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Sexy Halifax safe-driving campaign draws feminist ire

Bridget, the fictional face of a safe-driving campaign, adorns a coin receptacle on a toll booth in Halifax on Friday, June 1, 2012. Halifax Harbour Bridges launched the campaign May 14 to raise awareness of speeding, tailgating and texting while driving on the two bridges that span the city's harbour. The campaign has received mixed reviews.

Andrew Vaughan/CP

"Bridget" is attractive, wears smouldering eye makeup, and isn't shy about telling you what she wants. And what she wants is for you to take it slow.

Before your thoughts wander into the gutter, let's clarify: "Bridget" is the fictional character featured in a Halifax safe-driving advertising campaign. And her message has women's rights advocates objecting to what they see as a campaign that degrades and objectifies women, the Canadian Press reports.

The Halifax Harbour Bridges commission created Bridget as the star of its campaign, launched May 14, to deter traffic accidents caused by speeding, tailgating and texting while driving on the city's harbour bridges.

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Images of her casting a sultry gaze can be seen on billboards and banners bearing the message, "I like a driver who takes it slow."

In radio ads, she reportedly talks breathlessly about her stiletto heels, insults "dirtbag" tailgaters, and warns: "A heavy foot doesn't flip my kilt."

The commission's communications manager, Alison MacDonald, told the news service that the ad campaign is intended to be "a little humorous, tongue-in-cheek" and that Bridget was created to get people's attention with a strong female character akin to a superhero in The Avengers or Lisbeth Salander The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

But some women don't see it that way.

"It just seems to me that it's offensive to many, many women who've experienced any form of sexual violence or harassment or been subjected to sexist jokes and innuendoes," Irene Smith, the executive director of the feminist organization Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, told The Canadian Press.

She also took issue with the commission's use of Bridget's image on bounce pads above baskets for collecting bridge tolls. Drivers toss their toll fees at the character's face, which "has promoted the idea of being abusive to Bridget," she said.

What do you think? Does a sexy female character convey power or perpetuate offensive stereotypes?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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