Take a school uniform-clad Hollywood star, superimpose over her the logo of your law students’ association, add in some text encouraging female law students to “network” their way to the top rather than follow traditional pathways, and you have a recipe for trouble. Especially when you factor in the power of social media to make such things go viral…
The aforementioned image – showing Blake Lively in character as school girl Serena van der Woodsen from US TV show gossip girl – appears in the latest edition of Lex, a student magazine published by the New Zealand Law Students Association (NZLSA). It has since been re-posted on US-based Facebook page ‘Wipeout Sexism on FB’, eliciting some angry responses.
One states: “I was not aware that see-through shirts and cleavage was the trademark of a good lawyer in New Zealand. Apparently I have a lot to learn about their judicial system…”
In a damage limitation bid, NZLSA president Seamus Woods – who was not involved in the ad’s design – has entered the ‘Wipeout Sexism on FB’ thread, writing: “The advertisement was intended to be eye-catching, like any advertising; was not intended to be taken seriously; and had a target audience of students, which is perhaps a more robust audience than usual.”
Meanwhile, ex-Lex editor George McLellan has claimed the image was a satire of a 2010 ad by Lexis Nexis that was criticised at the time for being sexist.
The duo are now facing problems on the home front, where a number of leading figures – including New Zealand’s former attorney-general Margaret Wilson – have taken time out of their busy schedules to publicly slam the NZLSA. Yesterday Wilson described the ad as “disrespectful of women law students who in my experience work so hard to achieve their law degrees”.