Ad Critique: Cougarlife and Competition

A advertisement recently garnered attention for being banned in Australia for “unjustified violence.” However, the actions depicted are rather mild and the larger issue is the ad’s outright misogyny. As bell hooks discusses, sexism is so entrenched that  “male supremacist values are expressed through suspicious, defensive, competitive behaviour” between women, who are also led “to feel threatened by one another without cause” (1986). The ad certainly depicts such relationships, as the women compete with each other to be seen as the most desirable sex object for the young man. The older woman also clearly feels threatened by her younger “competitors,” even body shaming one by saying “you need a sandwich” and shoving it into her mouth. This meant to pander to both “cougar” women and “cub” men, and although the ad is almost cartoonish, it can expose what is thought to be appealing to both. According to the ad, young men want to be fawned and fought over and thought of as sophisticated. On the other hand, “cougar” women are on a quest for validation through the ultimate prizes: sex from attractive men and, more importantly, victory over younger women in this competition. This representation supports bell hooks’ claim that sexism leads to unfounded competition and bitterness between women, which can be exploited by advertising companies for profit.

Davies, Madeleine. (2013). “Sleazy Cougar Life Ad Banned in Australia for ‘Unjustified Violence.'”

hooks, bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity between Women.” (1986). Feminist Review. 23, 125-132.



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