In this advertisement, a gay couple is featured and they are presumably getting married. While Target took a positive step and many companies do not market non-hetero normative love, this advertisement is still problematic. It markets same sex love as alien and rare. The copy reads ‘be yourself together, build a Target Wedding Gift Registry as unique as the two of you’. This word choice ‘unique’ and the gay couple featured works dialectically, and correspondingly suggests that there is something particularly ‘unique’ about the gay couple. In reality, all couples are likely unique. The copy would likely read differently if a heterosexual engaged white couple were featured. This process of deeming something unique can be positive but it can also be‘othering’ and perpetuate marginalization. There must be balance between glorifying diversity and difference while maintaining respect and inclusion of different groups.
In this recent advertisement from Swiffer, via Procter & Gamble show a real-life old-age couple getting some help with their household cleaning with a lot of free Swiffer products. This ad seeks to charm viewers with a real-life couple that together keep up a household even though they are both 90, because hey, who doesn’t love old people? This seems like it will be in contrast to typical cleaning product ads where a young, beautiful women tries to do it all, keeping her kids happy, house spotless, and food on the table.
However, as we see in the video, the notion of keeping the household clean is still incredibly gendered here, which makes this commercial hard for me to watch. Even in their old age, the wife, Lee, takes full responsibility for cleaning the house. We watch her (and I cringe) as she tries to get up on a folding chair to clean hard-to-reach areas while the husband watches. In his words, “I don’t do anything.” Even though neither of these seniors works, it seems these two have decided the woman is responsible for everything in the household, which is their choice and should be respected but seems like this classical notion of suburban home life from the past, that the husband just sits around while the wife does it all.
When she sits in a circle with her female friends to rave about the cleaning products, I question whether this talk is just for the ad or if they always just sit around and talk about keeping up their household, because it is so much work for one person to do, regardless of gender.
The target audience for this ad is made up of adults who are running households themselves, but also those who have access to the Internet because this 3 minute-long video would never land on television.
Oh sexually repressed America, why can’t you just admit that people have sex? For decades people have been engaging in sexual activity irrespective of marriage, heterosexuality, and penis-vagina penetration, yet our advertisements for sexual products continue to dictate on how sex can be performed and who it can performed by. This is apparent in the commercial above, which is one of a four part commercial series Trojan is using to introduce their new line of personal lubricants. In all four, a man and a woman are engaging in foreplay, automatically endorsing heterosexuality. There are also elongated close-up shots of hands, fondling one another’s bodies, adorn with wedding bands framing sexual relations within the structure of marriage all to the background music of Elvis swooning “I’m in love, I’m all shook up”. This set of commercials supports Gayle Rubin’s assertion in “Thinking Sex” that sex is only condoned in the “charmed circle” of approved binary behavior. This is why the lubricant is used during sex instead of singular masturbatory use, or monogamously rather than in deemed “promiscuous” ways, or heterosexually rather than homosexually. In associating all sexual behavior outside of the “charmed circle” as deviant and negative, American condom/lubricant companies are stunting the development of a brand that has the potential to promote a healthy sex life.
Rubin, Gayle. “Thinking Sex.” Deviations: a Gayle Rubin reader. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. n/a. Print.
“Yes, sir. That’s all I ever think about–the future, babies, and commitment. Future, babies, commitment. Future, babies, commitment. Commitment, commitment, commitment, commitment”.
-Veronica from Better off Ted
Crest’s opening salvo in this commercial is, “He could be the one”, as if the only thing that should be on a woman’s mind is marriage and children. The way the ad portrays the actress focusing solely on getting the attention of the man sitting across the restaurant insinuates that she, as a woman, needs a man to give her life meaning. This ad is particularly offensive in its implication that women are somehow less ‘whole’ without marriage – essentially without a man. Simone de Beauvoir comments on this societal belief that “define woman not to herself but relative to him [the man]” (de Beauvoir, 1949). She quotes Julien Benda, “[the body of a woman] seems wanting in significance by itself” in society (de Beauvoir, 1949). This goes back to Judith Lorber’s discussion of Man as a positive existence, while Woman is the other, and is somehow lacking in comparison to Man (Lorber, 1990).
In addition, this advertisement is a prime example of society’s obsession with storage binning gender (Butler, 1990). The lead actress in the commercial embodies the stereotypical gender role that a woman is supposed to play. She is pretty, heterosexual (as she is trying to attract the man sitting at the other end of the diner), and is thinking of marriage, commitment, and babies – all the traditional female domains. The ad is trying to insinuate that all women think like this, or at the very least should try to adhere to gender stereotypes. This advertisement is offensive and narrow, in the sense that it continues to force the unity of sex, gender, and desire when they don’t necessarily fit (Butler, 1990).
de Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.” Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives. Ed. Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim. New York: Routledge, 2003. 32-40. Print.
Lorber, Judith. Reconstructing Gender: A Multicultural Anthology. Ed. Estelle Disch. 4. 2006.
Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1999. Pages 9-19, 194-197
“The Impertence of Communicationizing” Better off Ted. Season 2, Episode 9. Dir. Victor Fresco. ABC. 2010.