Tag Archives: Advertising

What is Beautiful?

Reflecting on the female obsession with weight loss, and the unrealistic images of woman as very skinny, perceptions of beauty in the United States are extremely skewed. It makes me wonder how we arrived here. Is it the media’s fault for projecting these images, or the consumer’s fault for enabling them? As we’ve read in “Can’t by my Love,” the advertising industry is worth billions of dollars exerting enormous influence over what is portrayed in the media. However, advertisers attempt to please their audiences by selling what they want. Therefore, what makes women crave the ideal body and perfect face? Not only do they crave this type of beauty, they spend millions of dollars attaining this ideal through surgery. They spend exorbitant amounts of money on dieting and weight loss regimes desperately hoping to reach this nearly impossible goal.
In “Reading the Slender Body,” Susan Bordo explains that although elective surgery is considered at least a bit more extreme, “…Preoccupation with fat, diet, and slenderness are not abnormal” Indeed, such preoccupation may function as one of the most powerful normalizing mechanisms of our century, insuring the production of self-monitoring and self-disciplining.” But still, it leaves the large question unanswered. Where does this preoccupation originate from? I believe that at least partially it stems from the way women construct their self-identity. In “Ways of Seeing,” John Berger asserts that women present themselves in the way that they want men to view them knowing that men are constantly surveying them. Consequently, at some point, a man’s ideal beautiful woman became extremely skinny with large breasts, and in response to this, women torture themselves in order to emulate this conception of beauty. With this norm present in society, women and men will continue to perceive beautiful in this way until culture gravitates towards a new standard of beauty.

Sources
Bordo, Susan. Umbearable Weight. Berkeley : Univ of CA Press, 1993.

Kilbourne, Jean. Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Thing and Feel. New York: Touchtsone, 1999.Print.

Berger, John. “From Ways of Seeing.” The Feminism and Visual Culture Reader. By Amelia Jones. London: Routledge, 2003. 37-39. Print.

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Meat and Meat

This very recently aired Taco Bell commercial, aims to showcase its new featured item; The Triple Steak Stack.  This advertisement does an exceptional job at reinforcing the, oh so, overbearing stereotypes surrounding the societal expectations for what masculinity should mimic. The producers have managed to accomplish a phenomenal feat, and should win the prize for cramming the most barbaric representations of the male gendered species in only 31 seconds.

Firstly, the voiceover, who acts as the little voice inside the main character’s head—Hurricane Doug, is incredibly deep, with a raspy quality that heightens the intensity of what is supposed to be true manliness.  Though, looking at ‘Hurricane Doug’ it is obvious that this voice does not match the same register of his own.  Doug is a shorter, white male, dressed in business casual clothing.  The commercial alludes to the notion that because of Doug’s outward appearance, he is not considered a “man’s man,” but by eating more steak he now will be able to consider himself one, and even be man enough to join the “real men” on the basketball court.

Another concern is the representation of the black men playing basketball.  Their depiction takes on an almost animalistic portrayal.  The music is slowed down and their words are distorted so it just sounds like muffled animal roars.  This tactic is used to heighten the intimidation factor for Doug, but it simultaneously heightens the racial stigmatization about black people.  Patricia Hill Collins writes in her article Booty Call, “Some black men’s bodies may be admired, as is the case for athletes, but other black bodies symbolize fear” (Hill 158).  This short advertisement manages to take the admired athletic black man’s body and turn it into the body that evokes fear.

This barbaric claim that a man is a man when he eats his meat underpins all of the misconceptions about male gender and masculinity.  So thank you Taco Bell, for creating a nation wide commercial that exploits the vulnerable male ego, by making the claim, a man is not a man without his meat.  That is exactly what society needed.

Let’s talk about shoes

metroshoes

Earlier today, as I was browsing the internet, I ran into a blatantly sexist ad. The DC metro decided that they needed a new campaign to show how great they were and thus ended up producing this terrible piece of advertisement. The ad portrays women as mindless beings that only care about one thing:  shopping. Why exactly would the metro use shopping? Lorber would explain it as being part of society’s construction of gender expectations. Furthermore, if one were to look closely at the advertisement, the women’s body language displays a state of absentmindedness. Not only that, but based on the way they are dressed, they seem to be women with professional backgrounds. This begs the question as to whether it is also attacking the credentials of professional women in society. The ad encapsulates women in society as being unable to hold an intelligent conversation, one regarding the amount of miles a bus can last without breaking down. Due to the ad being placed on a bus, and it being in the DC area, one can expect that the audience is that of the lower class black community. Bell Hooks teachings might cause one to speculate whether this could reinforce the misogyny seen in the minority communities.

Hooks, Bell. “Sisterhood: Political Solidarity Between Women.” No. 23, Socialist-Feminism: Out of the Blue (Summer, 1986), pp. 125-138.

Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender”, 1990.

Ad Critique: The Sexist Swiffer

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Image Courtesy of Business Insider

This advertisement for a Swiffer mop offensively uses a powerful image of American feminism to sell a product associated with centuries of female oppression. Although the racist and patriarchal elements of Rosie the Riveter make her a problematic icon to begin with, Swiffer’s equation of housework productivity with female empowerment is contrary to current feminist goals. This advertisement is reminiscent of pre-second-wave feminism—a time in which technological improvements like the washing machine were viewed “as liberating, rather than as oppressive, agents.”[1]

In addition to misusing Rosie the Riveter, Swiffer also employs the common advertising tactic of the alluring female glance. This Rosie’s seductive glance portrays womanhood as sexual and compliant rather than direct and assertive, which negates her authoritative arm-cross. This ad is also unrealistic. The actor’s appearance is significantly modified by makeup and editing, and the kitchen undoubtedly belongs to an upper-middle class family, inaccurately representing Americans’ real economic conditions.

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Image Courtesy of Ad Forum (text refers to celebrating a quiet vacuum)

The possibility of a different advertising culture has been proven in Sweden, where “ads for cleaning products rarely feature women as homemakers.”[2] Below, is one such ad for a vacuum. While this image suggests Sweden may have an problem with race variability in its advertising, it notably does not portray an adult woman. This is representative of the gender-neutral shared housework responsibilities existent in Swedish families.

Although there are significant differences in the racial, economic, and governmental conditions between the US and Sweden, this ad provides hope for alternatives. Perhaps nonsexist American advertising will only appear widely when an expansion of the social welfare system in the US creates more support for families. Until then, American consumers should demand advertising changes from the companies they buy from through investment strategy and product boycotts.


[1] Ruth Schwartz Cowan, “Household Technology and Household Work between 1900 and 1940,” in More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 191.

[2] Lisa Belkin, “When Mom and Dad Share It All,” NYTimes Magazine, June 15, 2008, 4, accessed November 25, 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/magazine/15parenting-t.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0.

JC Penny Ad

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In this JC Penny ad, a homosexual couple is depicted playing with their two children of color. I appreciate JC Penny’s effort to include the gay community in their advertising. By targeting an ad towards gay men, and by featuring a gay family, JC Penny legitimizes gay men’s standing in American society and lets gay men know that they are important customers. However, it is also possible that JC Penny made a strategic decision to use gay men so that their advertisement would get free news coverage. This brings up an important question: how wrong is it to exploit a group of people for marketing needs if that exploitation does in fact help the group? JC Penny faced a lot of backlash from this ad and faced a drop in sales after its release, so it is unlikely that JC Penny was trying to strategically use gay couples to their advantage. These gay men are both white, are dressed nicely, and are shown in a modern, nice-looking home. One could claim that these factors are creating new stereotypes and that JC Penny is only accepting of upper-middle class, Caucasian gays. However, JC Penny purposefully chose a real life family to be featured in the ad and would understandably want them to be dressed nice since clothes are the ultimate product.

Budweiser Black Crown and the Male Gaze

This short video advertisement for a new label of Budweiser beer, titled “Black Crown,” uses women’s body parts to sell its beverage product. The advertisement opens with the camera perspective starting at a woman’s feet, shown walking in strappy black heels. The camera pans up the woman’s slim, shiny legs to reveal the bottom half of her body wearing a shimmering dress while one arm holds two bottles of Budweiser Black Crown. The entirety of the advertisement’s length mimics the heterosexual male gaze, which serves to objectify the female body. The woman portrayed in this advertisement is not portrayed as an individual, but simply as a body or a pair of legs. Drucilla Cornell suggests that any material where “women’s body parts… are exhibited such that women are reduced to those parts” is a form of the subordination of women (Cornell 3). This advertisement reduces a woman to her body parts to draw attention to and sell a beer label.

This advertisement seeks to sell Budweiser Black Crown as a more luxurious beer label. The dressy outfit of the woman portrayed in the advertisement, the sleek packaging of the beer, and the muffled background music in the video all work to create an environment of indulgence to sell the product. Ultimately, the fragmentation of the woman’s body and focus on her legs exemplify how her sexual desire is used to sell Budweiser Black Crown while demonstrating the male gaze for the advertisement’s targeted male viewers.

Sources:
Cornell, Drucilla. ““Introduction” in Feminism and Pornography.” 2000.

Ad critique: Woman, the Holiday Swiss Army Knife

As we begin the official holiday shopping season, retailers are inundating the American public with advertisements online, in print, and in mailings with the hopes of luring in shoppers and their wallets.  Bed, Bath & Beyond, well-versed in all the above advertising approaches (I can wallpaper my bedroom with the amount of $5 coupons they’ve sent me), posted this image as part of their online holiday catalog.  The 8-limbed woman in the image perfectly illustrates the domestic expectations placed upon women year-round, especially during the holiday season.  At the holidays, women are expected to cook, clean and entertain at a higher level than the rest of the year, and BB&B is here to make that happen!

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Don’t bother enlisting the help of spouses, children, family, or friends–instead pick up 5 or 6 kitchen gadgets (starting at the low price of $9.99!) and get to work slicing, dicing, carving, mixing, sous-vide-ing, mashing, stuffing, peeling, sauteing, warming, brining, frying, baking, and pouring.  When everyone has fallen into a food coma, you can get to work clearing, scrubbing, soaking, soaping, rinsing, spraying, wiping, washing, drying, polishing, and packing away all your fine china til next year.  Make sure to quip about how sinful the pumpkin pie is, and thank God you’re doing all this manual labor to burn off the calories–you put so much butter in the mashed potatoes, after all!