The billboard erected on the site of our local petrol (gas) station, directly across the road from our local supermarket, regularly promoted ginormous versions of trendy products.
As kids we grew up absorbing whatever images it presented to our eyes every time our parents filled up their car with petrol or went shopping for food.
In other words, at least twice a week, we drank in its advertising message, whether it was aimed at us or not.
As with all advertising it wasn’t something that I consciously thought about while I was growing up. Of course there would be the times when the billboard displayed some huge glowing version of the latest toy or movie that made it the topic of full-blown playground conversation, but apart from that, though it was always seen, it wasn’t generally spoken about.
So common place had that petrol station Billboard become that as I progressed through my early teenage years it became a local meeting place for many us. ‘Meet you under the Boards at 12.00’.
Then one day in my late teens, the Billboard began hosting an image that became the highlight of every teenage boys dreams.
It began with a larger than life set of female breasts in a skimpy bra, accompanied by an incredibly flat, tanned and well toned stomach that flowed flawlessly into extremely high cut bikini underwear on a model with no hair and whose legs were amputated at the thigh.
At that size, as you can imagine, the female form supposedly hidden beneath the flimsy fabric of the underwear, was incredibly detailed.
The caption plastered at the bottom of the semi naked woman was “Bite Me”.
Bite Me Indeed!!!!!
After a month of being confronted with this image and hearing the boys go on about it, my friends and I began to avoid the Billboard.
It no longer served its purpose to us as meeting place.
None of us wanted to be seen hanging out beneath this male image of female perfection.
We soon found however, that although we had chosen to avoid being associated with the Billboard, we could not on the whole avoid either seeing it, or having to deal with the comments it instigated.
We all needed petrol and we all needed groceries and we could attain neither without confronting the larger than life female anatomy that glowed like a false religious beacon over both the petrol station and the grocery store.
Worse still, both the petrol station and the grocery store were constantly lit up of a night-time to prevent theft.
This meant that the Billboard took on even more of an ethereal glow and became more noticeable in the wee hours of the night.
After two months of being forced to confront this image my friends and I decided to do something about it.
We formed a little gang of women ranging in age from 16 to 40 (yes for those of you who are astute this included both mothers and daughters) and we began hollowing out eggs and replacing their contents with paint.
We’d figured out that, due to the perpetual lighting up of the Billboard, we’d have to approach it from a distance, this meant finding a way to deface the Billboard from behind the relative safety of the petrol bowsers metres away from the board itself.
After a few false starts, (we’d tried paint bombs (balloons filled with paint)earlier in the week but found that our strike rate with this method was so poor that the next day our efforts where hardly visible)so we settled on eggs.
We made up a healthy supply of ammunition and planted ourselves in the dead of night behind the bowsers.
As the first few eggs hit their mark we cheered on the splurges of purple and red paint that began to spread across and smear that ‘perfect’ image.
Needless to say we lobbed each and every single egg we had (around 40 after several nights of planning) at that Billboard.
By the time we’d finished our rainbow of colors had infiltrated the Billboards image and turned it into an abstract art work that masked its former delineations.
Gone were the barely covered, larger than life breasts. Gone were the hairless thighs with their perfect groin. Gone were the indentations beneath the thinly veiled fabric that highlighted the model’s female genitalia.
We left that night covered in a form of female satisfaction of our very own.
The loss of the Billboard was lamented loudly by some men who suddenly began spouting about the ‘danger of graffiti.
It made the local newspaper and even induced a flurry of calls on the local radio stations chat line.
Once the dust had settled it became clear that our actions were supported by many of the quietly spoken mothers within our community who began to express, at the suggestion that the board be reinstated with a new version of the old poster, their discomfort at having to expose their children to the initial Billboard poster.
That particular poster was never reinstated and not long after a poster promoting a new kids movie appeared in its place.
This was in the late 80’s. Now such advertising imagery is accepted as being common place and removing it is no longer as simple as throwing a few paint filled eggs at a Billboard.
More is the pity.
But it hasn’t always been that way and I think that is the thing that we need to remember.
The recent influx on our TV’s and in our magazines of unattainable and unrealistic representations of women hasn’t always been so.
It is a form of female representation that needs to continue to be challenged.
We simply need to find a new way to get out message across.