The sexism in modern commercials is starting to rival the Mad Men era nonsense. But it’s the subtle things that are really dangerous — and it’s not just women who are the victims.
I started my career in the ad game. There are all types of things we have to consider when crafting and writing an ad, and one of the biggies is our target audience. Each time you see a commercial on television, each element of the ad is (theoretically) well thought out and carefully considered to ensure it appeals to the people most likely to purchase the product. The millions that can be spent on these campaigns makes the subtle sexist cues that sneak in all the more insidious.
The old sex-and-switch
Showing a woman in her skivvies in an underwear ad is hardly anything to be angry about. After all, if you want us to buy your product, you have to show the goods — but which goods are they trying to show here? If Victoria’s “secret” is that she’s been running a high-class underground prostitution ring since 1977, I’ll back off, ’cause this is brilliant and I wish I’d thought of it myself. Long story short: This ad isn’t geared toward women nor does it have a damn thing to do with bras.
Additionally, this woman has no voice — a common theme in advertising. And why are they showing more of her heaving cleavage, coyly bitten lip and come-hither stares than the actual bra?
The fix: I researched this model. Her name is Behati Prinsloo, and I even looked into some of her interviews. She’s pleasant, engaging and would be very appealing to women if given the chance to speak. And then we might even know if we wanted to buy the bra in the first place.
Objectifying (sometimes in a weird way)
There’s nothing wrong with sex appeal, but advertisers are taking it to nonsensical and inappropriate levels. Why is there a shirtless man selling me salad dressing? Additionally, these ads are ripe with creepy metaphors and not much actual content.
The fix: Let the man keep his shirt on and have him give quick recipes for zesty meals he makes when he’s short on time and leave out the ridiculous sexual illusions. Even better if they’re meals for two because that’s one of the challenges for a lot of people.
Overly categorized gender assumptions
I do declare! How will I ever figure out this confusin’ ol’ inbox without someone explaining why I would even want to use such a thing? And since I don’t have a big, strong, tech-savvy man to explain it, thank goodness Google came to my rescue to show me how to manage my obsession for shoes, chit-chat with my knitting circle, find a man who can explain this to me without figuring out how to play this video and save money on my next manicure! I wonder if Gmail can help me find the Wizard of Oz so he can give me a brain, too?
The fix: There’s nothing wrong with any one of these things individually. They’re legitimately things women (and men) may be interested in. I think the knitting thing is kind of cool because it shows a less common (some may say almost lost) interest. But after that, maybe back off. We can also be interested in offers on an oil change, get notifications about a shipment of one of those awesome outdoor fire pits and get emails about work meetings.
Rigid gender roles
Wow! So men really just can’t be left alone with their own children and have no idea how to cook or clean. Because, of course, those things are “women’s work.” It certainly happens in reverse, too, but this doesn’t just make men look bad at just about everything domestic, it makes them look stupid as well.
The fix: This very commercial would’ve been hilarious if a parent walked in on a kid doing it by themselves. My mom once busted me going all Swedish Chef on spaghetti with meat sauce. Why did Dad have to even be involved?
It’s time to end this
Look, there’s nothing wrong with a little sex appeal. It’s OK to be funny, but when people take cheap shots to hock a product, we all need to call foul, or the next generation will be dealing with the same problems.