Today, as we are bombarded with ads at every turn we take, advertising shapes the way we think and shapes our well-being in ways that were never anticipated. Advertising, Cortes states, “attempts to influence public opinion on important social, political, or environmental issues of concern” (Cortess, 45). In other words, just like all other forms of media, ads reinforce stereotypes, sexism, racism, etc, while introducing us to new societal standards. It is within the medium of advertising that we make decisions about what is acceptable and unacceptable.
As we were looking at the string of ads during our March 1 discussion, I genuinely started feeling bad for women because it seemed as though ads that were tailored for women could only exist if a masculine presence around. I found myself having to keep in mind that, of course these ads were being shown from one person’s perspective. It wasn’t until we stopped at the American Apparel ad that I really actually got the point that was being put across. This ad, much like the Tom Ford ad previously shown, really degraded the female model. The fact that this girl is literally on her knees, at the mercy of whomever that man is, stepping on her ass, just to sell shoes really affected me.
A couple of questions came to my mind. First let’s keep it in the realm of the shoe ad. What is this ad saying about women, when a man literally has the bottom of his shoe—the part that steps in bathrooms, dog poo, mud puddles etc.—being placed above a woman? Is the ad not saying that women belong with the rest of the world’s murk? Or maybe even below it? One might then argue that I may be reading too much into the ad which will then lead me to my second question. Say I am reading too much into this ad, does this model not feel disrespected by having to be on her knees and having someone literally kick her ass?Is she so into fashion that she doesn’t care what message is being sent out? If the answer to either one of these questions is ‘yes’, then she has just delivered the message of the ad without trying to. She is in fact, qualifying the belief that women are so dense; they don’t even know when they are being disrespected; and even when they are conscious of the disrespect, they do nothing about it. She even simulates oral sex in another picture of the same campaign!
In Beauty Beast, a young girl stated, “We don’t expect boys to be that handsome. We take them as they are,” to which her companion added, “but boys expect girls to be perfect and beautiful. And skinny,” (Kilbourne 124). I found this particularly interesting because while the latter is true, I feel as though ads are just as mean and restricting to women as they are to men. In a recent Hefty Bag commercial titled the ‘The Ultimate Garbage Man’ four men are parading around, doing what garbage men do–picking up trash. The interesting thing is that three out of these four men have chiseled arms, and I assume they have washboard arms to match. The third guy on the other hand, is a bit “heftier.” There are no chiseled arms, he definitely has no arms, and he serves as some sort of comic relief in this very serious commercial about garbage bags.
This leaves me to wonder what this commercial is telling young boys, who are not the typical model shape. In the same way that girls are told by ads to be a certain shape, so too are boys. While girls are mainly told to diet, guys are told to be athletic, to have chiseled arms and washboard abs and that anything outside of that realm is laughable. Though boys are not consistently pestered with dieting ads, they are pestered with muscle building ads. In the same way that a girl looks at a Christian Dior ad and then strives to be the same size as that female model, a young man can look at the same add and then consequently strive to look like the male model.