I found this advertisement for the retail company Bebe in Glamour magazine recently. In it, a woman is leaning against a man, with the caption “9pm to 5am: the best part of the day is the night,” splashed across the page. Both the image and its accompanying caption belittle the idea of an independent woman and instead promote her reliance on man. In “The Second Sex: Introduction,” de Beauvoir argues that woman is “defined and differentiated with reference to man…she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the Subject, he is the Absolute – she is the Other…” (33). That is, woman cannot exist without man, for she can only be defined in relation to him. Bebe’s advertisement reinforces this denigrating concept. Firstly, the caption inverts the typical workday hours (9am – 5pm), effectively undermining the positive contributions women make at their workplaces. From Bebe’s perspective, only the nighttime is worth looking forward to because it is spent with a man. Moreover, the female character in this advertisement is over-sexualized, though her sexiness is supposed to appear glamorous. She is not making eye contact with her male companion, suggesting that he is not interested in her personality and depth, but rather in her physical appearance. Thus, just as de Beauvoir fears, the woman exists solely for the man’s pleasure, and as Bebe emphasizes, she is his object.
de Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 32-40. Print.