Boys, Girls - this is not a competition. Sexist ads are bad for everyone.

As noted already by adrants, Alex Leo (great name) has listed the Five Sexist Trends the Advertising World Just Can't Shake over at the Huffington Post.

Do check that article out, and watch how the comments immediately go straight into the usual arguing "but men are portrayed as doofuses/inept/helpless in advertising too" gender-war. It derails fast. You can practically play gender-stereotypes-in-advertising-arguing-bingo with the comments as the first thing I see is the Diet Coke women ogling men ad mentioned. BINGO! What do I win? Please let it be a red Ferrari.

Lets get one thing straight off the bat: two wrongs don't make a right - applying a negative behavior equally still does not justify the behavior. Stereotypes are bad all around - all of them. The women as object for the male gaze as well as the dad is a doofus are equally crap. Nobody wins. We clear on this?

Now, something really grates me when I see those comments rolling in - I've see them all before and filled in all my bingo-cards - every time someone writes an article about how sexist advertising can be against women, comments about how men are portrayed in ads take over the threads like Kudzu. Quelling a females complaints about the male oppression seen in ads, with "we get it too - I am also oppressed, boo HOO!" is just another way to silence women's critique of society and reinforce gender norms. You guys have problems BIGGER than mine, as usual. Ain't that grand?

You can practically set watches by this, someone writes about misogynist or sexist advertising and how it affects females, and some (presumably) men immediately jump in and complain about the dad-is-a-doofus stereotype they have to endure when watching advertising. See what you did there guys? You made it about men again. I can picture you at the breakfast table with yanking your little sisters hair yelling "But MooOOom, she started it!".

 

Oh don't get me wrong, guys, I am not a girl saying "We've been putting up with this shit for generations, but when it happens to you guys you get all upset about it..." as if you men should not complain. As if your genders silent approval of sexist ads in previous generations nulls any voice you have today about it. Quite the opposite, how we will ever move forward if we don't move forward? I know that we've already come a long way, baby, women can vote, wear slacks and get lungcancer as much as men these days, quite a step up from the era when we couldn't even open ketchup bottles.

And yes, there are men being portrayed as super hunks with shiny oily six-packs in advertising as well, and young boys are becoming anorexic, dependent on steroids and blowing their weekly allowance on back-waxes and whatnot. There is no doubt that men are sex objects in advertising as well, often for the male gaze again, but a bit of near bondage with men gets the ad yanked in no time at all. Can't have buggery in public now can we? And yes, while women couldn't open ketchup bottles, pipe-smoking dad in advertising worried only about the shine on his car (depicted with a woman draped across the hood of it mind you).

 

Think about it for a little while, as much as any ad guys hates being portrayed as Mr Doofus can't do anything right, the helpless man who can't cook clean or look after children (or for that matter operate heavy machinery) that we see so often in advertising and sitcoms, this image of helpless man is actually harmful to women as well. And more often than not written by men, who might even benefit from the idea. If men can not be responsible parents, it's clearly up to women to pick up the slack, take the kids, balance the checkbooks, use the right cleaning stuff in the right place and cut the grass because you've seen what happens when man-stereotypes like Tim Allen gets their hands on anything with moving parts. Don't let him hold your purse in the mall for too long, he'll enter a Daddy daycare sports bar and buy a home entertainment system full of games with your nest-egg, ladies. Amirite? Doofus man is man-child that supermom takes care of along with the other children.

 

Hand on your heart, did you ever write an ad that was sexist toward either gender? I've had a guy kicked in the nuts in a commercial I worked on, everyone thought I wrote that in, but it was my male partner who did. I fully expect male adgrunts to comment here with their personal anecdotes from their unicorn-special ad agency where there are more women than men in the creative department and they hire male strippers every friday. The fact that you work at the end of the rainbow does not negate the mass of mass medias sexist portrayal of women, and again two wrongs regarding those Chippendales.

 

If anyone feels the urge to throw the usual mud my way for the above, the argument that I can only be offended by women as sex-objects in advertising because "You're an ugly fat flat chested wallflower" or similar, I know that I shouldn't stoop to that level and never have before, but may I defuse that right now? I'm a little red hot firecracker of sex on wheels with a double-D cup and a mind so sharp I can slice your dirty hands right off only by looking at them, but that does not give my voice more authority to speak out against objectifying females in advertising than any other womans. That line of defense is just a male way of objectifying me as a female, yet again. You are ugly woman, your voice doesn't count. Or you are prepubescent girl-woman, you'll get this when you're older dearie. Or, You are mom-woman, your hormones are making you overly sensitive. Or you are elderly woman, you're just jealous that all the chicks of the next generation get to have all the free sex fun you missed out on. I get it - it all translates to you are woman, shut the hell up. No, Mister, you are alpha-man, and all you are doing is trying ever so desperately to hang on to the Patriarchy where you actually have a role, because you're scared that you can't handle a world where individuals are human first and genders will only be biology as you are devoid of anything original and lack a real sense of self. I should pity that but frankly, there are kids armed with guns fighting wars in the bush and entire families dying from viruses science can tame in far off lands that deserve my pity more than baby brother who can't look up from his own navel long enough to see what his self-centered whining is doing to the world. Grow a fucking spine, attach it to a working brain, and be part of the solution instead of wasting your time on the intarwebs belitteling women you little shit.

 

I've heard it all my life. Yes, you guys are hurting too. I know as much about what it is like being a man as I know what is is like being another color than cracker white. All I can do is empathise, try to see it from your point of view and quit judging people by gender or color before I know who that person really is and I really wish everyone on the planet would do the same. I don't know what it is like for a boy.

 

But I do know first hand what its like to grow up surrounded by imagery that tells me to be pretty girl, I should have Farrah Fawcett's hair and red bathing suit, Cover Girl will make the boys notice me, and boys noticing me is all that I ever need to be happy. Math is hard. My happiest of my life day is when I get married. Popular culture showed me that I shouldn't be in a band for the sheer joy of music and dance funky-goofy like Dan Akroyd in Blues Brothers, I was supposed to be smoldering sexy like Blondie. Everything tells me that girls should look hot, for we are always judged by the way we look. Oh, and when you do look in any way presentable (forget hot, you'll get this shit wearing a Hawaiian shirt and army pants on laundry day) some men you pass on the street will make sure to get into your personal zone, cat-call, whistle, comment, yell "smile baby", or my personal favorite make the "kissy kissy" noise as if you are their puppy, just so we don't forget, walking out there, who really owns you girl.

 

I know you guys worry about getting mugged late at night in some neighbourhoods, and bar fights target you more often than me, and I am sorry about that - some people can be such dickheads. Meanwhile, it's not dark streets and material things that are my main concern when I stray from the house, in broad daylight, on crowded public transport, in the public library and the allyway with the bad light they are the same danger-level, and the object coveted by strangers is my body which I can not leave at home. The dudes hanging on the street corner are just as frightening to me as the man dressed in a police uniform. Have you ever felt that? The guy with a map on the high street is not stopping me to ask for directions, the guy pointing to his left arm is not getting my attention to ask what time it is. I've been tricked into giving guys like that a second of my life so often, I am now a street-tank that never budges from her path because frankly dudes, get a decent cellphone with GPS, you ain't getting into my space. Street harassment is real. Don't walk behind me for too long on the street either, I have a very itchy mace finger, and if you cross when I cross, you will taste it. This paranoia did not spring up from nowhere, I am the pavlovian dog trained to react this way by years of street harassment. Ah, but now I'm being too harsh on men right?

 

Even reading debates on Muslim women's head scarves, written by men, in Danish newspapers focuses on women's looks, as one journalist declared his love for the Muslim woman's choice of covering herself up by describing in several paragraphs how pretty and lovely their faces were so clean from makeup and unobscured by fashion-whim hair. You'd think that somewhere he might realize how fucking ridiculous his defense of the clothing item designed to protect a woman from the mans gaze on the street was when he defended it by using that very same male gaze, but this was of course applauded for being oh so open minded and progressively PC. It's quite the opposite.

 

Ah, but the chicken and the egg - I forgot - is advertising mirroring society as it is today? After all you do see guys holding handbags in the mall almost as often as you see it in advertising (actually I've never seen this phenomena, but I trust that somebody has). Arguing what came first is a red herring, media is a powerful speaker and feeding junk into it which screams louder for each turn only creates a feedback loop that amplifies as we go round and round. I truly believe that media can change the world, I sincerely believe in the power of advertising, and I know that the feedback has got to stop somewhere so why can't we just call it quits right here? You and me mate, lets draw a line in the sand and declare "we quit". I don't post the most offensive sexist pieces of rubbish uncreative so called 'viral' crap that we are sent daily, not even to mock it, even though I know full well I could rake in the traffic on crud like that because, do I really want to add to amplification of that crap? It's like pointing out dogshit on the street - look, dog shit! Lets stick a flag in it! - without picking it up. Remember dear old Bill and his aversion to measuring public opinion? Remember that "...we forget we can mould it."? Yeah, start moulding people.

 

No, I'm not on the rag, auntie Flo is not visiting and if you thought that even for a nano-second while reading this please kick yourself in the nuts from me. ktxbye.

about the author

Dabitch Creative Director, CEO, hell-raising sweetheart and editor of Adland. Globetrotting Swede who has lived and worked in New York, London, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm.

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