A provocative Vancouver Whitecaps FC video featuring a body-painted female model concludes with the question 'Where will you be March 19?' in reference to the team's Major League Soccer debut against Toronto FC Saturday.
The answer for Anne Giardini, a prominent Vancouver forestry executive and novelist, is nowhere close to Empire Field, the Whitecaps' home stadium. The daughter of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning author Carol Shields sent an e-mail to executives with the Whitecaps and premier partner Bell Canada Enterprises Sunday, asking them to explain the video, which has gone viral with more than 33,000 hits on YouTube.
Tuesday, Bell responded and said that the Whitecaps overstepped their bounds. In the video, the model has a Whitecaps jersey painted onto her body, including the Bell logo across her chest.
"We understand that they're an exuberant new team eager to get the word out, but this marketing effort clearly didn't fit with Bell's expectations," said Marie-Eve Francoeur, an associate director of media relations. "We've spoken to the Whitecaps about this issue and they clearly understand our position."
Giardini, who copied journalists on her e-mail, writes that she is speaking to a group of women at a national conference next month, and intends to talk about the video in her presentation, including any responses from the Whitecaps and Bell. Reached late Tuesday afternoon, she said she has not heard back from either party.
"I can tell you what young women who are interested in soccer look like," Giardini wrote, referencing her 16-year-old daughter, who plays community and school soccer. "They are fully dressed in a jersey, shorts and pads. They are sweaty, muddy, active, focused, exhilarated and keen to win.
"They are not passive. They are not painted. They are not a blank canvas for some kind of perverse sports fantasy. They don't roll the ball suggestively against their necks. They don't bat kohl-lined eyes into the cameras that track their efforts on the field."
Kim Jackman, director of marketing for the Whitecaps, said the promotional video was intended to demonstrate the passion soccer fans have for their sport, including the tradition of body-painting and how it is done. She said it was edited specifically to be an "artistic expression" and that it was not released until female members of the Whitecaps staff had provided feedback on its appropriateness.
"My perspective is that it does not objectify women and our intent wasn't to objectify women," said Jackman, who is a mother and recreational athlete. "[Objectification]is in the eye of the beholder."
Giardini said there are "great images" of women in soccer, many of which will be seen at the 2015 FIFA Women's World Cup in Canada, and that the Whitecaps video "displaces" those visuals. She said she would "love to be a supporter" of the club but now has doubts that their values align.
"Bell would have corporate policies on what would be allowed up on people's walls and [computer]screens," said Giardini, the president of Weyerhaeuser Company Limited. "I would be interested to know whether [the video]falls inside or outside of those guidelines."
Jackman said the images would be allowed in the Whitecaps' offices.