Two progressive non-profits have recently run the above advertisement to promote ObamaCare, or the Affordable Care Act.
In the image, the man assumes an assertive position with one hand cockily placed in his pocket and the other placed confidently on the waist of the woman. He dominates the picture with his broad stance and smug smile, conventionally expressing masculine gender attributes. The woman bares a childlike expression while seeming to tuck into herself, lowering her chin and scrunching her shoulders toward her neck. Fittingly, Simone de Beauvoir argues that “man represents both the positive and the neutral … whereas woman represents only the negative” (33). Surely enough, the man in this picture has a presence that the form of the woman lacks, by virtue of her comparative silliness and diminished form.
The ad’s words suggest that the woman is able to secure birth control with her ObamaCare insurance; now she must only “[get] him between the covers.” The advertisement may appear sex positive, even condoning a women’s agency over her sexuality. Yet such language reeks of trickery, and thus sexual assault. Bussel explains that verbally establishing mutual consent before sexual activity is mandatory, and that failing to do so is illegal (47). Women are not excused from the consent mandate by virtue of being women, and men do not want sex by virtue of being men. Such conceptions subscribe to an essentialist model of gender based on patriarchal notions of heteronormativity and have dangerous ramifications.
Image From: “Provocative new pro-Obamacare ads urge single women to enroll in exchanges” Nov. 12, 2013. <http://news.yahoo.com/new-pro-obamacare-ads-target-single-women-191727303.html>.
Bussel, Rachel K. Yes Means Yes!: Visions of Female Sexual Power & a World without Rape. By Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti. Berkeley, CA: Seal, 2008.
De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. By Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003.