This ad, from Victoria’s Secret’s I Love My Body campaign, claims to present new, diverse bodies to the viewer but fails horribly. Despite the two models with darker skin tones, the ad features three blonde white women and two white brunettes. While adding some diversity, every other model in the line-up order is pale white and blonde. Each body is nearing unhealthy-looking levels of thinness, other than their amply enhanced cleavage, that is. The lack of body diversity, that there is only one “true” female shape – the slender body – is revealingly degrading and harmful to women. The ad claims to have “a Body for Every Body” which begs the question, what are women who do not fit this shape? They are erased entirely from the dialogue. In fact, introducing the models as “bodies” is objectifying in its own right, claiming the women as objects of advertising which the viewer is encouraged to “discover.” The sameness of these women, while calling it diversity, and the questionable language used to present them are all things that Victoria’s Secret should really be changing if they aim to empower and appeal to their (arguably unanimously) female audience.
Free choice is something that many people, especially in America and other Westernized countries, like to believe they have, but exactly how free are our choices, especially when it comes to issues of gender? We have discussed in class how much of an influence media and advertizing have on the general populace, which is why issues of representation in the media are so crucial. However, when confronted with so much advertising, and the reinforcing of gender stereotypes such as those faced by children being raised as genderless when they entered school, it seems like the choice to exist outside of the gender binary, and its stereotypes, is not one that can be freely made. Society fights back against those choices. Similarly, how free are we to make choices when it comes to shared parenting and housework? With lower pay and societal expectations that a woman’s job is less important than her husband’s job when it comes to the home life, the choice to fight these gendered expectations and pressures becomes far from a free choice and is instead a choice that one must struggle for. There is very little “free choice” and options in the gendered sphere of life that one can easily make.
Belkin, Lisa. “When Mom and Dad Share it All?” New York Times. 15 June 2008.
It’s almost surprising to me that in the course of our ad reviews, no one has brought up the old GoDaddy.com commercials. I remember these because I was shocked to find out GoDaddy.com was a domain name site, not a porn site.
This is a commercial from the 2010 SuperBowl. This ad is positioned for heterosexual males. The woman, like those in music videos, is also shown as being always ready to go for sex at the drop of a hat. As noted in “Assimilating the Queers,” “This kind of flirtatious lesbian erotica in advertising might have little to do with lesbianism per se and instead may “mirror those women engaged in lesbian sex in mainstream heterosexual pornography”” (p.7). The massage already carries a slightly erotic undertone, and the eagerness of the masseuse to strip for her customer adds to the pornographic image of heterosexually attractive ‘lesbians.’ The end of the commercial, which advertises more “unrated” (read: pornographic) material online, confirms this, as well as losing the actual purpose of the business along the way.
You would think that this pornographic commercial content would be a risky business move, likely alienating all but the horny heterosexual male viewer, but the fact that it is repeated in so many of the GoDaddy.com commercials proves just how effective it was at creating traffic for their website, and how readily we as viewers accept this as mainstream advertising culture. Women and sexual minorities are firmly objectified as a tool to gratify and entice the “main” audience of heterosexual males.
Wan-Hsiu Sunny Tsai. “Assimilating the Queers: Representations of Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexual, and Transgender People in Mainstream Advertising.” Advertising & Society Review 11, no. 1 (2010) http://muse.jhu.edu/ (accessed July 31, 2012).
The definition of equality, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, is “the quality or state of being equal; the quality or state of having the same rights, social status, etc.” In the social and particularly feminist quest for equality, it’s important to recognize another facet of equality: we want women to enjoy the same rights and status as men have, not to bring men to the degrading level we are on. For example, you can find a number of videos (like “Blurred Lines”) where the genders of male and female have been swapped, and men are placed in a degrading, minimizing standpoint. While the common cry here is “It feels bad, doesn’t it?” it’s important to remember that this is supposed to be educational, not punishment. Feminism does not advocate any degradation, regardless of gender. To use an analogy, bullying the bully only creates a greater divide between two groups, and stalls any effort to eliminate the bullying as a whole.
Discrimination is difficult to qualify in an abstract sense—how does one qualify all of the accepted categories of sex, religion, ethnicity, etc. into a single definition? Something like ethnicity is something no one can choose and no one can change. On the other hand, religion is a choice of belief and values that has been deemed protected under our freedom of religion. It’s hard to determine what, other than our society’s values, has decided which categories are protected from judgment.
As it applies to gender, however, discrimination is the differential treatment of a person based on an uncontrollable element of their identity. Holding a woman to a different standard than a man or treating them unequally, such as a woman being paid less than a man despite having the same education and experience background in a job, is discrimination. Unfortunately, this is one of the least “marked” forms of discrimination in our society, because so many have internalized the judgments, stereotypes, and stigmatizations of our gender system that they don’t even consciously recognize their sexist attitudes. This is what makes feminism necessary—to challenge and help people realize that despite their beliefs about themselves, they have deep-seated discrimination against women.
For my ad critique, I began by thinking of problematic ads and looking for them on YouTube when this ad popped up in the sidebar. I remembered seeing it on TV and being a fan. I believe this is an empowering view of women.
Despite the fact that Salma Hayek is a recognized sex symbol in our society, the ad doesn’t pander to or exploit that fact. A store clerk is staring at her at one point in the ad, but she fixes him with a dirty look and continues on her way. She’s depicted as a frazzled mom in the ad (which is certainly relatable to most parents). While humorous in her failed attempts at finding milk throughout the night, Hayek’s character in this ad has a lot of agency. She is driven and assertive in her quest for milk: travelling, disparaging the ogling of a store clerk, inventing alternative ways of getting milk, and flagging down the milkman. She’s not a weak damsel-in-distress or any other sexist stereotype. She attacks her problem head on, and she succeeds (only, of course, to find another thing she has to do–a parent’s work is never over).
I find this ad to be a positive message. It manages to incorporate humor without falling back on sexist stereotypes of women, and shows a strong female in the main role. Do you agree?