Sexism Consumes the World of Advertising
Adverts. Something we all try to avoid in life, but inevitably fail at. And sure, you can ignore them, claim they don’t effect you, but the fact is that they exist, and they’re EVERYWHERE. And now they’re in this article, too.
Adverts telling us to look younger, be skinnier, have shinier hair, have less hair in other places, cook more for our families, clean more, smell nicer, it never ends – but between all this advert watching where can I possibly find the time to do all of that?
Personally, I do love a good ad. I think they can be funny, clever and downright amazing (see Ikea, Lurpak, Sony, etc.). But then, you do have to sit through a fair share of awful ones too. It’s a mass media phenomenon that infiltrates our daily lives while we’re not even paying attention, and they scream out a lot of sexist epithets underneath all that BUY, BUY, BUY.
There are far too many adverts selling anything to do with food or kitchens or cleaning that only star women in domestic scenarios. Sure, they’re not as blindingly sexist as some of the other ads that make their case by blatantly objectifying women, but it’s as though advertising is literally shouting at us to get back in the kitchen love, and make me and sandwich. Hello gender stereotype alert!
Take this seemingly harmless (if horrifically unfunny) advert:
Two old ladies shocked at the fact that a mother (note: not the father; remember, men are incapable of cooking in the world of Mr. Advertising Man) is able to juggle a job AND still put dinner on the table for the kids. Well, newsflash, they do it all the time, and they probably don’t need your little Yorkshire puddings to manage it either.
And here, we get it again; the woman confined to the trappings of domesticity:
The woman is always the one posing next to the new Dyson, or doing the laundry and saving the planet by washing at 30°. Of course, the knight HAS to be a woman, because a man would NEVER succeed at cleaning anything. Ahahaha, a MAN cleaning, what a joke ahahaha. Oh no wait…
This all just adds up to a big pile of awful that culminates in such wonders as LAD Bible and endless ‘jokes‘ about how we belong in kitchens.
But for now, let’s look at this:
It’s like “SEX. LOOK AT ME. HEY OVER HERE: SEX! Right, now that I have your attention…”
Having suffered through many a Ryanair flight, I can categorically say that their staff is not made up of bikini clad models and, in reality, they bear more resemblance to slightly irate air stewards trying to sell extortionately priced food. And, if you look closely (try not to be distracted by her perky boobs and all the SEX), it almost appears as if they’re trying to sell this lovely lady for the very reasonable price of £9.99. And that’s what they call prostitution. As well as false advertising.
Advertisers using a woman’s body to flog an irrelevant product. That is sexist, and quite patronising to us as an audience. Surely advertisers realise that their target market is a bit more intelligent than that, even the horny men.
Now, let’s take a little look at Lynx, a repeat offender on the sexploitation front.
This piece of televisual delight seems to imply that all women need is a man with dandruff free hair. Well, no. I can’t really say that the first thing I do when checking out a guy is examine his hair for dandruff, but then that’s just me.
Lynx seem to be under the illusion that sexy women are attracted to any man who smells nice and synthetic. It has probably deluded a generation of young men into thinking that all they need to do to attain a gorgeous girlfriend is give themselves a thorough spritz of Lynx in the morning. And that, my friend, is brilliant marketing. So brilliant that Specsavers parodied a popular Lynx advert which showed thousands of women running towards a man spraying Lynx on himself with this slightly more intelligent but still sexist version:
Glasses – nothing inherently sexy about glasses, and that comes from someone who wears them. Sexy women in bikinis do not hide that matter.
But they’re not the only culprits, oh no. I’m sure you’ve all seen the men’s care ads with the man in the shower or having a shave or whatever and then oh, look! He has a stunning girlfriend as well, how nice for him. Couldn’t have an advert for male grooming without a ridiculously beautiful girl in it as well, oh no.
These are just as damaging to men as they are to women; the poor guy who discovers that his shiny new Gillette razor doesn’t come with a beautiful model and goes home to cry himself to sleep in a little ball. Aw.
A here’s another classic example of female objectification to choke down:
A woman as a car; so frightfully original Mr. Advertising Man. For starters, you can’t own a woman anymore, it’s the 21st century pal, and we don’t react kindly to being bought. Second, we don’t immediately begin flirting with the first man who eyes us up, and neither do cars. At points, it borders on soft porn. I think we should all scroll down a bit to watch that Sure ad quickly in order to wash the bad taste that left in our mouths.
Now let’s turn our heads to the opposite side of the spectrum; the side that makes money from being directly anti-sexist. The Dove ‘Real Beauty’ campaign hit our screens and billboards a while back and is still emanating an aura of goodness out into the world, as one of the first marketing schemes to create a positive image of normal women.
OMG LOOK AT IT! YAY! Aside from the obviously problematic phrase “real women,” this was a huge step forward in advertising. EVERY woman is a real woman regardless of any other characteristic. This campaign was a big deal because women who looked like this hadn’t been featured in beauty advertisements before. Dove’s campaign was both hugely successful and heartwarming.
Then this came on my tellybox:
Women being, well, women. Nothing particularly special about that, except it has hardly been seen before. The ‘Strong Woman’ is a mythical image that, tragically, rarely graces our TV screens. But if you read the comments to that video (some of which give me the rage tingles), people just don’t seem to like it, and so now we’re back to the overly flowery, pink and girly adverts trying to sell us something that probably won’t work to solve a problem that we didn’t even know we had. Shame.
Adverts are presenting an image of us as idiotic, unbelievably beautiful, bloated, hairy, smelly, cleaning/cooking machines who are good for nothing else but being a mother and caressing a man’s newly shaved face. And that just ain’t true now.
Finally, this: a piece of comedy genius that sums up everything I’ve just spent a day writing in 58 seconds. There was basically no point in me even writing it at all. Enjoy.
Written by Chiara Milford
April 24, 2014
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