Archive | October, 2011

Nine Deucian Socio-political Theory Part 1

20 Oct

Before I proceed, I would like to announce that the independent coffee shop from which I will dispatch this post sells a “light bodied” coffee called Dirty Nekkid Lady.

A reader by the name of Gaffa moseyed on by here t’other day, shortly after I had published my Dr. Pepper Ten™ post, to inform me that she (I’m assuming Gaffa is a she, since women are the default humans, according to me) feels frustrated and disappointed in my recent choice of post topics:

There’s the law Congress is trying to pass about no longer requiring Catholic hospitals to at least transfer women to another hospital in cases of medical emergencies rather than perform abortions; there’s Scott Brown’s pronouncement on the fuckability of Elizabeth Warren, and there’s the NYPD mace-ing of women who were simply watching the Occupy protest, and all you can bring yourself to blog on lately are Avatar, Diet Dr. Pepper, and Slim Jim ads? Really?

Most people bristle at being told what they should be writing about, but I initially felt like a terrible feminist, probably due mostly to the fact that I haven’t written much in the last few months, but also because at least some of the people who read my blog apparently find what I choose to write about trivial. I have a lot of reasons for not writing as much as I used to and am still working out where this blog as a whole is going and why, but I’m not all that worried about explaining any of that right this second. What I am interested in doing, however, is explaining my choices with regard to post topics, as it appears I haven’t been clear enough in illustrating just why I think stupid movies and shitty commercials are such a BFD. I mustn’t forget that I write this blog in order to build a movement, not to have a radical feminist intellectual circle jerk with people who are already familiar with the theory that underlies my flip phrases (not that I don’t enjoy radical feminist intellectual circle jerks).

As to the suggested alternative topics, I don’t make a habit of writing about US electoral politics — even when politicians prove that they are misogynistic wangs — because US electoral politics is a professional wrestling league designed to distract the public from what genuinely warrants attention and energy (my somewhat recent post on the Anthony Weiner fracas notwithstanding, though that post has as much to do with just how ridiculous a distraction electoral politics is as with my opinion of Weiner and his wiener). I don’t write about abortion all that often because I’ve said all I have to say on the subject and am aware that the right to safe and legal abortion is constantly under siege, and because every liberal feminist blog covers every abortion story that emerges, mostly satisfactorily. And cops macing female protesters, though it is of course fucked up, is the kind of thing Liberal Dude protesters will blog about plenty in an attempt to “get pussy” by pretending to chivalrousness.

This might disappoint Gaffa (and probably several other people), but I will likely continue to do what I have done since the advent of the ‘chine, which is, among other things, write about popular culture (including porn, BDSM, entertainment media, and marketing) and the ways in which it reflects and shapes societal misogyny. I will do so for two reasons. First and least importantly, writing about popular culture affords me the opportunity to entertain myself and (so I hear) a few others. Second, I actually believe popular culture to be chiefly to blame for the continuation of misogyny. The fact that we have gendered diet sodas might appear trivial due to its brazen absurdity, but people are going to buy Dr. Pepper Ten™, billions of people have uncritically absorbed the ridiculous messages Avatar™ managed to communicate, and men are going to eat poisonous sticks made of lips, assholes, and chemicals because they hate everything associated with femininity so much that they’re willing to eat Slim Jims™ when they’re told that Slim Jims™ will save them from faggotry.

It is essential to understand why these chunks of cultural detritus that we, the non-befuddled, rightly identify as absurd manage to influence the behavior of the general public. My view, derived chiefly from my understanding of radical feminist and anti-imperialist theory, is as follows:

In order for a hierarchy to exist, one must be able to identify who belongs to which status group. That is usually accomplished by defining a subordinate group (or groups) in relation to the dominant group. As in, dominant group A claims to exhibit characteristics X, Y, and Z, so subordinate group B is purported to exhibit characteristics L, M, and N, which are usually the opposite of or “complementary” (the language of hierarchy apologists) to characteristics X, Y, and Z. But difference alone doesn’t make a hierarchy, so the (real or purported) characteristics of the subordinated group are devalued in relation to the characteristics of dominant groups and are generally derided. In the case of gender hierarchy, for example, the prevailing ideology is that men are strong, women are weak; men are rational, women are emotional; men are high-minded, women are petty, jealous, and vain, etc. In order for male (or white, or Anglo-American, or upper class) supremacy to continue, the members of the dominant group are taught that they must do everything within their power to distance themselves, by means of whatever markers possible, from the subordinate group. Because women and men within the same social classes interact and, indeed, live in the same households in most cases, boys and men must go to much greater lengths to disassociate themselves from people they exist in such close association with. Hence, boys are inundated from a very young age with lessons on how to avoid what are most likely natural human behaviors (crying, displaying compassion and emotions other than anger, and so on) because such behaviors are deemed “feminine.”

There is a reason that little boys loathe pink while little girls either like or have neutral feelings about blue. There is also a reason that boys put “NO GIRLS ALLOWED” signs on their hideouts while little girls don’t shun boys — and then only do so half-heartedly — until they perceive that boys dislike them and react accordingly.

Coca-Cola™ and Con-Agra Foods ™ (the makers of Dr. Pepper Ten™ and Slim Jim™, respectively) and the ad outfits that work for them don’t likely have a nuanced, lucid, or even conscious understanding of how and why these mechanisms of identity differentiation and hierarchy affirmation work, but they know they exist. And being corporations, which are entities characterized by absolute amorality, they use the tools available to them to attain their only purpose, which is profit. By taking note of men’s perceived need to disassociate themselves from women and the misogyny from whence that perception arises, these corporations both reflect the level of woman hatred that characterizes contemporary American culture and solidify (and, in my view, increase) it.

Next time I find myself here at the Dirty Nekkid Lady-pushing coffee house, I will further infuriate those who want me to stop talking about Dr. Pepper Ten™, Slim Jims™, and stupid movies by using all three to elucidate my theory of emergent neo-masculinity that relies upon the extreme rejection of the survival instinct in excruciatingly verbose detail, and by finding the most ridiculous possible means by which to relate Avatar™, DP10™, and Slim Jims™ to my hypothesis as to the origins of patriarchy itself!

Coming Soon: Coca-Brola

15 Oct

The number of comments I’m required to delete that attempt to defend butthole bleaching tells me that I am not yet free to retire from blogging and bask in the glory of a post-male supremacist utopia, so I suppose I had better get back to it. It’s often hard to decide which squash to pluck from the cornucopia of examples of societal misogyny at my disposal, but I received a comment the other day from GraceMargaret regarding an ad campaign for Dr. Pepper Ten and was confronted not hours later with a dude brandishing a Dr. Pepper Ten, so this one fell into my lap, as it were.

Ad campaigns designed to sell products to men that had previously been marketed chiefly to women aren’t exactly novel at this point, but they seem to be getting more bizarre by the month. What were marketing departments thinking, targeting only women with admonitions to buy, buy, buy beauty and diet products? By associating diet drinks, diet pills, shower gel, and eye firming serums with womanity, the fuckability industries effectively precluded any chance they’d be able to sell any of their wares to people who’d rather die than be associated with women. The challenge overcoming the vagina stigma associated with these products poses to marketing, product development, and advertising departments has resulted in some fairly hilarious material. A recent trip to Target highlighted that for me when I wandered through the shower gel section and found shower pouffes in neon green, neon pink, cream, and aqua, then found the men’s shower gel section, where the pouffes were labeled “men’s shower buffs” and came in navy, maroon, black, and dark gray.  They were also four cents cheaper, which means Target had to — in addition to instructing the factory to create these additional “manly” colors — create a separate SKU for the “men’s shower buff” in order to differentiate it from the faggoty ol’ regular shower pouffe.

But that ain’t shit. Does anyone remember the Axe Detailer Shower Tool (thanks KendallMcK)?

Unilever created a men’s shower “tool” that looked exactly like a tire, then took the automotive theme even further by terming the item a “detailer” and putting out a commercial in which they refer to men’s balls and wiener as the “undercarriage.” Just ridiculous. Men will balk at no suggestion for how they might disassociate themselves with women, apparently, no matter how stupid it makes them look. Just look at the Slim Jim “Manbulance” campaign.

But we’re here to talk about soda. “We’ve been telling you that men drink Coke and women drink Diet Coke for decades, but forget that and start drinking it now, OK, bro?” is a pretty hard sell, but Coke figured, once they formulated a new zero-calorie Coke variant by mixing aspartame and Acesulfame K, that they could solve that problem by marketing the new formula to men as Coke Zero. The can is black and it purportedly tastes more like Coke. Add that to an ad campaign that appeals to the turgid male ego and sense of entitlement and you’ve got an officially non-gay diet soda:

The plan worked. Ask anyone who works in a restaurant who asks them for Coke Zero and opts to order regular Coke when the answer is no.

Though the Coke Zero marketing campaign indicated that it was a product designed for men — who, unlike women, deserve both zero calories and “real Coke taste” — women were never explicitly excluded from the right to quaff the new wonder beverage. Dr. Pepper, however, is letting women know that their new diet soda is for men only, and that women are welcome to fuck off and die before they’ll be invited to drink a DP10 with the boys. Dr. Pepper Ten has ten calories — from actual high fructose corn syrup — in addition to a machine-gun gray can, but the differences between Dr. Pepper Ten and Diet Dr. Pepper don’t end at minor formula adjustments and can design changes; the slogan for the new product is “Dr. Pepper Ten: It’s Not for Women.” Women can drink Diet Dr. Pepper, which “tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper” (than other drinks that weren’t Dr. Pepper or Diet Dr. Pepper before the advent of Dr. Pepper Ten, I’m assuming) or they can drink water or some other gay shit, but they are not welcome to DP10.

The ad mimics Predator, Sniper, Commando, Rambo, etc. and features a generic Action Asshole™ riding around in a Jeep, shooting a giant gun, and battling snakes and bad guys, all the while keeping his cool and nonchalantly informing the women in the audience that this is a movie for men, and Dr. Pepper Ten is soda for men. He then tosses an empty soda can from the vehicle — which triggers a net that catches the antagonists following his Jeep — and triumphantly points at the camera and declares, “catchphrase!” in an attempt to make idiots feel smart for realizing that action movie cliches are cliches in 2011, when everyone else figured it out sometime around 1993.

The question has been raised whether the TV spot is satirical, given the absurd tenor of the Coke Zero and Pepsi Max ads. I would be inclined to take that view if it weren’t for the fact that Dr. Pepper is trying to sell a product to half of all Americans, not fans of the good bits of  The Colbert Report and The Onion, or the fact that Dr. Pepper is planning a “mobile Man Cave” tour in the test market cities to promote DP10 (one of which I unfortunately live in), or the fact that this campaign looks exactly like every other example of dudevertising in recent memory (see the Burger King Seven-Incher, the Slim Jim Manbulance, every commercial ever aired on Spike or FX, etc.). Unclever, self-aware, faux snark deployed by people who don’t understand what they’re parodying or why it deserves derision does not satire make.

Men are going to start drinking Dr. Pepper Ten because men are stupid, but women, according to focus groups, are cool with the no-bitches-or-hoes marketing approach to the extent that they plan to drink the new product, incorrectly assuming that the new formula will come with slightly less cancer than Diet Dr. Pepper. That leads me to two depressing conclusions. First, so many women have absorbed the message that a woman who wears a size four or above is a fundamental failure as a human being that a multi-national corporation can safely assume that, even if they accompany it with a misogynistic marketing push that explicitly states that the product is not for women, women will buy any low-calorie product that appears on a shelf. Women will buy something that they think will help them avoid gaining weight even if it is being sold by an entity that expresses overt disdain for women, which means women have had their self-respect and dignity beaten out of them by the fuckability mandate. Second, men hate women and fear anything associated with womanliness to such an extreme extent that corporations can now sell products to men on the basis of nothing other than their not being for women. What men are buying here is not a diet soda, which was already available in the exact same flavor, but rather a diet soda with a “suck my dick” label. Societal misogyny and the absurdity of gender symbolism have infiltrated the diet soda market to the point that there are now formulas and can designs for men only. Think about that.

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