We all know what I am talking about. The now inocuous bikini clad "honeys" at any and every cannabis event. They will, without fail, hand you a flyer, as you stare at their cleavage.
In THIS article by Ann Friedman in The Cut published July 22, 2013, we see they are not wrong for thinking that. And the real problem, the objectification of women, has a perpetual negative effect on the Industry. The article voices the exact same concerns and comments that my wife has every time we attend these events. And again I cannot say that I disagree. From an outsider's perspective, or a woman's for that matter, it would seem that a large portion of the industry is male-orientated. Therefore the representation of women is, for the most part, pretty scandalous. This is pretty much a fact. HOWEVER, I feel that the fog that hovers over the industry (both legally and professionally) does skew ones view as to why things are this way. Here is my take on the situation.
The article that confirmed what we had been fearing: we look like a bunch of idiots.
OK, first let's address the obvious; there is an incredibly unbalanced ratio of men to women in this industry. This could make the industry seem very sexist to anybody walking into a Cannabis trade show for the first time. The first women that anybody walking in would see are going to be the scantily clad promo girls falling around in their high heels and smiling through a pound of caked-on, make-up trying to be the "faces" of companies they know absolutely nothing about. It would be a mistake to regard these young ladies as the female component of the Marijuana Industry. On the contrary I find that if you take the small pool of females that are actively working in the Industry, they are likely to have a remarkably higher percentage of competent professionals compared to the male side of the industry. I will get into the lack of professionalism and chaos that many confuse as a business model later, but I do think it is important to note that the women of the Medical Cannabis Industry are there. They are not the prominent figures. They are more likely to be involved in the legal side of running a business or heading a foundation of some sort or doing client relations for a laboratory. They do the jobs that the men in this industry cannot do, organizing, planning, apologizing... while the public facing image for the industry is full of men having fun telling promo girls to smile more while they smoke weed.
Professionals such as Hilary Bricken and Jessica Billingsley, Attorney's and COO's, founders of companies respectively, are often overlooked when people take a broad look at the industry. And that's a shame. But this is not their, nor the skantily clad promo models fault. Looking at this industry and seeing the apparent sexism, it is important to keep in mind that sexism has always been around, in many other industries. Both male and female-orientated. Sexism is something that has, and will continue untill we are comfortable enough to have a female President. Some of the first examples that spring to mind are cars and motorcycle adverts with someone's daughter spread eagle on the hood. The demand for that type of shot far outweighs the fact that her sequinned hotshorts are scratching the hell out of the hood as she tries and most likely fails at posing like the famous model she has been told she can be. Whether she is naiive or delusional is no-one but her fathers concern, the world keeps spinning and men keep thinking the car/motorcycle looks way better that way.
Big fastfood chains have been culprits too.
Men's anti-perspirant adverts have caused quite a few stirs over the years too (think AXE Bodyspray). But aside from the globally known term "sex sells" and the thousands of examples any of us could spew out at the drop of a hat, I think we should look at WHY the industry is this way and how it can be changed so that it can finally be respected and understood. So that the herb may finally be considered to be as recreational as any other social inhancer like alchohol or meth. I kid about meth but you get my point. Many other substances are socially accepted and controlled by the government to the joy of its's citizens. So Marijuana coud only benefit from it. The pot industry is already changing, but it is in it's teenage years and it is confused to say the least.
Cannabis is illegal. Federally. Duh. But the majority of the public have come to terms with it's effect, benefits and it's presence in the mainstream as shown by the Gallup Poll of 2011. The great work of 18 states to pioneer the legalization of Cannabis has made a huge difference in the public opinion. As was once the case with alchohol, making something that is wildly popular illegal has a very negative effect, no matter how good the intention. Legitimacy is vital to any substance and it's surrounding industry's quality and integrity. The Medical Mairijuana Industry does not have this luxury yet. But the tide is changing...hence the confusion. Make no mistake it is a massive industry. from $1.7 billion in 2011 to an expected $9 billion in 2016, it is growing at a rapid rate. The lack of governmental control and taxation has been prolonging the inevitable. A proffesional, respected industry where, for a lack of a better word, Massive amounts of money is to be made. For the country, as well as the many professionals that have suffered through the loss of their income and savings; to a system that refuses to think logically about something as "harmless" as pot. There is an upside however. More and more enterpeneurs are taking the risk and investing in our industry. A lot of the big money going into tech and IT believe it or not. No matter how intelligent or qualified they may be though, they are finding out the frustrations of working in a legal grey area with an uncertain future. What makes me hopeful is that they are bringing a legitimacy to the industry that has not been seen yet. As I mentioned before many of the companies confuse sitting at a trade show once a year and getting a big breasted girl to promote them as a business plan. But with the newcomers comes a fresh new perspective that the level of professionalism is far behind where it needs to be. “The marketing and branding bar in this industry is set so low, it’s insane,”Says Brendan Kennedy of Leafly in THIS Forbes article. He is right too.The simple fact that these promo girls are dominating the outward image of the industry is ridiculous. The marketing materials are archaic and the graphic treatments are not far from a six year old's first attempt at photoshop. But that is why the stylish and progressive brands like KIVA Confections and CW Analytical are being noticed.
More-over the illegality strangles the Industry from blossoming as the outside world looks in and sees only the people that they don't relate to. They see the crazy activists and hippies, they see the wonky tattooed promo girls and they see the mess. They know that there are activists and brave people speaking of the benefits of pot, but they don't feel at home in the crowd cheering these people on. They don't want to take the risk of being associated with that. They don't want to be seen in that light. "I honestly avoid the majority of Cannabis expos these days. When I walk in and see girls with green fishnets, pot leaf bikinis and "nurse" hats walking around I feel ashamed of the industry I work in. There's nothing wrong with a beautiful woman selling a product or speaking knowledgably about the dispensary she works for, but the over-sexed and plain trashy image these women are asked to portray is not going to help the medical marijuana industry to be seen as legitimate. When that's the image you're affronted with as a woman looking at the industry from the outside in, it's not welcoming, and it's not going to gain the support of most women I know." Says Emily, client relations manager at CW Analytical Laboratories. The people that are there at the events don't give a damn. They are having a great time, but I cannot imagine my suited and booted financial advisor cousin coming to one of these things and feeling at home at all. No matter how much weed he smokes in the comfort of his own home after a long day of work. And this is what keeps the ladies away. As Ann Friedman says, the girls feel safer coming up to a booth where there are girls but they by no means feel like they are at a whiskey festival and "Even when you’re a hot kush girl, you don’t quite belong".
It is and has been and will be forever a massive part of the internet. Hot Women. That is undeniable now that it is so easy for all of us dorky guys to get millions of pictures of beautiful women infront of us with the click of a button. Everybody does it and some of the world's most popular sites like The Chive thrive on it. So in my humble opinion, it is on us to slowly but surely move toward a more professional image, and one that is more mature. One that does not deny the fact that men LOVE to look beautiful women and one that can grow up and let some women in. We love them. So why are we alienating them by having this bullshit image that scares all the best ones off? If we want girls to be comfortable here and interact and stand with us we cannot wait for weed to be legalized and go through the same 30-year process of lettng women in. We have to embrace them as business partners, allies and make them feel comfortable working here and living here. There is nothing wrong, I say, with a website that shows beautiful women. The way the Marijuana Industry, and countless others, have shown this love for their women and their hobbies combined (bikes and babes etc.) is to slap the trashiest, cheapest "model" they can get to wear as little as possible on their products. At The Nug the guys have a different approach. Women love looking at beautiful women too. Every Cosmopolitan has more images of girls in bikinis than the best issue of GQ I could find. But they don't want to be seen as a "Stoner Girl" if the promo girls are the ones popping into your mind when you hear it. And frankly neither do we. We just like girls that smoke weed and want to be accesible to them. These are the girls of our dreams, not the promo girls that the girls of our dreams think we want them to be. Again I say that the industry is simply confused right now.There are many opportunities to participate in, and profit from, and I personally welcome every woman that understands that they can only help the Industry. We need women on board SO THAT weed can be legalized, unless we want to wait a really long time for our professional friends and girlfriends to feel comfortable as a marijuana user. Just my opinion.
With professional models not wanting to taint their portfolios with the sleazy image that they see here, it is difficult for us to get girls who actually know how to model. It's really tough and the results show it. If the above images are fine by you then so be it, but personally I think the world would be a much better place the day we get Adriana Lima smoking a big blunt in her pajama pants on a sofa. That can only be achievable if everybody makes a real effort to professionalize the way we conduct these photoshoots and raise the bar for the quality of the results. So that the girls can be proud of a shoot that they have done, not worried that they look like a bunch of hungover college kids who got the McDonalds snatched from there hands and replaced with bongs as soon as they woke up.
If this image was in a fashion magazine the comments might be "ooh that's so artsy" but if it where a Cannabis advert it may be seen differently, demaning even. The Cannabis industry is still trying to shake the "sleazy" image that we have given ourselves by not setting the bar for creative direction and branding high enough. See examples below.
Without further delay, the real girl, the down girl, the smoker girl that melts your heart and stiffens the rest. The Nugette...
Just your average girl, looking good smoking weed.
We just love women like everybody else, check out our not-so-scandalous but still absolutely awesome Nugette of the Month: Eppie Brittingham HERE
Rihanna nails the classy, sexy, bad-to-the-bone, thing every time. It's not easy.
You don't get more real than that.