Football and Mail-Order Brides?

I’ve been watching a lot of ESPN lately, seeing as though I’m home for the holidays and bowl games are in full swing. Really, this has little to do with today’s subject, except for that a particular commercial (appealing to ESPN’s primarily male viewership) repeatedly plays on the channel. It’s a commercial for a dating(?) website called AnastasiaDate… and it disturbs me. Here is its extended version:

For obvious reasons, I’m disturbed. But before I start my feminist rant, I’d like to explain exactly what AnastasiaDate and websites of its kind are all about. I’m assuming you’ve heard of mail-order brides before, maybe on a TV show or thrown around jokingly in a friendly conversation. That’s exactly what this is: an online marketplace for international brides. “Western” men can shop for “love” from a selection of typically under-developed countries such as Russia or Colombia. This particular site advertises the ability to video chat and get to know foreign women before making a purchasing decision. Many such sites offer “marriage tours” around the country of a man’s choice where they can shop in-person. Creating an online profile is entirely free for the international women and the agencies even provide the women photo shoots for (suggestive) profile pictures. However, American men pay top dollar to find “love” via mail-order bride services.

After watching a Lisa Ling documentary, I understand that women’s motivations for registering for these services vary: some to escape poverty, some to meet men “different” from those in their homeland, some to truly find love. Likewise, it’s hard to judge the intentions of every man trying to find an international bride. It’s easy to assume filthy men seeking “a good time” or a trophy wife are the primary users, but certainly some of these men are genuinely seeking love. Regardless of the motivation, here’s what I don’t like about these sites and commercials like the one above: women become objects behind a display case, appealing and intriguing and perhaps accessible with proper resources ($$$).

While the sites are completely voluntary for both parties and safeguards are typically put in place by the companies to prevent human trafficking, these women are still items up for sale. Take Anastasia, our Russian model friend from the commercial; she’s gorgeous and sexy and graceful, we won’t deny that. Without saying a word, she shows us she’s fun and pleasant to be around, she likes to ride bikes and drink wine and sip tea, she’s got great style. It wouldn’t take much to lust after Anastasia… and that’s coming from a female. But she still seems more like a doll than a human to me, no matter how the ad tries to personify her. With all that is depicted about her, men could easily say, “I’d love to have her on my arm,” or “I love her smile.” But could they truthfully say, “I love her”?

It’s nothing new. I’m not the first to argue about this topic and I certainly won’t be the last. For decades, just about every feature (both physical and nonphysical) of “the woman” has been sold. Her ability to cook a mean meatloaf sells an oven. Her plump, glossy lips sell vodka. Her toned and obviously oiled belly (who does that in real life?) sells cologne. And the way she eats sells a burger. For most of these advertising examples, we can try to turn a blind eye to and deny the objectification of women. But not when they’re literally selling a woman named Anastasia on ESPN! I think this is just too blunt to ignore. There just should not be a market for women’s love.

I’m sure AnastasiaDate and A Foreign Affair and websites of this nature have several success stories of couples who fell in love and are living happily ever after. I’m sure many women have found a way out of poor living conditions and living a higher quality of life through these services. I’m sure there are some great guys who aren’t just looking to buy a beautiful trophy wife.I just wish there was a way that didn’t make finding a spouse seem like a trip to the mall.

Is there a way for these women to market their personalities, their ideas, their individuality? Can this be done without alluring commercials and sexy photo shoots and seductive video chats? Honestly, I’m not sure I have the answers and I see some greater societal issues at hand… but hey, chew it’s something to chew on.

P.S. Here is the Lisa Ling documentary I mentioned:


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