketing Folks,

I doubt I could be the only person in the world who sees your new coffee and thinks, “This is not the greatest coffee in the world.”

Just wanted to make sure that’s the message you’re wanting to send.