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     These past few weeks of class have focused primarily on the portrayal of women, men, and gender in the media. We have discussed the lack of people of colour in advertisements, as well as the over abundance of tall, skinny/slim, cis, white women. The topic of discussion which I find most interesting, however, is the idea that gender is socially constructed. In this discussion, and personal reflection, there are two main points on which I’d like to focus:

  1. The effects of the unrealistic, unachievable standard of beauty for women and girls presented by corporate mainstream media
  2. How men are raised to fear “feminine” traits, while women are often celebrated for displaying some “masculine” characteristics

     First of all, open up Google on your browser. Search for images of “beauty”. What do you see? Row after row of images of white, pouty, traditionally beautiful women. Many of them are putting on make-up, getting their hair done, or touching their face (an act which shows submissiveness and weakness).  All of these photos depict highly sexualized, vulnerable women. While this sexualization has extremely negative consequences on all women, its effects are particularly damaging on young girls. Not only do such advertisements impede a girl’s ability to develop a natural, healthy identity and sense of self-worth, but they also can increase the likelihood of a girl altering her lifestyle in order to behave similarly to the models depicted in magazines and on television.  Further, as explained in Gendered Worlds, “self-objectification is linked directly with diminished sexual health among adolescent girls”, and also “detracts from the ability to concentrate and focus one’s attention, which leads to impaired performance on mental activities such as…logical reasoning” (411).  Being constantly bombarded with images of white, thin, sexualized women is damaging to girls’ self worth, and not only is detrimental to her sexual health, but to her success as a student. These are negative consequences that will affect girls for life.

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     Women, however, are not the only ones being targeted by corporate consumer media. Recently, several commercials have appeared on television which not only mock the feminine, but also mock men who may portray feminine characteristics. I’d like to share two commercials which blatantly portray and encourage inequality between men and women. First, Molson Canadian’s most recent commercial for Molson 67, a low-calorie beer. Here, Molson has created the term “guyet” to describe a male dieting, because apparently calling it what it really is, a diet, is too feminine.  According to Molson, women diet to be thin while men “guyet” to enjoy the things they love: beer, bacon, and burgers. What is even more interesting is not the obvious disparaging of all things deemed feminine, but the exaltation of all things deemed masculine. As this Jezebel article explains, when a man diets, he is mocked. When a woman drinks beer, eat burgers, or plays sports, they become more appealing under the male gaze (as long as they look sexy while they do it!).  Jezebel writes, “This is a layer of gender inequality above and beyond sexism…it’s androcentrism, the privileging of the masculine over the feminine”.  

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     Corporate mainstream media has taught men that they need an excuse to participate in feminine activities. This is very well demonstrated by a second Super Bowl advertisement, this one for Doritos. At first glance, this commercial may seem funny, even cute, to viewers. In reality, Doritos is encouraging the privileging of masculine over the feminine. Not only does the Dad in this advertisement prioritize the football game over spending time with his young daughter, but the idea of men wearing dresses and make-up becomes the butt of the joke. To top it off, a stereotypical nagging wife, just home from buying groceries, is also depicted at the end of the commercial.

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     While I cannot, at this point, offer solutions to the inaccurate construction of gender presented in the media, I’d like to encourage all readers to analyze advertisements more critically in terms of how they portray women and men, feminine and masculine.  I’d also like to encourage the continued use of the hashtag “#NotBuyingIt” on Twitter. This hashtag was used by thousands of Super Bowl viewers to discuss the sexist advertisements used by various corporations this past weekend.  As explained in Gendered Worlds, and as illustrated in Super Bowl advertisements as well as by Google images of “beauty”, gender is socially constructed, largely by corporate mainstream media. E.M

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4 thoughts on “Gender Inequality in Ads

  1. I love the fact that mass media mediums like Twitter are being used to counteract the corporate mainstream media messages coming out these days. There was a time when these social media devices were used only to promote the status quo – this is a wonderful example of how people can easily ban together and mutually stand up for a more sound argument. Although I missed the whole Superbowl production and its commercials, I don’t doubt for a moment that they were highly sexist, as the entire football spectacle is hyper-masculinized in the first place. What a wonderful (and very current) example of what we’ve learned this month in class!
    LJ

  2. Exactly! Social networking sites like WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube, are being used more and more to promote feminist causes. For example, I found out about Kingston’s upcomig Slutwalk 2013 event via a friend’s Facebook page. Jezebel, Feminist Frequency, and Feministing are a few of my favourite feminist news/media sources. E.M.

  3. I enjoyed reading your blog 🙂
    I think it is great that social media now branches off for purposes other than societal ones (like campaigns, movements, workshops, etc.) instead of existing just for contacting/socialization purposes.
    However, I think people should always think before they post anything, especially via Internet, because what gets released through the Internet can never be retrieved back. Therefore, materials that may be taken sensitively/offensively by others should be thought over!

    Oh, and thanks for using the Molson Canadian commercial example. I had no idea such sexist commercial was on television. I’m just shocked. WOW. “Guyet”… how did they even think of that in the first place?

  4. Hey HB, the Molson Canadian commercial isn’t even the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexist ads! It is one of the more blatant ones, though. Advertisements on TV for air fresheners, cleaning products, and laundry detergent, for example, most often feature white, upper-middle class, happy (even when cleaning the toilet!!) women. These kinds of ads are sexist too, but in a subtle way. Not only that, but the white washing of commercials on television is racist, too. When you look at commercials intersectionally, you realize how problematic (and offensive) they really are.

    E.M.

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