The War on Terr’r Part 5: Buy Our Shit, Bitch!

29 May

The marketing and advertising industries might be the al Qaeda of gender-based terrorism, meaning that advertising is the most widespread, most effective, most elusive, and hardest to fight of all the sources of terrorism. I’m going to try to maintain some dignity, but this post might get ugly; I hate the ad industry (and its sycophantic step-child, the entertainment media) like Pauly Shore hates that the 90s are over, and I’m pretty sure it’s going to show.

Long, long ago (at least 10 days), I defined terrorism as any action that makes use of fear to manipulate people’s behavior, and advertisers are more adept at doing so and getting away with it than just about anyone. Advertisers find ways to get us to spend our money on things we don’t need, don’t (and probably shouldn’t) want, and likely can’t afford by creating an atmosphere of never-ceasing fear and self-doubt in which we feel like incomplete human beings if we don’t own every item in the everlasting parade of useless bullshit they present to us. And almost no one calls attention to it.

Advertisers have gone from doing research on how to meet customers’ desires to creating and directing desires, all while giving us the illusion of choice. They manage this because they have found a way to overwhelm us with their messages; the collusion between advertisers and entertainment media has advanced to the point where it’s almost impossible to draw a line between the commercials and the content on any major network these days, so that we’ve found ourselves in a situation in which we’re being advertised to at almost every moment. There’s virtually no hope of resisting the advertising juggernaut because the totality of our cultural identity is created by advertisers and their entertainment industry lackeys. They now tell us who we are, who we want to be, and how to get there (at which point who we want to be will change). They’ve transitioned from selling us single products to selling us identities (e.g. If you wanna be urban, get yourself a VW, an iBook, some $200 jeans, and whatever Urban Outfitters is selling this week, and hurry up and get yourself those Radiohead and Vampire Weekend CDs).

Advertisers have somehow found a way to manipulate women into buying products from their clients despite the fact that they repeatedly tell us, in no uncertain terms, that they hate us. And that’s where the difference between advertising aimed at men and that aimed at women lies: advertisers take advantage of men as well as women, but most ads aimed at men don’t come with a dose of disrespect and dehumanization (of men). The message aimed at men is usually one laden with flattery, fantasy, and promises of ego boosts, which are chiefly gained at the expense of women. The message aimed at women is more likely something along the lines of, “If you buy this you’ll be less worthless than you are now, but you’ll still be pretty worthless.”

Let’s have a look at a few examples.

Durex sells XXL condoms. You know, because there’s a dude somewhere whose wiener just can’t fit into the regular condom, which can stretch to a diameter of about 10 inches, or the old Magnum XL condoms, which might stretch to 15. Riight. The secret to XL and XXL condoms is that any asshole can wear them, and hence they sell like hotcakes even though there is no such dude that needs them. So, here we have a useless product that no one needs, but that plenty of men probably feel like they have to have in order to feel like a part of the big wiener club.

And how do you know if you’re really a member (pun intended)? That’s easy. If you hurt the people you do it with, you can pat yourself on the back for being a “real man.” No, you shouldn’t consider not doing something to someone that hurts them. It’s your right as one of the few, the proud, the huge-enwienered to go around injuring your sex partners. Women can deal with a little physical pain to bolster your ego, because, fuck, that’s what women are here for. Or at least that’s what Durex seems to think.

This ad fucking terrified me when I first saw it, because it’s pretty clear these guys did some research and that their research told them that this ad would play well with men, and that it wouldn’t be necessary to tone it down in order to avoid scaring potential female customers. Despite the fact that it’s usually women who insist on condom use (women make up about a third of condom sales, and who knows how much more if one considers how many of the men buying condoms are doing so at their female partners’ request), Durex is basically telling all the women who see the ad, “Fuck you. You aren’t a person, you’re a body part for men to use. You can suck our collective dick, and then buy our product.” This ad is admittedly a pretty extreme example, but it’s far from unique, and it’s part of a huge woman-hating Durex campaign (fuck Durex, obviously, because they’re terrorists and they’ve clearly shown that they have no respect for half the world’s population’s humanity).

Advertisers know something most of us don’t: women have been exposed to so many images that tell them that they are their body parts (and nothing else) that it’s safe to put out an ad like this and expect women to let it pass. I mean, look at what they get away with when selling a product exclusively to women:

“Buy our boots. You’ll look hot even after you get raped, murdered, and shoved into a trunk.”

“What’s hotter than rape and murder?”

JESUS CHRIST! Apply the switcheroo here: imagine an ad featuring a man dressed up in his best Armani suit, beaten to death and left in an alley. There is no way an ad firm would make such an ad, because they know that men aren’t excited by seeing themselves dismembered, victimized, and murdered, and that men don’t see themselves through the same lens women do. There is no fucking way a dude would be attracted to images of brutalized men. It’s sick, but advertisers think they have some kind of insight into women’s minds, and maybe they do. Maybe most women have internalized the hatred of women that seems to dominate our popular culture to the point that they’ve lost their ability to be shocked by images such as these. Maybe most women can imagine themselves as a part of some kind of violent fantasy, can see themselves, as women have been trained by advertising to do, as if through the eyes of an onlooker, one who is attracted to images of women’s helplessness and victimization. Whatever it is, these advertisers are aware of and confident in their own influence. They’ve trained us, they think, to respond to their commands, even when those commands are couched in messages of pure misogyny. And they’re right a lot of the time.

How did we get to this disgusting place? Advertisers have always played upon people’s fears, but how did we get to a place where they can insult us, terrorize us, and still manipulate us into buying their products? Women are cornered by advertisers, trapped in an intractable position in which, even if they buy up everything they’re told to, they’ll still be used as decorations, made the butt of cruel jokes, and told that they don’t measure up to the impossible standards set up by the beauty industry. Ads create a low-level, but constant, state of terror in women’s minds, one that can only temporarily be partially alleviated through shopping but one that will never go away. It’s insidious, it’s difficult to describe or explain, it’s ubiquitous, and it’s overwhelming, but the influence of advertising is terroristic and needs to be confronted, because it may just be the number one factor limiting women’s potential. It dominates our conceptions of ourselves, it misdirects our energies and resources (financial, mental, and physical), and it prevents us from seeing our way to equality with men because it teaches us that we’re collections of body parts constantly in need of improvement rather than human beings.

The previous examples are a few of the most shocking I’ve seen recently, but their message is simply a purer distillation of the message in ads like these:

We’re supposed to see ourselves as if through the eyes of a male onlooker, we’re expected to be attracted to images of women being objectified, we’re supposed to aspire to a completely artificial and impossible beauty standard, and we’re expected to identify with this hateful and limiting conception of womanhood enough to want to buy the products associated with it? What a fucking insult. Seriously, fuck you.

I often find myself in conversations with women who don’t see what I’m so upset about, who tell me not to make such a big deal out of things, and it makes me nearly irrationally angry. I get all worked up about how evil and anti-woman the world of advertising is and it blows my mind that there is a woman on Earth that can’t see it. But then I remember that we aren’t supposed to see it. Advertisers are counting on the efficacy of their terroristic techniques. We’re supposed to be too busy worrying that we aren’t skinny, beautiful, hot, or “feminine” enough to notice that they’re selling us hatred of ourselves.

So how do we resist the advertising machine? It’s one of the world’s biggest industries; it creates the cultural context from which we have to fight it and, as such, it amounts to insurmountable brainwashing for the majority of the population. It feels hopeless, but there are some things that can be done. Obviously, we shouldn’t buy anything from companies that use images like these to sell their products, but that takes some real effort. I don’t even know that it’s possible to only buy products from companies that treat women like human beings, but we can choose the lesser of many evils when we make purchases. One of the most effective techniques I’ve seen of calling attention to the influence of advertising is vandalism (too bad Shepard Fairy turned out to be the sell-out of the century), and I practice it frequently by defacing misogynistic ads on bus stops, in subway stations, and on posters at construction sites. Those are just two ideas, and I’d be happy to hear more. It’s likely going to take a lot of time and effort, but the more people become aware of the influence of advertising on our images of ourselves, the more likely it will be to change.


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56 Responses to “The War on Terr’r Part 5: Buy Our Shit, Bitch!”

  1. Genevieve May 29, 2008 at 8:49 PM #

    The one with the car is what really pisses me off. It’s like they’re trying to say: “oh, women. They’re so shallow that even if they’ve been victims of a violent crime, all they’ll really care about is if their shoes look good.” They do not see us as people, as just like men, except with a few different parts. We’re a separate species to them, a worthless mysterious species that must be controlled by making us feel like we MUST conform to certain norms to be ‘hot’–and then when we do that we’re shallow annoying bitches. God damn the world.

  2. Nine Deuce May 29, 2008 at 8:52 PM #

    Yeah, this shit bums my party out to even think about. I hope my weltschmerz didn’t come through too clearly in this post, but I suspect it did. God damn the world, indeed.

  3. Donna May 29, 2008 at 10:49 PM #

    Great article! Those advertisements are sick.

    Another (television) ad which bothers me is the ad for Gardasil. They have gotten gradually somewhat better but the first one was, IMO, blatantly anti-sex for women. Throughout the ad we were shown girls doing physical activities. In none of the ads have I seen girls watching movies on the sofa and laughing, or walking through the mall with shopping bags in their hands…..to my mom, it seemed as if the implication were that more physically active girls were promiscuous, while my viewpoint was that the lack of girls doing non-physical activities meant that the advertisers were not ready to accept young women having sex, or at least any woman having sexual feelings as she does something that isn’t in the realm of sports.

  4. Nine Deuce May 29, 2008 at 11:01 PM #

    Those commercials are odd. The ad agency had to walk a fine line with those commercials as that vaccine was quite a sensitive topic. The ad guys were probably under strict orders to make them as non-sexual as possible because so many parents were unwilling to consider the vaccine as they thought it would lead to promiscuity in girls (what a fucking laugh). I’m still undecided about that vaccine, now that I’ve heard how bad it is for girls. Also, the vaccine being given only to girls is odd, considering the fact that boys are more likely to spread HPV. I think it’s probably another instance of women being made to bear responsibility and suffering for men’s sexual behavior (see birth control, abortion, etc. for other examples).

  5. ivy May 29, 2008 at 11:45 PM #

    I also took note of how active the girls were in the Gardasil commercials. In lots of advertising the girl is always the passive one, looking cute, watching boys play, doing quiet things. In these commercials most to all of the girls are active, which is an unusual enough phenomenon for people to take note.

  6. Nine Deuce May 29, 2008 at 11:53 PM #

    I think that might be because the ad guys are trying to remove the girls from any sort of context that could be construed as romantic or sexual in any way. If girls are not acting in accordance with “femininity” (read: sexual objectification), then the ads don’t hint at sex in any way, and hence they don’t remind people of the controversial aspects of the vaccine.

  7. Me May 30, 2008 at 12:58 AM #

    I haven’t watched TV since ’03, I don’t read newspapers, I stopped reading womens’ magazines ages ago, and there are no billboards where I live. Reading articles like this one make me realize how little advertising actually reaches me, especially since I’ve seen none of the ads such articles talk about. Either I’m quite sheltered, or what women need to do in order to help get rid of the mind pollution is to shun mass media.

  8. chlorophyll May 30, 2008 at 4:56 AM #

    Oh so true, I have become a much better person to myself since I stopped reading trash like Allure and Vogue on a monthly basis.

  9. Jemima Aslana May 30, 2008 at 11:28 AM #

    Wow, I must say we have considerably fewer of the really bad ones here in Denmark, and last time we did have a hugely misogynistic ad campaign it was very quickly shut down by the authorities BECAUSE it was misogynist.

    Which of course had MRA’s raising hell about how ads are also unfair to men, who are portrayed as chubby geeks with bad hygiene (but who can somehow still buy the hot chick with a bouquet of flowers) or silly jokey family men having fun with their family (as if it’s a bad thing to joke around with your children). Yup, ze malez are surely made to look bad in ads… And those two examples were the exact ones the MRA’s complane about. One wasn’t misandrist at all but rather incredibly misogynist, and the other was just funny and not offensive at all.

    I wrote one of my longer blog posts about the issue. This one of yours is right up my alley. And once again, sheesh, you get some far worse ads in the US than we do in DK. The first and the fourth you show here might go on the market, but they wouldn’t stay. They’re simply too nasty to be legal here. I’m not sure about the rest, though.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, even if it shines through that you carry a mild aversion to the ad-industry (=understatement of the year) it was still a really good post.

  10. ate May 30, 2008 at 12:37 PM #

    Magazines like Vogue and Harpers Bazaar and all of them are sooo evil. Sure not as openly as Cosmo or Cleo but nonetheless… I don’t wear make up, I don’t pay particular attention to the clothes I wear, I don’t spend more than necessary on them and I have a fairly healthy body image. I pick up any of those magazines and I start thinking ‘I want that’ and worse ‘I need that’.. for things I don’t even use! Then I stop and think about how the images I’m looking at are degrading and awful and sending me this stupid idea of how I should view myself and need to be and can’t figure out why I still have a mass burning desire to own it all anyway. Sigh.

  11. syndicalist702 May 30, 2008 at 1:49 PM #

    me— You’re so lucky to be in a place where you’re not being bombarded by shit like this. I live in Vegas where I see this kind of stuff almost daily.

  12. Izzy May 30, 2008 at 3:38 PM #

    They could never get away with an ad featuring a dead man, because people would look at it and immediately think “omg, a dead person!” With the woman people look at it and see “Hey it’s a woman. I wish I was that skinny. Wonder why she has all those bruises. Must be artsy.” And that last reaction is optimistic on my part.
    When women aren’t people, killing them isn’t murder. Stupid patriarchy.

  13. Me May 30, 2008 at 6:35 PM #

    702-Well, I did get pestered to death by two Boots cosmetics saleswomen while shopping at Target today, so I guess I’m not totally free of the P. So, I tried to start a conversation about how beauty products are toxic and evil on several levels, but they weren’t having it. Hey, I tried. Maybe I should find that T-shirt I saw once, that said: Fuck Your Fascist Beauty Standards.

  14. Nine Deuce May 30, 2008 at 7:00 PM #

    That was a One Angry Girl t-shirt. Her link is in my blogroll.

  15. Chameleon May 30, 2008 at 7:04 PM #

    This post definitely rates as one of the best I have ever read. Not much to add, only my relief that I had not been exposed to any of these images (I stopped buying fashion glossies what seems like an eternity ago and they reminded me of one of the reasons why).
    The picture of the bruised and battered woman lying at the bottom of the stairs was truly horrific, I can honestly say I have never clapped eyes on anything more repulsive than this aestheticisation of brutality.

  16. Nine Deuce May 30, 2008 at 7:09 PM #

    Yeah, that one really freaked me out, though I’m still somehow more upset about the Durex campaign. Which probably means I’m brainwashed or something. Maybe it’s that the staircase ad is so over the top as to be at an obvious remove from reality, whereas the Durex ad hews pretty close to the attitude I hear from a lot of men every day when it comes to women and sex: that we’re all here to be used like sex toys and discarded, and that our comfort and safety means nothing compared to their pleasure.

  17. syndicalist702 May 30, 2008 at 8:12 PM #

    me- I’m going to google that phrase. I bet at least a sticker will come up.

  18. syndicalist702 May 30, 2008 at 8:14 PM #

    ahah! sixteen bucks right here:

    oneangrygirl.net/fascist.htm

  19. Me May 30, 2008 at 9:48 PM #

    Cool; I’ll add that to my wishlist, along with a “I Support the Iraq Veterans Against the War” hoodie.

  20. L May 31, 2008 at 2:34 AM #

    The picture of the dead girl at the bottom of the staircase came from America’s Next Top Model cycle 8 — it was the “beautiful corpses” challenge. A Google image search for “America’s next top model corpses” will reveal a number of other products of that photo shoot.

    There’s just SO MUCH WRONG with the fact that this came out of a television reality show that essentially teaches young women how to be models. Tyra Banks talks the talk of empowerment all over that show, but absolutely no one involved in the show actually empowers women. It’s bad enough that it’s a show encouraging young women to compete against other young women for the male gaze; it’s bad enough that Tyra & Co. are essentially pimping out young women as clothing racks with vaginas to woman-hating fashion designers; it’s bad enough that “plus-size” model means “not quite as emaciated as the other anorexics we hire.” But in that “beautiful corpses” shoot, Tyra & Co. literally told young women that everyone wants them dead because they are pretty/prettier that way. Ugh. Disgusting.

    But Tyra and friends were just essentially copycatting other actual advertising campaigns, if I recall correctly. They are tools of the patriarchy, enforcers of it, but they aren’t original by any means. Our society hates women, men, women, and children alike. We. Hate. Women. It is undeniable after reading a post like this.

    I hate the advertising industry back for hating me so much. One way I say “fuck you” to the advertising industry is not to buy clothes anywhere but consignment, local, or relatively benign places (e.g. Kohl’s — I haven’t seen a Kohl’s ad, let alone a fucking asshole one, in years). This also somewhat lets me off the hook for buying jeans and other clothes that aren’t made in the US and that essentially act as products of imperialist capitalism — at least I’m not directly contributing to companies that use cheap labor in under-developed countries to feed a consumer mouth that never shuts.

    Finally, thank you for this great post.

  21. C June 1, 2008 at 10:49 PM #

    I’m so happy you finally wrote this one, as a teenage girl it kills me to see so many girls feeling like shit about themselves and being “terrorized” throughout my school. Last week only a few days before you put up “Killing Us Softly” we watched it in my media studies class. I was really exited to hear the responses from the class at the discussion the next day, and I was absolutely shocked when the whole class was spent putting down this video because it didn’t focus enough on males being objectified and how hard it is for males now as well as females in the ad industry. I didn’t even speak up during the discussion because I was scared I would go on a huge rant and I thought I would come off unintelligent because I was so angry that the point of my argument would’ve been basically, fuck you! Anyways, I just wanted to get your response on that, and are you as pissed as I am, or am I just over reacting?

  22. Nine Deuce June 1, 2008 at 11:17 PM #

    I am WAY pissed off by that. Really, it’s true, there are more images of men in advertising these days being objectified than there were a few years ago, but what the fuck does that matter? There’s still one huge difference: when men are being objectified, it’s a role they’ve chosen to occupy. Women are objectified whether they want to be or not. When those male models leave the photo shoot, they go back to being human beings, whereas women continue being objects whose worth is determined by who wants to fuck them. Men, when they are objectified in advertising, are still respected, looked up to, etc., which women are not. When we start seeing men’s fashion spreads with images of men having been dismembered, I’ll start worrying about men being objectified. That women are represented in such a manner shows, as L said above, that our culture hates women.

    The problem these days is that men have (intentionally or otherwise) misinterpreted the meaning of equality. Men think they ought to be considered equally put upon simply because they can come up with an example of a time a man suffered. They, from their loftily oblivious position, don’t have to think very hard about this issue. If they can come up with a single example to show that they, too, have at one time or another been victims, then they are off the hook and don’t need to acknowledge their privilege. They argue that if women want equality, then women have to be willing to give men equal room to whine about what they’ve been made to suffer. They don’t see the big picture, but rather each tiny incident as if it weren’t connected to larger social forces. Hence, you have men complaining about some overblown case of a false rape accusation but unwilling to confront the reality of what it means to be female in a culture in which women’s sexuality is seen as the property of men. Or you see men suing bars that have ladies’ night because it’s not fair to make men (who make more money than women) pay for beer when women don’t have to. It’s similar to the whole, “If black people can say nigger, why can’t I?” bullshit. It’s utter bullshit, but it’s the crux of every MRA argument, this conception of equality that’s completely myopic (at best) or dishonest.

    All you need to do with these assholes is tell them to bring you the most offensive ad they can find that objectifies men, and then show them a few like the ones I’ve posted here. All but the biggest idiots will have to acknowledge that there is something very different going on in these ads.

  23. Lini June 2, 2008 at 9:22 PM #

    GREAT article! I’m really thankful there are women like you, who try and fight the brainwashing… it’s not as bad here in Germany but OF COURSE you (as a woman) feel always imperfect and deficient when you happen to gaze at these “legs up to there”, overcute faces and “perfect” breasts, hips, lips, whatever. You are SO right in saying that we are reduced to our body parts.

  24. Jemima Aslana June 3, 2008 at 5:02 PM #

    Same season of ANTM that featured the “beautiful corpses” also featured the photoshoot from the meat packing district. Yep, models and meat… ’cause apparently a slaughterhouse is where women belong. Go figure.

  25. SAAM June 5, 2008 at 4:45 AM #

    No wonder I don’t watch Tv, or read magazines. I’d never seen any of those advertisements. I think the Durex one is the worst. AWFUL!!

  26. bonobobabe June 6, 2008 at 12:51 AM #

    That Durex ad made me want to punch someone in the face. You would never see a picture of a guy with a bandaid over his butthole to advertise big condoms for guys with big pricks. There would be a fucking uproar over it.

    I think that should be dating criteria. If the guy you’re thinking of sleeping with buys XL condoms, dump him.

    I just love the way you analyze things. You’re spot on.

  27. Eye June 14, 2008 at 4:26 AM #

    “It’s insidious, it’s difficult to describe or explain, it’s ubiquitous, and it’s overwhelming, but the influence of advertising is terroristic and needs to be confronted, because it may just be the number one factor limiting women’s potential. It dominates our conceptions of ourselves, it misdirects our energies and resources (financial, mental, and physical), and it prevents us from seeing our way to equality with men because it teaches us that we’re collections of body parts constantly in need of improvement rather than human beings.”

    I really agree with that paragraph in particular there. I really hate makeup, frankly, and I hate that women are socially trained from preschool to construct their social groups based on who’s prettiest, and competition among women is based on beauty validation. What a wonderful way to set the pretext for the rest of your life!

    An insignificant detail, some men actually do need Magnums (I use them) because of girth, not length. I’m slightly less long than the “average,” but if I wear regular condoms it restricts blood flow and I have problems maintaining “my end of the bargain.” But I do agree there’s this obsession with size among men that has only increased in the last few decades largely due to– who? Advertising media, and commercials that give men the misconception that most women feel unsatisfied by and large by “small” or even “average” men. However I’d also agree that the problems incurred by modern advertising affect women far more negatively than men.

    Consider the deep rooted source of the problem: corporate influence and power. Especially in America, where the corporation is worshiped as one of the founding tenants of the American Dream (religion). We have laws setting up corporations as legal human entities. Corporations inarguably have more influence on government policy, public opinion, and consumer buying habits than any other entity. Unfortunately, that’s probably not going to change any time soon (especially with how some Americans get up in arms at the mere idea of questioning our current economic system/how we restrict corporate behavior). So instead, let’s look at how corporations make advertising decisions. Corporations don’t (usually) set out with destructive agendas, rather, by and large they feed off of destructive memes in society by designing advertisements that cater to stereotypes and beliefs. Corporations go where the money is, and so if we could somehow figure out a way to make it more profitable for a corporation to exalt the woman individual, commercials that identify with real women as real people, instead of pump out disgusting idealizations of objectified sex vessels, the corporations would naturally follow suit. Less verbose, if we make it more worth it for a corporation to depict women in realistic, positive ways that are progressive and not degenerative, we could turn this around.

    But how could we do this?

    A good question, and one that deserves some clear thought on behalf of feminists/women rights activists everywhere. As you put it, advertising agencies are part of the central root problem of female self image and male objectification of women today, to the extent of having displaced traditional “values” (i.e. religious BS) that once dominated the causes of this problem to a large extent. It’s a lot easier to steer the corporate horse along a different path (we just need to make it more profitable to do the right thing) than to convince large bodies of religious communities to change their standpoints on women, women’s rights, and gender equality, so since in the west at least, now that corporations have more control over female image than religion, I think we are actually at a critical juncture in history where we are in the best position to make progressive women’s rights and female image changes relative to the past, possibly ever.

  28. Eye June 14, 2008 at 8:08 AM #

    By the way, one of those pictures is from Americas Next Top Model:

    http://www.realitywanted.net/2007/03/26/america%E2%80%99s-next-top-model-cycle-8-episode-5-murder-was-the-case-that-they-gave-me/

    Not an “advertisement” but part of the (very stupid) competition show, they were tasked to design modeling poses with the theme of the models all having murdered each other.

    Apparently a plus size model won last season. I guess that’s “good news” if there can be any good news from the modeling world.

  29. Nine Deuce June 14, 2008 at 4:43 PM #

    I know it wasn’t an ad, but it easily could have been. I’ve seen similar print ads before.

    I think the whole plus size craze in modeling is just their weak attempt to counter the bad press they’ve been getting with all these models dying of starvation. If they were serious they’d start hiring large numbers of average-sized women, not practicing tokenism by praising one plus size model.

  30. Eye June 14, 2008 at 10:24 PM #

    Female modeling on the whole is a joke. Probably less than 1% of women can hope to fit into their clothes, the majority of women would die before getting that skinny simply due to differences in body type and bone structure, and I too am ready to see some “real” models. Consider the average US woman size is about a 14 now (though women have gained an average 10 lbs in the last decade, without gaining really any height). Maybe we should make “size 0″ a size 12.

    There’s some other marketing issues that aren’t necessarily exclusive to women’s rights either. It could be I just “see” this stuff because I’m so worried it’s there, but I tend to see a LOT of subtle racism in commercials as well. Almost every commercial I see that involves some sort of financial advice company always portrays white experts and black people buying their services, for example.

  31. Nine Deuce June 14, 2008 at 10:32 PM #

    For sure. I think the ad industry is probably the most evil industry in the world outside of oil and defense.

  32. Eye June 15, 2008 at 12:18 AM #

    Totally, and most if not all of the problems can be reduced (not entirely but to a large extent) to the central issue of Americans and other westerners still believing in the paradigm that self interested corporations will simultaneously create economic growth and, in their self interest, will create better technology for the consumer and will help fill the consumer’s needs. Since this is not always the case, and since it’s more profitable to do the wrong thing sometimes, we have to take accountability for once and put some limits on corporate power.

    Here’s an interesting article:

    http://www.clickz.com/showPage.html?page=3400751

    But anyway, I think things like YouTube and blogs, like this very one, represent exciting opportunities for the individual to be able to reach out and communicate ideas to the rest of society. And not just individuals, but groups. As such I think these kind of media are the most effective yet at granting individuals the potential to make positive, lasting changes in society by the spreading of their good ideas. So if the public will ever have a chance at influencing it’s own opinion, this will be it, and if we gain more power over public opinion than the corporations, we can reverse the control relationship between public behavior and corporate behavior, for mutual benefit, instead of for corporate benefit alone. If corporations were making wise choices that were also profitable ones, everyone wins.

  33. Jules June 16, 2008 at 1:32 AM #

    Hello everyone,

    Just kinda stumbled across this blog today, thought it was wonderful, and thought I’d leave my two cents on an earlier idea.

    Another writer noted that in order to create more positive images of women in advertising that we need to make it profitable for corporations to do so. I can see the logic, but I must say, I completely disagree. Why? Because it’s a temporary fix contingent upon an exploitative capitalist system that could easily fall apart if a new ultra-degrading paradigm suddenly gained favor.

    Capitalism creates inequality by privileging an owning class and dividing the working class– historically, along gender and racial lines. I don’t trust capitalists to ensure fair representations of me in the media because capitalists profit directly from the security that gendered oppression provides. Capitalists will never sell us products that empower us, because they’ve made an assload of money by teaching women how worthless and deficit we are in order to profit from our purchase of beauty products and cosmetic surgery. Capitalists don’t want empowered women because empowered women don’t need to paint their face before leaving the house, they don’t wear heels or push-up bras, and they don’t want salon hair care products. If advertisers empower us, we realize we’re pissing away our relatively meager incomes for useless, toxic, and/or harmful products.

    I’m sure many of you have seen the Dove campaign, which promotes beauty for women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Dove really hit on something there, financially speaking– they’ve tapped into the feminist market. It’s so easy to get lost in the elderly and multiracial women in the ads, failing to notice that the campaign still promotes beauty as the fundamental goal for women and the basis for their self-worth. The worst thing about the entire campaign, however, is that the same people responsible for the Dove campaign are also responsible for the Axe body spray campaign for men… which is so misogynistic and heterosexist that I gag every time I see it.

    Are corporations really the answer? Dove might say something marginally positive for women, but the larger parent organization of which it is a part is undermining any positive effects of the campaign with the disgusting Axe ads. I say that we truly make progress for women, racial minorities and homosexuals by bucking capitalism-friendly solutions for change all together.

  34. Nine Deuce June 16, 2008 at 1:44 AM #

    Right on, Jules.

  35. Eye June 16, 2008 at 2:19 AM #

    Axe is quite disgusting as both an advertisement and a product. Many of the Axe products are among the most toxic cosmetic products marketed today. Half the ingredients in your Axe body wash aren’t even tested, and the ones that are often have been linked to biotoxicity, cancer, neurological damage etc.

    Unfortunately I use Axe deodorant because it’s the only deodorant I’ve found that keeps my BO suitably unnoticeable throughout the course of the day. I’ve tried aluminum free deodorants and organic ones, and while they smell pretty, the BO overpowers the deodorant after about 2 hours.

    About capitalism, I agree that we could do with a better system of economics, and I fully agree that the amount of power and leverage we give corporations through advertising, legislation, and their lobbying rights has been and will continue to slowly destroy the west like a cancer until we grab corporations by the throat and start calling their shots. However, as wonderful a world as that would be, I made my comment about launching PR campaigns and viral internet campaigns to get the public to pressure advertising agencies because I realize that the latter is a lot more likely to happen than the former (anytime soon) and if we want change, sometimes we have to make smaller, more realistic steps first if we want any results at all.

    I think it would be a much more reachable goal to try and sway public opinion away from sexist advertising than to try and change our capitalistic system. Especially since there are a lot of people who seem to associate capitalism with democracy, freedom, and “all that is good.”

  36. Nine Deuce June 16, 2008 at 2:24 AM #

    So let’s aim low? How can we change sexist advertising when it’s simply a part of a larger system that women’s oppression is a central part of?

  37. Eye June 16, 2008 at 3:05 AM #

    Women’s oppression isn’t a part of capitalism, it’s the result of social habits we have as a society. If we became a communist society tomorrow and commercials disappeared, women’s rights issues wouldn’t disappear with it. Women’s rights issues existed before capitalism, and they will exist after capitalism.

    However, capitalism uniquely impacts our social habits because, by influencing our buying habits and by portraying society through their commercials, they help shape social stigma and help define the boundary of what is politically correct.

    It’s not about aiming low, it’s about finding solutions that are the most probable to obtain that help solve the problem we are trying to find a solution for. In this case in particular, removing capitalism from the equation only removes corporate impact on society, not the actual sexism itself, which would be a double edged sword, since as I suggest we could use that impact for good if we make an effort.

    Let’s look at this another way.
    You and I both see a huge problem in our society which has many facets and many consequences; women’s inequality. Without listing all the issues we both already know comprise this problem, we both also know that women’s rights are being held back by societal pressures more than anything else. Society, the summation of opinions of individuals, does not take women’s rights seriously enough to lobby on a large scale against those forces (advertisements, even the way our elementary schools approach education) which are helping to keep the negative societal habits in place. Not to mention you have the people in our society who want inequality due to their sexism or religious ideas. So the goal is to fix the societal bad habits.

    Ideally, the most effective and direct route would be to change the entire social structure to weed out all of the inefficiencies and negative influences that cause all of the ignorance at the root of hate and inequality. However, to do this would require a cultural revolution, usually impossible without war, and very hard to initiate anyway. But just the same, completely restructuring society is one potential solution to the problem.

    Another potential solution to the problem focuses not on completely reengineering society at large, but instead gaining more control of those forces which influence society’s ideas, and using these forces to counteract negative social habits instead of keeping them in place. One possibility is the public awareness of advertising campaign that I suggested, and there are many other ways to go about it, including convincing the scientific community to create a social engineering program, in scale and scope comparable to NASA, which would act to do tons of research on society in the hopes of offering advice/better solutions/better structures for our country to implement through state policy. Right now, social growth is extremely stunted, and in general humans view social progress as something entirely different from technological progress, when in reality we might be able to achieve social growth in much the same way we gain technological progress if we made an effort to make social progress a goal of the scientific community rather than just studying it and scratching our heads.

  38. Nine Deuce July 9, 2008 at 5:37 PM #

    Capitalism isn’t the source of women’s oppression, but it abets it in serious ways, because selling hatred of women within a misogynistic society is profitable.

  39. Laura November 23, 2008 at 10:56 PM #

    I know I’m late to the party, but I just found your blog the other day and thus just read your archives. This is the point that has been bugging me all day today:

    “Apparently a plus size model won last season. I guess that’s “good news” if there can be any good news from the modeling world.”

    “I think the whole plus size craze in modeling is just their weak attempt to counter the bad press they’ve been getting with all these models dying of starvation. If they were serious they’d start hiring large numbers of average-sized women, not practicing tokenism by praising one plus size model.”

    When I saw the disgusting ads and pictures here, I just HAD to follow the link to America’s Top Model site to get even angrier. Of course, I did get angrier, but in doing so I discovered photos of a model who — gasp! — actually had the same body shape as I do! Albeit, she was depicted as dumped nearly nude in a hallway, under the premise that her organs had been stolen … but nevertheless, she looked like she actually ATE FOOD in real life!

    So I followed up on it, and guess what?
    She was one of the so-called “Plus Size” models.
    Now here is the EXTRA sick part:
    She couldn’t be more than a size larger than I am … and I wear a size four, or jean size 27.

    Apparently size four-to-six is now considered “Plus.”

    This is not a even a tokenized “plus-sized” model, Nine Deuce. This is a tokenized average-to-small-sized model marketed under the buzz word “plus-sized” to suit the capitalist-patriarchy’s sick, twisted campaign to separate women from their sense of self and self-worth and therefore their money.

    Although I know this is not Twisty’s blog, I must say, and I don’t think you’ll object … I blame the patriarchy.

  40. undercover punk June 11, 2009 at 5:48 PM #

    Just leaving my LOVE for these older posts!!

    That Durex ad is OUTRAGEOUS. And bonobobabe is right, there is NO way they would show a man in any kind of analogous situation.

  41. Imaginary September 28, 2009 at 6:27 AM #

    One word: Freeganism. Obviously that won’t solve everything, but it kicks advertisers in the ass a bit.

  42. Imaginary November 25, 2009 at 11:00 AM #

    On the condom thing, has anyone tried to make water balloons out of Durex condoms? They stretch to the size of a baby hippo’s head. No man has a cock that big, and if he did, then he should lift weights with it for our entertainment, because he can’t fuck anything but a blow up pool. Stupid ad is stupid.

    Oh and 9-D you’re amazing :).

  43. isme November 25, 2009 at 12:14 PM #

    “No man has a cock that big, and if he did, then he should lift weights with it for our entertainment, because he can’t fuck anything but a blow up pool.”

    On a similar note, I don’t see why being “hung like a horse” is considered a good thing for a male other than a horse to be.

  44. Taybeh Chaser November 29, 2009 at 3:33 AM #

    Isme–I know. When I hear/read descriptions along the lines of “hung like a [insert animal much larger than us people here]“, I always wonder who could possibly find that appealing. Am I supposed to?

  45. Alina December 1, 2009 at 4:55 AM #

    XD Men’s obsessions with other guys’ penises never fail to amaze me. And that Durex ad is seriously appalling. Something about the idea of a “large” object being stuck in a place where it doesn’t fit (thereby causing physical harm as the ad suggests) screams rape. But that’s just me.

  46. Pixie December 9, 2009 at 6:21 PM #

    Do you know what makes me really angry? Ads for hair removal products. I’m sick of this “use Gilette for a smoother MORE FEMININE you”, bullshit. What makes me even angrier is society’s repulsion for female body and facial hair.

  47. Katia December 20, 2009 at 8:53 PM #

    *Throughout the ad we were shown girls doing physical activities. In none of the ads have I seen girls watching movies on the sofa and laughing, or walking through the mall with shopping bags in their hands…..to my mom, it seemed as if the implication were that more physically active girls were promiscuous, while my viewpoint was that the lack of girls doing non-physical activities meant that the advertisers were not ready to accept young women having sex, or at least any woman having sexual feelings as she does something that isn’t in the realm of sports.*

    Hrm. I guess I would’ve seen it as suggesting that only athletic girls care about their health, or that the only acceptable activities for girls are sports, or something (and as a music/English geek who sucks at any physical activity she takes up, I take exception to that)

  48. mcol December 21, 2009 at 6:00 AM #

    I’m always late to the party, but I figured it would never be too late for you to hear this: I am at least one person who doesn’t think that you are being “irrationally angry” or “making a big deal out of things” at all. I think you speak perfect sense and this blog is awesome.

  49. Andrearose February 4, 2010 at 12:43 PM #

    You. Are. My. Hero.

  50. Immir March 6, 2010 at 12:08 PM #

    Awesome post.

  51. Anyway March 16, 2010 at 6:45 AM #

    I doubt there are many Andy Rooney fans around here, but this is worth seeing.

    Accidental brilliance:

    http://cnettv.cnet.com/andy-tries-decipher-ads/9742-1_53-50076629.html

    Btw, I love your blog! I’ve been reading it for a while but never got around to commenting.

  52. Immir April 17, 2010 at 8:41 PM #

    I makes sense why advertisers have to use insanely thin, ‘beautiful’ women to show their products.

    Think about it this way: A woman displaying a handbag in an ad is middle age, a few wrinkles and by her waist has clearly had children- all of a sudden you realize.. ‘It’s just a bag’.

    By coupling the product with an image of impossible beauty, something that we have been sold since birth, it suddenly is connected in our minds. It suddenly has power.

  53. Truthteller May 28, 2012 at 2:55 PM #

    On a hunch I once took an issue of Allure magazine and pulled out ALL the Proctor and Gamble ads (wiki list of their brands to see how unavoidable by the modern consumer). As I suspected, there were only 10 or 15 pages left of the magazine when I was done.

    Then I realized that they actually sneakily run the “stories” a page or two before ads for the products: an article about “the shame” of acne next to two pages of foundation ads etc. My personal favorite was an article about “anti-aging” that praised the use of barely FDA approved facial fillers and botox (dutifully advertised on the next page) while the act of taking taking vitamins and supplements was deemed “risky”.

    Anyhow, thanks for another great post. They really are as valid today as ever, and I wish I had found them back in ’08.

  54. M.K. Hajdin November 15, 2012 at 5:14 PM #

    Reblogged this on Exiled Stardust and commented:
    Brilliant analysis of how advertisers prey on our minds.
    Some of the pictures are a little triggery.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. On apologizing and being female « Editorializing the Editors - May 31, 2008

    [...] we need to fuck up — expects you to apologize for anything and everything. The patriarchy hates you and wants either not to see you, or, if you simply must exist, to see you humiliated, hurt, shamed, [...]

  2. Aliens in My Shower « HellOnHairyLegs - June 1, 2008

    [...] A few hours after using that gunk and I still haven’t travelled through time or space. Furthermore, my hair refuses to hiss despite my pleading. It was rather naive of me to think that advertisers might deliver on their promises. After all, they give us things like this. [...]

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