Tag Archives: ad critique


Virtual strippers sell the clothes they take off…?

The premise behind this “social striptease” is that by linking your facebook or twitter accounts to the website link provided you can command a virtual model to remove his/her clothing. By clicking on a particular clothing piece, the virtual model removes it and an advertisement for it gets posted to your social media account. This advertising strategy absolutely reinforces the ultra thin standards of the slender body as outlined by Bordo. But perhaps more disturbing, is the interactive nature of voyeuristic consumption. As opposed to a still image magazine ad, or a 30 second tv spot, these semi naked bodies are created explicitly for the desiring gaze of the customer. Moreover, the interactive interface actually sutures the customer into a position of power over the sexualized body, and creates a bizarre power structure that encourages the objectification of the virtual body.  At least they are egalitarian in their objectification, providing both male and female virtual models.

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight. Berkley: University of California Press. 1993

Only in Commercials?

As if the world was not ridden with violence and several (notice its plural) humanitarian crises, Neft Vodka released a video that is supposedly advertising its product. Through the first-person angle, the video showcases some “hero” killing his way through some organized group of thugs.

In many ways, this video should anger everyone. It simply serves to create a more sadistic audience and more likely, numbs them to watching violence.

The problem with this type of advertising is that it conceals and romanticizes the violence that actually happens in the world. The audience of such an advertisement is more likely to believe that such violence is only possible not, in the real world, but only through their TV screen. One example could be people’s awareness of the inner working of the strip club industry. As Sheila Jeffreys points out, “…strip clubs are likely to have criminal connections, with media reports suggesting that some strip club owners and managers are associate with organized crime.” Ads like these don’t let people who indulge in strip clubs or prostitution consider that organized crime and violent patriarchy is very real and present. With almost 20 million views, this normalization of violence is exactly how violence against women-or anyone for that matter- goes unnoticed in the private and public domain.

Access for Voters With Disabilities

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A new campaign promoting access for voters with disabilities has released a string of ads depicting physically disabled individuals with the slogan “He/She has issues.” While this is the first thing to catch the viewer’s eye, upon closer look these “issues” are revealed to be things like the environment, immigration, women’s rights, and the economy. These ads play on stereotypes and hint at prejudices surrounding the disabled by showing disability in a normative way – one man is in a wheelchair, another walks with a cane, and one woman has a guide dog. At first glance, the viewer may think the “issue” is the person’s disability, when the purpose of the ad is to say “Yes, I’m disabled, but this is not my only issue, and may not be an issue for me at all. My disability should not inhibit my rights.” The ad raises awareness of the challenges faced by disabled individuals but also reminds us that the label “disabled” is just that – a quantifier of their condition. Campaigns like this one, as Dean Spade points out, work in concert with the disability rights movement, which “is about pointing out that disabled people are capable of equal participation in, but are currently barred from participating equally by artificial conditions that privilege one type of body or mind and exclude others.” The campaign for increased access for voters with disability is a physical manifestation of this conviction.


<http://www.coloribus.com/adsarchive/prints/access-for-voters-with-disabilities-dennis-18320855/&gt;. Web. (Photos).

Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Print.

Ad Critique: Oh My God– SHOES!


According to The DCist, a Metro ad features a dialogue between two women where one women is informing the other of how it takes over 8,000 miles before a Metrobus breaks down. The other women in response asks, “Can’t we just talk about shoes?”

Unfortunately, this perpetuates the immortal trope of the “ditsy, shoe-crazy woman”. This made me think about how when we were looking over the definition of “gender dysphoria” earlier today in class, there were still specific culturally gender-biased descriptions present.
For instance, part of the definition stated that gender dysphoria includes, “a strong conviction that one has feelings and reactions typical of the other gender” (DSM-5). This part of the definition implies that there has to be certain “reactions” or interest that apply to each specific gender, which is essentialist and false. Also, this seems to reinforce a binary that there are only two kinds of people/two genders in the world.
It’s also interesting to see that the ad features two presumably cisgendered women, since as Spade mentions, “…a central endeavor of feminist, queer and trans activists has been to dismantle the cultural ideologies… that say that certain body parts determine gender identity and gendered social characteristics and roles” (Spade, 2013). This ad seems to further pigeonhole women into these “gendered social characteristics” and implies that women must love to wear heels, thus assigning “femininity” to a body part.
Works Cited:
“Lady Wants To Talk About Shoes, Not Bus Reliability, Implies Sexist Metro Ad.” DCist. N.p., n.d. Web. 3 Dec. 2013. <http://dcist.com/2013/12/ladies_love_shows_says_sexist_metro.php&gt;.
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)
Spade, Dean. “About Purportedly Gendered Body Parts.” Dean Spade. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.deanspade.net&gt;

Pine-Sol’s Cleaning Fantasy

This Pine-Sol television commercial shows a woman coming home to find a muscular, shirtless guy mopping her floor. The screen then pans to this female character blissfully lounging in her bed as he continues to mop, surrounded by bottles of Pine-Sol. The campaign uses the almost ubiquitous methods of objectification and sex appeal to play to the potential fantasies of buyers, though in this case the typical situation is reversed between genders. In this particular case, the male is being objectified, and at no point is his full body shown. Instead, the camera focuses on his torso and arms. Additionally, in order to further create the environment of a fantasy, effects such as overly dramatic music and lighting and panning of the camera are used.

The commercial can be viewed from two different perspectives, with one as reinforcing gender norms and one as a progressive step towards equality in gender portrayal. On the one hand, while this is playing to a female sexual fantasy rather than a male one, it can be seen as reinforcing the fact that it is not typical/not the role of the man to be doing housework – i.e. why it would be a “fantasy.” Additionally, the marketers know/suggest that the primary target audience of these ads and subsequently the product, are women, and the use of a heteronormative fantasy continues to reinforce “the assignment of household work to women” (Cowan 151) which, as Cowan shows, was continually supported throughout the twentieth century, and the idea that they are the ones both buying and using household-related products.

On the other hand, the fact that advertisers are willing to play to a woman’s fantasy rather than a man’s for once is an exception itself. Additionally, this ad can also be seen as progressive as African-American actors are used to portray these characters, rather than the typical white characters found in almost every other advertisement. If anything, the commercial is atypical and will certainly catch people’s attention. If in this process a discussion is begun on gender roles/race, then I think it is certainly a positive thing.

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 151-247. Print.

“Team Mom” and Gendered Family Roles


This AT&T iPhone ad has been airing this Christmas/Black Friday season, and though it’s harmless or even cute at best, it shows a lot of performed gender roles as they are reinforced within the family. The ad is called “Team Mom Hits the Mall.” The mother brings her son and younger daughter to the mall and hypes the kids up for finding Dad a gift.

The gender performances that lie under these simple show a difference in the way the mother treats each child. It’s true that the daughter is younger and that could add to the more condescending tone the mother uses with her, but it also shows the typical “man is strong” and “woman is weak and incompetent” tropes being assumed and catered to within the family. Sally is sporting a pink puffy coat and hat while Jack is wearing dark blue and a brown coat.

If we accept the construction of gender as Judith Lorber states it, as a structure and process, an important part of the way gender norms are perpetuated is the teaching and reenacting of gender. When are these gender roles and performances learned? From birth, “because parents don’t want to be constantly asked whether their baby is a boy or a girl” (Lorber 114). So perhaps it is a combination of societal pressures on the child and on the parents to raise the child as a gendered body that contribute to this indoctrination.

Lorber, Judith, Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology

Ad Critique: Toys “R” Us’s Gender-Neutral Toys


Karin A. Martin observes that some parenting consultants tell parents to dismiss “gender nonconformity because the behavior is not really what it appears” (471). It does not seem presumptuous to assume that these advisors support would gender-neutral toys, though likely only for a limited time*. Some people may argue whether or not Toys “R” Us’s use of stereotypically gendered toys is effective toward the gender-neutral parenting stance. The Spiderman costume ad depicts both male and female stereotypical toys: the costume of canonically male superhero and a pink stroller respectively. Dean Spades would likely agree with this advertisement stance, “not arguing for a gender-blind society . . . but instead for a world in which diverse gender expressions and identities occur, but none are punished” (29). Other people may argue for that “society in which all people are similarly androgynous” (Spades 29). This advertisement would not achieve that idea, especially not with the parents who see and buy these toys for their children, having experienced stereotypes associated with gender, particularly the binary ones. However, the ad seems to declare that children can play with those toys regardless of their gender, which would suggest Toys “R” Us’s acceptance of all genders. Unfortunately, it is unknown whether Toy “R” Us would include non-binary genders. Nevertheless, it is a step.

*These advisors may believe gender non-conformity to be a “phase” and that preventing children from playing with toys of another gender “will create a problem” or backfire (Martin 470).

Works Cited:
Martin, Karin A. “William Wants A Doll. Can He Have One?: Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing.” Gender and Society, 19.4 (2005): 456-479). Print.

Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (2003): 15-37. Print.

Torres, Alec. “U.K. Toys ‘R’ Us Going Gender Neutral.” National Review Online. Web. 3 December 2013. http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/357731/uk-toys-r-us-going-gender-neutral-alec-torres.


After the 2011 fiasco of “Dad-Mom”, Tide seems to be turning over a new leaf. Their latest advertisement, released in January of this year, addresses a growing population of men who share the housework. Unlike Tide’s earlier overcompensating attempt, this dad doesn’t feel the need to “use brute-strength” or go do push-ups after folding his daughter’s frilliest dress. Rather, he behaves like a normal person, a parent taking care of their normal (neither ultra-feminine nor ultra-boyish) child, and in essence, like how a dad should behave. He plays with his daughter, launders her clothes, and in general just takes care of her. He doesn’t feel the need to posture his masculinity or reaffirm his manliness despite helping out around the house. In fact, this ad completely removes the idea of having to reaffirm masculinity. Unlike “Dad-Mom”, this ad doesn’t gender housework. This dad isn’t doing “women’s work” and compensating by being overly manly. No, he is doing “parent work”, un-gendered work, necessary for keeping up the house and taking care of his daughter.

Tide’s advertisement is representative of the new direction media should be taking. Bucking gender roles is far more complicated that merely placing a man in a stereotypical women’s role. First, the concept that there are “women’s roles” must be done away with. This is particularly difficult as evidenced in Tide’s unfortunate (but well-meaning) “Dad-Mom” and even in Katrin Bennhold’s In Sweden, Men Can Have It All article. Bennhold starts off her article by describing Mikael Karlsson, snowmobile driver, hunting dog owner, and a true man’s man as an ideality of what a dad, who still helps take care of his daughter, should be.  Her insistence on using such stereotypically masculine men in her article implies a gendering of child-care. While she argues that men should play a part in childcare, she is still defining it in terms of “women’s work” in the sense that she is trying to say “Look, here are manly men, with undiminished masculinity despite having the ability to change a diaper”. Even her title – “Men Can Have It All” – implies some kind of exclusivity of childcare between the sexes. In contrast, Tide’s quiet “ordinary dad” advertisement refuses to gender childcare and housework, consequently going a lot farther in establishing equality between the sexes than Bennhold’s article. While Bennhold’s intentions are good, pointing out that housework and childcare should be shared, her attempt is eerily reminiscent of “Dad-Mom” and could have done without the gendering of different kinds of work.


Bennhold, Katrin. “In Sweden, Men Can Have It All.” NYTimes. The New York Times, 9 June 2010. Web. 20 Nov. 2013.

Killer Queen: Killing Women’s Image


This advertisement for Katy Perry’s new perfume might at first seem rebellious or freeing to the average woman sans feminist perspective, but all it truly does is enforce extremely high expectations of women for modern beauty. While Katy is seen hating the beauty of the past, the old spray perfumes, the long heavy dresses, and the white powdered faces, this does not mean she’s counteracting the gender binary or refuting the necessity of impossible beauty. She goes on to tear all of the clothing and white makeup off of her body, now adorning a skimpier, modern look and leaving an extremely high standard of modern attractiveness for women to look up to. She, however, leaves the corset on of the old era, which constricts her physically even when she is seen freeing herself, and forces her to keep impossibly skinny and beautiful in a way in which most people cannot achieve. While her character is assumed to be rebelling in this ad, she isn’t doing anything out of the ordinary except looking beautiful to a different, higher standard of our modern era.  Her character also remains impossibly rich with several attendants, jewels, and a throne. This ad just leaves women with an unachievable goal, attempting to reach the class, the image, and the weight of a celebrity by purchasing her perfume. 

No, William Still Can’t Have That Doll

This advertisement for Barbie’s Dream House represents a highly gendered toy. The color scheme for the toy consists of entirely pinks and purples – colors traditionally associated with female children and often denied to any boys. Barbie herself, along with all of her friends, is also female – the only male doll is presented in a context that makes it clear that he is meant to be treated as Barbie’s boyfriend, not a separate entity. The “highlights” of the house are also highly gendered, with emphases on the kitchen and closets – “there is even a second elevator… just for clothes!” Finally, the 2 glimpses of models that we see are also female, made clear by their similarly pink and purple clothes.


Martin discusses a new-wave of child-rearing, in which parents “encouraged expanded roles for girls at home, at school, at work, and in the media… they encouraged renouncing or at least limiting, for example, dresses, makeup, fairy tales, and housework, all understood as constraints on girls’ lives,” (Martin 458). Yet this Barbie ad betrays a world in whcih such movements are not being embraced. That the various household activities Barbie can now accomplish are glamorized in the commercial reflect similar societal pressures on the girls who play with these toys. Furthermore, that the only Barbie set sold is a house makes it clear that Barbie’s sphere is meant to be interpreted, as are all women’s, as remaining in the home – a sad state indeed. 



Martin, Karin A. William Wants a Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing. Gender and Society,  Vol 19, No. 4 (Aug., 2005), pp 456-479.