Bras, Bells, and Balls Deck the Halls

The “Show Your Joe” commercial featured above is an example of the gender binary that exists within advertising and media in general. This ad, choosing to feature good-looking handsome men and bells on their balls, has caused massive outrage in society; however, the ad isn’t the problem- the problem is that if this were an advertisement featuring women in the places of men, the backlash would be substantially less.

The public has grown accustomed to the sexualization of women’s bodies, the presentation of women in just their underwear, acting sexually by rubbing their bodies or being fragmented by the camera’s gaze. But when the roles are changed, when the camera is turned on a somewhat sexualized man (who is actually more dressed than the majority of women in commercials), it is indecent, in poor taste and an affront to the holiday season.  While the advertisement is not especially child friendly during this family oriented season, most advertisements featuring women are not either (See Victoria’s Secret). And these sexualized holiday advertisements are usually successful: Victoria’s Secret sold over 400,000 Miraculous bras during just the 2010 holiday season! (Link)

The intended audience for this advertisement, the men who need some underwear, will probably believe the ad to be funny in nature and not offensive, while their significant others might feel like the ad is inappropriate. But the ad will still be successful and the selling of the product will still be successful as well.

So, why this ad? Why is it this advertisement that has caused an uproar?  Maybe people just aren’t ready to accept the comical, sexual man. Or maybe it’s just easier to stick with women.


6 thoughts on “Bras, Bells, and Balls Deck the Halls

  1. kellykenn

    To begin, I think this commercial is, in the least, hilarious. It’s a nice spin-off from the usual assorted body shots of women. Usually, I find myself getting a little self-conscious with women’s ads, but I don’t think this commercial has the same effect on men. The men are definitely more clothed than most women on their underwear ads, and yet some people are really uncomfortable with this video. Maybe it’s because the men are gyrating and moving their hips like a woman normally does in media (i.e. music videos), and that makes everyone a little uneasy. Or maybe it’s because that jerking and motion in the men’s hips match the bell sounds in “Carol of the Bells.” Maybe imagining a man’s balls making bell noises isn’t their kind of Christmas. Nevertheless, the commercial is definitely getting Kmart some attention. I’m sure they’ll agree–any press is good press!

  2. amaliad2013

    I also think this commercial is pretty hilarious. Yes, the men are definitely more clothed than women typically are in commercials, such as in Victorias Secret as you mentioned, but I think it is the fact that the commercial is implying that there are bells on the men’s balls that is causing the stir. I think the backlash could also be attributed to the fact that the men are hardcore thrusting, a motion that insinuates sex, that could be a little much for television. I don’t think it is the same as when women thrust in music videos per say, because the men are doing it in a more primitive, sexually aggressive way whereas when women do it, it is more “gentle”? That could just be how I see it, but nonetheless, I think this commercial is doing a good job of mixing things up from the typically female dominated, sexualized commercials. It’ll certainly make women want to buy these boxers for their boyfriends or husbands, and I think men themselves will want to buy the boxers just because of the funny commercial. So, I guess you can say k-mart did their job!

  3. browneri04

    When I first saw this commercial advertisement, I instantly thought “perfect for my ad critique!” However, you beat me to it 🙂 I have to agree with everyone who has commented so far on the hilarity of the ad. It actually reminded me of when we had the discussion in class and the topic came up about women not being seen as particularly funny in the work place, and that they (women) often refrain from making jokes because they are sometimes hit in the face with a static response. We further explored a thought relating to the point that when women are portrayed in the media it is almost certainly in an over sexualized manner. Where caressing, fragmentation, sensual sounds and movements are taking place, to sell a particular product or brand. Conversely, when ads are created with men, the more typical model for this outlet takes more of a comedic approach, as with your chosen ad. I have heard about the backlash K-mart is receiving due to this ad as well. A lot of what I heard is based on the idea that because K-mart is supposed to be a family oriented brand they should not have half dressed men thrusting their balls on the television. The hard truth is that K-mart is in the process of re-branding themselves and bringing in new ideas, due to the fact that they were forced to close down hundreds of stores because they simply could not compete in the market. The market that consumers dictate. This was probably one of the best moves the company could have made. People are talking about the store whether good or bad, and it is on consumers minds. The proof is in the sales. People respond to these types of ad’s, and I do not see this hurting them at all.

  4. tikavya

    It is golden moments like this when I think I should start watching television again. I found this ad absolutely hilarious. I agree with Kellyken when she writes that this is a nice change of pace from the usual scantily-clad-angel-wing-gyrating female models that usually pop up around the holiday time. It is very much a double standard when it comes to what is considered obscene about women’s bodies versus men’s bodies, isn’t it? Women are paraded through the media, half dressed, not dressed, and sexually writhing which is considered normal, and at worst a little racy and sexy. Meanwhile, an ad with only the slightest sexual insinuation regarding men (who are not naked) is considered indecent. I blame the uproar surrounding this ad on the hierarchy between men and women. As mentioned in one of our readings by Judith Lorber, men are considered the positive sex while women are the other, the negative, the not-men. As members of the lower echelons in this hierarchy, I imagine it would be easier to objectify women and use them as commodity to sell products. On the other hand, objectifying men is more societally frowned upon. I liken it to using the Queen of England to sell marital aids – gauche and simply not done.

    I do however object to your statement that while men would find this ad funny their significant others (by which I assuming you referring to women) would not be as amused. What particularly leads you to the conclusion that women would be more outraged over the fact that this ad is not family friendly? Are you stereotyping women as guardians of traditional family values or simply saying we would object to any objectification being that we are so often victims of it? I would argue with you on both points. Family values, traditional or otherwise, are not the sole domain of women. In addition, there is nothing wrong with consensual objectification, just that it is the only thing portrayed by the media.

    1. tikavya

      I realize I didn’t cite my sources here. So:

      Lober, J. (2006) The social construction of gender. In E. Disch (Ed.), Reconstructing gender: a multicultural anthology. McGraw.

  5. amamce

    Tikavya, I said that it MIGHT upset male’s significant others because the main group protesting the advertisement is the advocacy group One Million Mothers, a mostly female group. And I’m not saying that women should be more outraged, I’m just stating that at the moment, the majority of backlash is coming from the female population. I personally find the ad hilarious and very effective.


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