Advertisements function in two ways: economically and culturally. One is intentional and the other (well, one can only hope sometimes) is not. The intention is of course to focus on a particular market group, but the unintentional cultural implications are the more dangerous. Even advertisements geared toward women can be mildly insensitive all the way up to outright offensive. There are various ways in which advertisements attack or privilege people, genders, races, and religions, many of them overlapping. Today we are just going to look at three.
The implications of this Summer’s Eve ad are grand. The most important, the top aspect of asking for a raise at work has nothing to do with your qualifications, but your vag. You would have thought that if anyone knew something about being a woman in the workplace, Summer’s Eve might. Instead, the company message is to wash that couch. Your accomplishments? Check out number 8. Remember that as a woman, nothing matters more than how you look and smell.
It’s no surprise that this Antonio Federici gelato ad hails from Italy, an industrialized nation who loves them women in their place. This one gains its controversy from both religion and gender. Hitting too close to home on the subject of celibacy in the world of faith, the sexualization of a girl whose whole image is based on one of innocence pulls focus away from the real world issue concerning the papal infidelity that has plastered our news machine the past few years. The tagline “Immaculately Conceived” paired with the come hither expression on the young model leaves a taste in the mouth unlike gelato’s. This image reminds the viewer that hyper-sexuality is a benchmark of femininity in our society. The virgin mother never looked so ready for it, methinks.
Everyone loves those Dos Equis commercials. That guy is so cool. If he punched you, you’d have the overwhelming urge to thank him. Even I want to be him. This one is extremely subtle in the way that it makes men the center of the universe. You think they’ll ever make a commercial where a woman is the pinnacle of cool? I sincerely doubt it. Women are constantly portrayed in sexual or domestic terms, not as the masters of our own domain. But wouldn’t you rather live in a world where women are the least bit badass? I sure would.
The advertising machine is (apparently) a necessary aspect of our consumer society, but that doesn’t mean their effect is positive. Mostly, the problem lies in the subconscious assimilation of their archaic notions. All we really need to do is ignore them and remember that gender is nothing but what we invented it to be.