Vikings and Spartans and Naked Ladies, Oh My

I'm sure I don't even need to express my general feelings about Axe and its ad campaigns. This particularly egregious ad spot calls our attention to the Axe Undie Run Challenge, in which college students across America (but mostly conventionally attractive women) eagerly donate the clothes off their backs (literally) to charity.

Notable items:
- Far more semi-naked women than men in this advertisement. All women are, as mentioned, conventionally attractive; a good portion of the men featured are not conventionally attractive, and reveal far less skin than the women (clothed men are placed prominently next to unclothed or undressing women)
- Men are seen dressed up as Spartans, Vikings, and...Zorro. Women can't be costumed plunderers (or masked heroes), apparently.
- Dumbed-down voice-over. Because men are stupid.
- Obvious heterosexist slant. Because queer men don't exist.
- Use of the phrase "up in this bitch," which is a gendered slur used to dehumanize women.

You know it has to be pretty bad when it makes me long for an Old Spice commercial.


Manly Men: Lite Beer Edition

Miller Lite Ad

I think this ad is really interesting because it uses a woman as the voice of misogyny. The female bartender is scornful towards the beer-ordering male patron who doesn't appreciate REAL beer (which we're meant to believe is a masculine trait), telling him that when he's ready for a real beer he should "put down his purse" (ie rid himself of traditional signifiers of femininity) and order a Miller Lite. Presumably we're meant to be okay with this incredibly blatant anti-womanism because it is...coming from a woman. The message to both men and women is that women (and feminine men) have no appreciation for a good beer; in a bar setting, this translates to femininity being inherently shameful and embarrassing. (Though I should note that the female bartender does not have a masculine appearance; perhaps to make up for her aggressive persona, her appearance is hyper-feminine) This is another example of an advertisement based on the notion that Manly Men don't want any Girliness girling up their manstuff.


This one is from the UK; normally I try to choose advertisements from the United States, but in this case I think the cultural messages at play are relevant.

The advertisement takes us on a journey through a woman's life, from infancy through old age. Throughout most of the advertisement, she is placed in the context of a family- in fact, is the center of the family. As the commercial opens, we see her plucked from her crib by a women in stereotypically feminine clothing (whose face we do not see- we know her as a maternal entity, but nothing more) and set down to play. The child wears a frilly-sleeved pinkish top with flowers and butterflies on it (in other words, extremely gendered clothing). She crawls through a tunnel, and emerges at the other end, older and wearing a red and white gingham dress (also extremely gender-specific clothing). As she climbs up into her school desk, we catch a glimpse of her pencil container - pink. Many of the other children in her classroom are raising their hands; she is not. We are then taken to a birthday party given in her honor- she wears a red dress, blows out candles atop a pink and white cake. I have to say, this birthday party looks INCREDIBLY fancy- teapot, petit fours, all sorts of teeny, adult-looking snacks. This is no working-class affair, I assume. We then move to a scene in which young adults celebrate some occasion in what looks to be the hallway of a college dorm. She's not wearing a dress, but she IS kissing her boyfriend; our heroine is definitely straight. (props, I guess, for including SOME people of color at this point, though they are definitely background characters, even by background characters' standards).

Next, of course, we see our heroine getting married in a somewhat formal-looking ceremony (white dress for the bride, suit for the groom). The couple moves into a home (we see the woman opening the refrigerator and catch a bonus shot of her wedding band) and as she pulls back from the fridge, pizza slice in hand, we note that she is pregnant. There is a scene depicting two children and the woman and her husband together in the living room, and then we move to a scene with the woman in the kitchen yet again, talking on the phone and baking something with her daughter (the son is nowhere to be seen). As she gets older, we see her in the kitchen AGAIN, grabbing a pitcher of some sort of beverage to bring out to the family. At the end of the commercial, she is seen with her husband taking her grandchildren out to play.

Did she do anything with that college degree we assume she received (at least, that's what I figured the celebration in the dorm was about)? Who knows. All we really know is that her life followed an extremely well-worn path: school, love, marriage, THEN kids (heaven forbid kids come before marriage), then kids' kids. Her life is defined by her role in her family (which, for those of you who were paying attention, includes lots of time in the kitchen). We're supposed to feel like we have followed this woman on the journey of her life, but we really know almost nothing about her except that she is a wife, a mother, a grandmother.

And we all know how many products wives and mothers and grandmothers need to purchase to successfully care for those families, right? Hmm.


So, this is the Lane Bryant lingerie ad that ABC and Fox allegedly refused to air. Apparently, ABC and FOX have nothing against large women being portrayed as sexy; it's just that they HATE ladies running around in skimpy outfits. Their viewers deserve better than such tastelessness.

I mean, You'd never catch anyone running around in negligible clothing on ABC's Desperate Housewives.

or The Bachelor.

Or Fox's So You Think You Can Dance.

I could go on, but you guys deserve better than such tastelessness, right?


The Bechdel Test

This is one you may have seen making the rounds on feminist blogs of late: Feminist Frequency's video about the Bechdel Test. I've been advertisement-focused on this blog thus far, but the lack of substantial female representation in entertainment media is definitely something that bears scrutiny. The Bechdel Test was created by Alison Bechdel, who wrote and illustrated Dykes To Watch Out For and Fun Home. A movie or television show passes the Bechdel Test if it

1: Contains two or more women who have names
2: These woman talk to each other
3: These women talk to each other about something other than a man

Doesn't sound too rigorous, does it? You may be surprised by just how many movies and television shows are not able to pass this test. This lack of representation is a huge problem! It renders invisible women in general, specifically women with interests other than men (like, for example, non-heterosexual women! And let me tell you- as a queer woman, not having any real representation in the media definitely DOES have an impact on me, and I definitely DO feel invisible much of the time). Throw race into the mix, as The Angry Black Woman has in her blog post here, and the dearth of representation becomes even more marked.

Food for thought.


Violence as Glamor

Youtube video

A stunning collection of advertisements which use violence against women as a selling tool, glamorizing misogyny. (Note: I am not the creator of this video; I just stumbled upon it while looking for an advertisement to analyze this week.)


Smell Like A Man, Man

Ahhh, Old Spice Body Wash. Old Spice appears to be making a tongue-in-cheek commentary on the ridiculous, over-the-top portrait of masculinity portrayed in many advertisements for male grooming products. (Am I giving them too much credit here? I hope not.) Parody or not, I think it's worthwhile to take a look at what we're being told about masculinity.

Ad number one: Guy with a remarkably hairy chest (because body hair is apparently a signifier of Masculinity with a capital M, rather than something that grows naturally on the bodies of humans across the spectrum of sex) unflinchingly rips off some of said chest hair to reveal a message: "SMELL LIKE A MAN, MAN." The brains of manly men appear to be too overwhelmed by testosterone surges to care about elegant prose.

Ad number two: A decidedly feminine tableau containing a stuffed teddy bear ballerina-princess hybrid, some pink flowers, pink and red rose petals, and a pink cupcake is destroyed by the single punch of a MANLY MAN. Manly Men HATE pink! Pink things and flowery things and even stuffed teddy bears are the antithesis of masculinity, apparently. (Note the not-so-sly heterosexual subtext; masculinity punching a hole in and ramming through femininity.)

In conclusion, men, if you don't use Old Spice Body Wash you might end up smelling like something other than a man, and you can't be a manly man if you don't smell like a man, man. Man!



Let's talk about Mootopia, shall we?

California Milk Advisory Board - Mootopia / Gorgeous Hair- (2010) :30

In Mootopia, conventionally attractive women lounge near a pool of cow's milk, drinking said milk through straws and getting into spats because their shiny hair is just so shiny. This is, apparently, "part of another perfect day in Mootopia."

Mootopia is:
- 100% white
- 100% cisgendered
- 100% female

Problems: Beauty in Mootopia is white (even the dresses are white!). Women in Mootopia drink milk not for their health, but for its beauty-enhancing qualities, specifically its ability to promote lustrous hair- hair which is relatively straight- definitely not remotely kinky. Are these women friends? Their only interaction is a looks-based squabble, so I'd say no.

Overall, I'd say this advertisement reiterates cultural "common sense" when it comes to issues of gender: women are looks-obsessed, decorative (both women remain prone through the entire advertisement), and competitive with one another. With messages like these, it's no wonder sisterhood is tough.