Thursday, July 1, 2010

Sexism and Other Garbage in Our Media

Have you ever had a love-hate relationship with something? Like chocolate. I mean, one minute you love it more than life itself (I've been known to eat a s'more in my day), but the next minute you're staring into the bathroom mirror, pinching and pulling your thighs, and wondering why you ever got mixed up with that crap in the first place. That pretty much sums up my love-hate relationship with the media, minus the pinching and pulling. One minute I'll be chuckling at a Skittles commercial, but the next minute I'll go on a rampage because some idiotic company felt the need to bash, stereotype, or otherwise degrade women to sell their products.

I didn't used to be so critical, but once I actually started paying attention to what I was watching and reading I realized how much garbage we're subjected to in a day - it's on TV, in newspapers, magazines, billboards, everywhere! We can't escape it!

I've been collecting sexist ads on the internet for a while now, and while some are only mildly sexist, others are oh-my-gosh-I-can't-believe-they-did-that-who's-skull-can-I-bash-in sexist. And there have been some common themes along the way:

1. "Oh, you're a woman? You must be [insert stereotype here]."

Translation: Women only serve two purposes. I'm sure you can guess what they are.

It just amazes me that companies can get away with printing such blatantly-sexist advertisements, and ads that promote ridiculous stereotypes about women are more common than I first realized. Women are frequently typecast as shoppers, pink-lovers, gold-diggers, scaredy-cats, sexual objects, prostitutes, nagging mothers, air-heads. . . it never ends! I don't know about you, but I am neither a shopper, pink-lover, gold-digger, scaredy-cat, sexual object, prostitute, nor nagging mother. And heaven forbid you call me an airhead. Why do advertisers think it's okay to paint women in this light?

Here are some gender-related videos:

Analysis of Gender in Media
Gender Stereotypes in Media
Gender Stereotyping of Women in the Media

2. "Are women even human? Nah, they're just objects."

Translation: Keep the bag, throw away the woman.

As discussed in the documentary Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising's Image of Women, women are constantly turned into objects, sometimes even becoming part of the product that's being sold. Some might justify this by saying women's bodies are "beautiful works of art." Well yeah, we're awesome. But we're not inanimate things that can be used like a piece of toilet paper. As the documentary explains (please watch it), when women are portrayed as less than human people can use that as an excuse to justify violence against them. After all, is it easier to mistreat something you value (i.e. like a human being), or something that is little more than a piece of meat or, in the case of this advertisement, garbage?

3. "Make that sexual objects."

Translation: Women are valued for their bodies, not their intelligence, personalities, etc.

First off, how funny (i.e. ridiculous) is it that an ad for wakeboards stuffs their product into a teeny-weeny corner, while the forefront is dominated by irrelevant, bikini-clad women? Does this tactic really work with its intended audience, which we can all assume to be men? Do they really see this as and think "ooh, women, I must buy a wakeboard"? That's pretty insulting to their intelligence, isn't it? But if I can get to my main rant, thank you, this ad is incredibly degrading. By covering up the women's faces (but leaving their bodies exposed) we get the message that they are not people to be valued for their intelligence, humor, personalities, or anything that makes them inherently likeable or unique, they're valued for their bodies and sexuality. Not only do the bags make these women appear as if they're less than human, they transform them into sexual objects. Horrifying.

4. "This is what beauty really looks like."

Translation: If you're with an ugly woman like this, who could blame you if you cheated with a gorgeous woman like this?

I absolutely deplore ads that try to impose their idea of beauty on us. The message "sometimes ya gotta cheat" is sickening enough (are they really trying to promote adultery?), but I just hate the fact that they're taking it upon themselves to judge two women purely by their looks. This woman is wrinkly, old, and therefore ugly; this woman is skinny, busty, and therefore beautiful. There's no mention of internal qualities; after all, who needs to be smart or compassionate when they've got jugs? These ads drive women crazy because they feel insurmountable pressure to look more like the "mistress" and less like the "wife." These ads might also hurt our relationships with men, because one day we're lounging around in our grungy pajamas and they're thinking "hey, why don't you look like this?"

5. "Violence? Eh, it's no big deal."

Translation: I don't even know what they were trying to go for.

This ad is frivolous, meaningless. Violence for the sake of violence. I have absolutely no clue how this would make people want to buy ties (unless they're in the mafia). Just look at the sickening expression on the man's face. "Yeah, look what I did." He looks amused, clutching the naked dead woman by the throat, blood dripping down the hood of the car. This ad pretty much renders my brain numb. I don't know how to describe it, how to accurately describe my rage, my disgust. How can they . . . Why would they . . . This is pure horror. They're glorifying violence against women to sell their crappy little ties - and if the public thinks this is okay, we're all in trouble. I beg you: if you ever see an ad as horrific as this, please, please, please make some phone calls, write some letters, call the president, do whatever you have to do to get it destroyed.


  1. I love the videos you linked! :D I'm a fellow teen feminist/part-time blogger, and I'm super pumped that more teen bloggers are coming onto the scene. :) You didn't link it in your sidebar but a great feminist news site is Ignore the posts from today! AHHH! This is so exciting! Oh and is a new site from the girl behind the Seventeen Magazine Project.

  2. Hey, thanks! It's nice to meet a fellow teen/feminist/blogger!

    I'll definitely have to check out those sites . . . I'm just sorry I didn't reply sooner!


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