I Am Not Excited That the Sexism Is a Little Bit Better

5 years ago

So I just read this article by Derek Thompson at The Atlantic about sexism in TV ads. It seems like his thesis is this:

A certain kind of sexism, however, is still considered pretty funny and not terribly sacred. In most modern ads, there are two kinds of sexism. First there is winking sexism, where women are objectified but something in the ad seems to acknowledge to the audience: "We know we're being sexist, so that makes it okay." Second, there is the boomerang sexism, where we see men fighting back against their domestication and emasculation.

Then he ends with this:

A post-sexist age of advertising might be elusive. But it counts as a small victory, if not cause to throw a parade, that we've reached this moment, just a few decades after it was fashionable to scream at women for making bad coffee and not even pretend to feel wrong about it. 

Derek, you want me to get excited about the victory of a post-sexist age of advertising being elusive? I shouldn't worry because at least it's not okay to blatantly portray women as second-class citizens who should feel bad if they can't make good coffee? 

In some cases, the institutional sexism in today's TV ads is more disturbing than the old your-coffee-sucks-take-away-your-woman-card sexism of the fifties. It's underground. It's done the same thing, in my opinion, that institutional racism has done -- removed itself from blatant public exposure but still ingrained enough in our society that we don't question it at all when we do it: talk about Hillary Clinton's outfit instead of her politics, assume an angry woman just has PMS, question an attractive woman's intelligence before she opens her mouth. And television is a huge influencer on society -- I don't care how much you wink, if you're showing women fighting over beer in a fountain more often than you're showing them designing bridges or running companies, you're not making progress. Last SuperBowl I almost threw up my seven-layer dip at the sexism I saw in the commercials.

Am I wrong in my read of Derek's article? It feels -- to me -- like he's acknowledging the sexism still exists but saying it may never go away, oh well. He may not have actually added "don't worry your pretty little head about it," but the fact he's not demanding change or spitting mad pretty much says it all.

Listen, most men are taller and physically stronger than most women. We have different reproductive organs, different body fat percentages. It is not okay for one gender to make assumptions about the other, and that goes both ways. Women represent over half of America and more than half of higher-educated America. It's high time Madison Avenue stops pandering to the lowest common denominator to sell their beer. 


Rita Arens authors Surrender Dorothy and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.

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