These pervasive images of violence and sex found in the public sphere establish a relationship of power with what Bell Hooks calls the “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist” as the most basic and central component of any relationship involving power. Hence, the authority and status that comes from being a legitimate source of authority has been implicitly associated with white masculinity. The white male is the central figure in which all others are defined in relation to. Even in recent times, the idea of the imperialist white-supremacist capitalist” has remained largely intact. Thus, it can be argued that notions such as self-identity and autonomy still revolve masculinity, violence and submission because the standards of power, gender, sex and race have not been reinterpreted and reinvented.
Even when groups and minorities attempt to define themselves in opposition to the current environment of patriarchy, heterosexualism and capitalism, their very opposition becomes a form of compliance because the notion of resisting and avoiding social norms still affirm the existence of a status quo which they are against. In such cases, they have created their own ‘Other’. In Danae Clark’s “Commodity Lesbianism”, she described how, “Lesibians have a long tradition of resisting dominant cultural definitions of female beauty and fashion as a way of separating themselves from heterosexual culture politically and as a way of signaling their lesbianism to other women in their subcultural group. This resistance to … fashion codes thus distinguished lesbians from straight women” (144).
No one said girls had to act coy or submissive to be likable. Similarly, the idea that boys have to be violent and powerful (compassionless) is one that is all too common among younger people, who mimic what is seen in popular culture. Girls see their mothers cooking and cleaning, and learn to walk in heels and wear makeup, while boys are often brought up to be emotionally distant, encouraged to tussle with each other, to argue and fight with their friends and to be bold and assertive. What this all have in common is the fact that people are brought up to see the world in a specific social context, one which has established the white male as the primary, legitimate source of power and authority. Oftentimes, people are not aware that their compliance with such a worldview has help establish and maintain the consruction of patriarchy and its power relations.
Hence, advertising, which is often aimed at specific audiences, usually end up playing into sexist tropes because the underlying connotations in these messages adhere to the tenets of the “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist” to which many suscribe. Beyond the already established negative effects advertising have on women and men, this power imbalance unintentionally encourages power to be seen in a masculine light. Critique is often based on the lack of power, weakness or the improper use of power, which all ties back to Bellhook’s argument of a world constructed around patriarchy.
As an alternative, people can be encouraged to be more holistic in their approach to identity and power dynamics. In this case, popular culture and discourse must show that this is a positive change, not a negative one. In “The Will to Change”, Bell Hooks said, “To offer men a different way of being, we must first replace the dominator model with a partnership model that sees interbeing and interdependency as the organic relationship of all living beings. In the partnership model selfhood, whether one is female or male, is always at the core of one’s identity” (117). Essentially, men and women have to see themselves in relationship to others, rather than purely defining themselves by their opposition.