Modern advertising manages to objectify women and take men for idiots all at once, Maria Pawlowska writes.
I recently bumped into a horrendous ad – a chicken slaughterhouse was advertising itself with a picture of a “hot blond” in a bikini surrounded by (and pecking on her!) the chickens that will supposedly soon be dead. My disbelief, mixed with some sheer disgust, quickly developed into a post about disgusting objectification of women in advertisements, and then I started thinking. Do the people who design these ads really think that men are stupid and actually seeing a woman with little clothes on will convince them to get their chickens slaughtered at one place instead of another?
There’s more where that came from – who would have thought women’s breasts can even be used to sell hamburgers or their wide open mouths seen in profile? Or that sticking a gun to a woman’s head is a good attempt at raising skateboard sales? Or maybe sticking lotto balls in a woman’s dress will make someone want to try their luck this week?
Because these commercials all include women’s naked bodies or a crude allusion to women’s naked bodies, I assume they are mostly aimed at heterosexual males. True, other groups can also find female bodies attractive and “pleasant to the eye” but are unlikely to be convinced to part with (sometimes substantial amounts of) money because of them (obviously plastic surgery for women is an exception). My question though is: do these ads actually convince men to?
How many men are actually going to get a particular hamburger because the chain advertised itself with an image cunningly resembling a woman preparing to perform oral sex on a sandwich? Are they hoping that somehow “warm and fuzzy” feelings about oral sex will get lodged in a prospective client’s brain next to thoughts about that particular fast food chain and thus make a heterosexual male more likely to eat there? Or are they really thinking that they can convince men to have their burgers and not anybody else’s because they’re so good girls want to fellate them. I mean … seriously?
Someone is being stupid here – it’s either the copywriters being plain dumb, or the copywriter’s are assuming their target audience lacks in any sophistication whatsoever and operates on a ‘food-TV-sex’ basis only. Or maybe (and bear with me because this is getting pretty meta) copywriters are assuming clients are stupid and clients are, in turn, assuming the copywriters are stupid but are kind of playing along nevertheless.
Either way it seems that the advertising industry is completely OK with assuming the best (if not only) way to sell something to a man is by getting him to associate it with sex. I mean, why actually try to convince them about the actual merits of a car, beer or snack when you can simply get a guy to think about any form of sexual activity and—ta da!—you’ve sold the product? Why treat men like adults who have interests that go beyond women’s bodies and what one can do with them sexually. As far as advertisers are concerned, there’s no point in trying to sell just about anything to male homosexuals – they’re obviously a lost cause if you can’t convince them to buy stuff by simply making the product look like it’ll get you closer to a naked woman.
I take offence with these marketing policies for two reasons. Firstly, I’m an unapologetic feminist and I really think a lot of these commercials are simply disgusting and disrespectful. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against naked bodies in (most) lingerie commercials and nudity it general. I think the human body (not just that of size-0, white, able-bodied women) is a wonderful thing, and there’s no reason to hide it for the “sake of morals”. However, objectifying women to sell chicken killing services is a whole different ball park.
The other reason these adds seriously bother me is because I hate the assumption that any particular group of people is intrinsically stupid or primitive. And these ads are sexist all around – they objectify women and assume (most) men respond to one cue alone – SEX. There’s no other way to get anything across – why talk about the real qualities of something when it’ll obviously be wasted on a brain that only responds to boobs, right?
As much as I don’t like to see women objectified, I also hate men being assumed to be primitive creatures whose reproductive organs make most of their decisions. It’s sexist, it’s wrong, it’s plain stupid, and I’d sure love to see it changed.
—Photo Shiny Things/Flickr