ad critique: cultural differences and sexism

Screen shot 2013-09-30 at 1.03.33 PM
A Malaysian ad agency created this advertisement for Borders Bookstore. The illustration features a woman who is married over six times. The caption reads ‘It’s time you learned to cook. Choose from more than 5000 cooking titles’. The combination of the caption and image suggest that her marriages failed because she could not cook. This ad perpetuates gender stereotypes and assumes that women ubiquitously play the homemaker role. Borders quickly disavowed their association with the agency. The Malaysian produced ad corroborates a pervasively Malaysian instantiated normative expectation. This expectation conflicts with Borders, a multi-national company, because they have a divergent standpoint on gender, and exemplifies – as Christine Delphy and bell hooks contend – that gender constructs and experiences are regionally different, culturally varied and relative.

ad source:

bell hooks, “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women” (1986)

Christine Delphy, “Rethinking Sex and Gender” (1993)

2 thoughts on “ad critique: cultural differences and sexism

  1. auchusi

    The main thing that caught my attention about this ad was the realization that the average person who saw it (male or female) would automatically assume that the ad was talking about the woman. What I mean is, even if people were not close enough to the ad to see that the woman is the same in every picture (hence she’s the one getting married over and over again), they would still assume that the woman is the one who the ad is referring to; the one that “should learn to cook.” Since society today promotes the idea that the females are born into the domestic, “housewife” mold, the man’s cooking would never even be considered or assumed as the source of a failed marriage. This portrayal of sexism and gender roles is proving fluent in various cultures, even though these “gender constructs and experiences” can be varied and relative. Either way, there is still the unfortunate general expectation of the wife figure to play her part as the homemaker, or else be publicly rejected because her husband clearly “deserves better.”

  2. auchusi

    (Continuation of previous comment)
    I also agree with your analysis in that this ad “assumes that women ubiquitously play the homemaker role,” and this irritates me as well because it sends out the message that women, no matter what culture they are immersed in, have certain sexist expectations placed on them. However, I would also challenge the producers of this ad to make a male equivalent; what would it say? It makes me wonder if there are types of sexism that can only go one way- to harm the female.


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