Rolex Sells Phallocentricity


(Caption: Image is an ad from The New Yorker, posted online by Hodinkee. It depicts 10 famous Rolex wearers, with the caption “Why this watch?/ This watch is a witness. To words that moved nations./ It’s dared men faster. further./ Worn by luminaries. Visionaries. Champions./ It doesn’t just tell time. It tells history.” Pictured left to right: Tiger Woods, Elvis, Pablo Picasso, Robert De Niro, Dwight D Eisenhower, Martin Luther King Jr.,  Marlon Brando, Jackie Stewart, Sophia Loren, Roger Federer)

It might not be surprising that this ad was run in The New Yorker a few months ago. It is no secret that the readership is overwhelmingly affluent males (check this out). So much about this trouble me, including:

1. Rolex sells women’s watches, too. I know, many companies produce ads that target women and separate ads that target men. But this ad highlights success, progress, and significant history, while a similar Rolex ad for women features much more centrally how the women look beautiful and appealing. These women are famous athletes and musicians. But the ad highlights their attractiveness, rather than identifying them as iconic and successful like the men’s ad.

2. Rolex tells sells history. The “words that moved nations” were clearly spoken by men according to this ad. The ad positions the Rolex watch (disregarding for a minute the sheer absurdity of the watch doing these things) as something essential to achievements of men.

3. Tokenization. The famous wearers are not all white men. Sophia Loren and Martin Luther King Jr. round out the group as the token female and person of color. They are included as part of the iconic set of men, yet it is clear they do not belong in the overwhelmingly white, wealthy group of famous Rolex wearers.

Absurdly, this ad (and it is not alone in its phallocentricity, The New Yorker is riddled with such ads) can be published in a magazine that will also call out the heterosexism and objectification of women in an article like this. The only thing I can figure, is that they are interested in talking the talk but, when it comes down to it, they know their audience: affluent, white male consumers.


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