A while ago my dad mentioned that commercials on television were often demeaning to men. At first I thought he was crazy, but then I started to pay attention, and I think he’s right. The scenario in many commercials is usually something like this: guy is trying to do something and can’t. Girl comes over and gives him X product or X advice, or even just does whatever it is herself. Some narration about the product. End of commercial. There are hundreds of variations of this, but it seems to all point to one thing: advertising has become sexist.
Something I have noticed about the generation of people approximately between the ages of 15-35 seem very interested in women’s empowerment. Obviously people have been working towards that for years, but now, along with the gay rights movement, it is more socially acceptable. What I often see as a result of this however, is a tendency to take it a bit too far. For example, it is socially acceptable to make jokes about the intelligence of men, but it is not as socially acceptable to make jokes about the intelligence of women. It does, however still seem to be socially acceptable to poke fun at the moodiness or emotional sensitivity of women, and interestingly, it is still okay to make jokes about overly sensitive men. This obviously raises the question of whether or not our society has a problem with sensitivity in general, but that’s a topic for another time.
The question in advertising, comedy or anything else is, at what point does something become sexist? Often when people observe that something is sexist, they notice that it’s sexist against women. Not many people seem to take into account, however, that things can be sexist and downright offensive towards men. I believe vehemently that women and men should be equal, and when it comes to portrayals of the sexes in advertising, they are not. We seem to be at a precarious place at this point in time. There is still plenty of inequality for women in this country and all over the world. In America, however, we are equal in terms of what we can say and do, and we must be careful that this does not lead to animosity between men and women.
Social norms are changing at an almost overwhelming rate. Groups who were oppressed throughout history, women included are gaining immense power and freedom very quickly, and we are having to learn how to use it very quickly. Sexist advertising is not empowerment. It is irresponsible, and frankly, immature. I can guarantee that if commercials were shown with men helping women with things, someone would call them out as being sexist. The main problem with this kind of advertising is that it is one sided. If half the commercials showed men helping women and half showed women helping men, there would be nothing wrong, but the constant portrayal of men being weaker and less intelligent than women is offensive and unfair.
The fact of the matter is that women are better at some things and men are better at others, and this is okay. Furthermore, every individual has different interests, skills and talents. It is okay for Sarah to be physically stronger than Tom because he happens to be a physicist and has decided that solving the mysteries of the universe is more important than working out. It’s also okay for Miles to be a body builder and Nancy to be a fashion model. I can be slaying zombies one minute and gushing over cute puppies the next, and there’s nothing weird about that.
Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!