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.
An article titled “The Real Boy Crisis: 5 ways America tells boys not be girly” on Salon.com lists five behaviors that are unacceptable for boys because it diverts from masculine gender norms. The article reveals the notion of men and gender representation. Gender norms and its association with masculine and feminine traits create gender oppression. Gender oppression often focuses on the oppression of women in a patriarchal society because women are constantly encouraged to assert feminine characteristics. Women are seen as the oppressed gender and men are seen as the suppressors. However, gender oppression also has an affect on men’s behavior as they are constantly bombarded with images that tell them how to assert masculinity. Masculinity limits men’s ability to express their feelings. The idea of masculinity needs to be proven by asserting strength in the forms of aggression and independence. Being a man implies that a person is able to handle situations on their own without expressing any emotional empathy or vulnerability. These characteristics aim to devalue feminine traits men may obtain that are associated with being unmanly. Feminine traits are described as showing emotions such as compassion, love and sensitivity. Boys are told not to act like girls because it is shameful to their masculinity. These limitations allow men to be criticized when acting in a feminine manner. Men are encouraged to conform to these gendered stereotypes, which lead to an oppression of true thoughts and actions. Performing masculinity prevents men from being themselves. These ideas shape the way men and women treat one another because men are devalued for expressing the same traits women are expected to perform.
The other day, I ran across an image of basketball player LeBron James and supermodel Gisele Bundchen on the cover of Vogue… except in various articles (including a Huffington Post article linked below), their picture was placed side-by-side with a vintage advertisement of the film King Kong. It was striking and disappointing to see how similar James looked to King Kong, and how much Bundchen mirrored the damsel-in-distress in the film advertisement.
This cover photo seems to perpetuate the narrow perception of black masculinity which, according to Hill Collins in her piece “Booty Call: Sex, Violence and Images of Black Masculinity,” consists of, “…aggression and claiming the prizes of urban warfare… Being tough and having street smarts is an important component of Black masculinity. When joined to understandings of booty as sexuality, especially raw, uncivilized sexuality, women’s sexuality becomes the actual spoils of war” (151).
Is this just a harmless cover with James showing his “game face”, or is there a more racist undertone (Huffington Post, 2008)?
Hill-Collins, Patricia. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Zaleski, Katharine. “LeBron James Vogue Cover Criticized For “Perpetuating Racial Stereotypes”.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 2008. Web. 31 Oct. 2013. .
Masculinity, as defined by the Oxford Dictionaries, is “the possession of the qualities traditionally associated with men.” As a society, we often deem men with broad shoulders, large muscles or chiseled faces as “masculine.” We immediately envision athletes and toned models. Coincidentally all of these descriptions link masculinity with physical characteristics.
In Hill Collin’s Booty Call; Sex, Violence and Images of Black Masculinity article, she further explores this notion of masculinity being associated with the use of the body, not the mind. She mentions how Black males are categorized as masculine if they are hyper sexual and aggressive– two characteristics with negative connotations. Bell hook brings out the ironic truth that “the very same women who may critique macho male nonsense contradict themselves by making it clear that they find the ‘unconscious brothers’ more appealing” (bell hook 111).
Since arriving at Penn, bell hook’s theory has proven to be true. Based on my observations and conversations I’ve noticed the majority of heterosexual females are attracted to men who fit the stereotypical physical description of masculine, including those who also acknowledge and criticize this trend. This leaves society in a limbo- while we recognize the issues at hand we fail to successfully attempt to consciously change these prior notions. The ultimate question is where we go from here– do people change who they are attracted to, do said attractive and “masculine” males change their aggressiveness and hyper sexuality or does society change the stereotype of masculine?
Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Sexual Politics: African Americans Gender and the New Racism. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Hook, bell. Outlaw Culture. New York. Routledge, 1994.
This print advertisement is selling a powerful computer processor, and utilizes the objectified black male body to do so. The advertisement depicts a middle-aged white man in office attire with his arms crossed and his gaze focused at the viewer. In contrast, six black men are crouched beside and behind him; they are wearing athletic gear, and hunched over as if they are about to begin a track race. Most importantly, their faces are bent and hidden away from the viewer, as opposed to the straight-forward representation of the white man’s face. Text above the men states, “Multiply computer performance and maximize the power of your employees.”
This advertisement makes use of a common media representation of black males by reducing them to their athletic bodies. “Historically, African American men were depicted primarily as bodies ruled by brute strength,” states Patricia Hill Collins (Hill Collins 152). The depiction of the men in the Intel advertisement dehumanizes and objectifies them; they are faceless and uniform tools for the white man’s character to use in improving his work efficiency. The juxtaposition of the black men and the white man also portrays an unbalanced power dynamic. Reminiscent of slave imagery, the advertisement is “relegating Black men to the work of the body” in a manner “designed to keep them poor and powerless” (Hill Collins 153).
This advertisement is likely targeting upper-middle-class, educated professionals who might make use of processors for company technology. In addition to selling the processor, the advertisement sells power and control by objectifying black male bodies to make them marketable additions to the advertisement.
The DiGiorno commercial ties very well with the main ideas discussed in Beauvior’s text titled The Second Sex: Introduction and Lorber’s text titled The Social Construction of Gender. In this commercial both genders are stereotyped into traditional gender roles as the men are seen relaxing outside while viewing sports and the woman is seen heading into her home with two large grocery bags. The men decide to order a pizza – but the main male character decides to call his spouse instead to demand her to make him a pizza the way he likes it. She replies, “you know I hate when you do this” as if this is an everyday occurrence between the two of them. He then demands her to make the pizza quickly. This commercial resembles how Beauvior discusses gender: “man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him” (Beauvior 33). Her existence is dependent on serving men instead of being independent to do the task she enjoys. Lober’s belief that gender “creates the social difference that define woman and man” because people “learn what is expected…thus simultaneously construct and maintain the gender order” (Lorber 115). This construction is seen as the woman is expected to make the pizza for the men as she always does. After making the pizza the woman retaliates by turning the sprinkler on the three men. The men have no reaction and continue to watch sports, as if they are oblivious to her existence. Their actions demonstrate that men are seen as the supreme and the woman is only significant in service to men. Therefore, the woman is only defined according to the men’s terms.
Judith Lorber, “The Social Construction of Gender”, 1990.
De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction.”, 2003.
Oppression is power. It is power over another person. Oppression doesn’t have to be intentional, it doesn’t have to be in bad faith, and it doesn’t have to be blatant. In Bell Hooks’s 1986 article entitles “Political Solidarity Between Women,” the dynamics of power (and therefore oppressive ideologies) are examined. For example, white cis women, generally those who are middle or upper class seem to be the gatekeepers of feminism. They want other types of women to join the feminist movement. To assume that a movement “belongs” to this group of people that has all this privilege, and that they are simply allowing other, oppressed groups, into the movement is a form of oppression. People within oppressed groups may be prejudiced, they may be discriminatory (for largely justified reasons), but they cannot oppress. The key to oppression is the power that one group holds over another, and for as long as that one group remains in power, they will continue to oppress the other groups.