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Sexist Advertising. November 28, 2005

Posted by Winter in media, sexism.
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I’ve been thinking about writing a short post on this for a while. Sexist advertising, and what it is telling young men. Unfortunately the above picture is very blurred and unless people are familiar with this advertising campaign, you probably will be unable to see that the letteres are actually made up of semi naked girls indulging in a little girl on girl action. The use of girls in this way seems to be an ongoing theme for the lynx brand. Sex sells deoderant, use this deoderant, get more sex, it’s an easy equation to make. I just want to put the obvious objectification of women issue aside for a while and focus on a different aspect of this campaign. The use of simplistic images like this carries a second, insideous message to the young men it is aimed at. It says, men are idiots, they are only interested in sex and any short cut to getting that is a good thing. Men are idiots who can’t control their urges. Ok so it’s just one advert, but if you look at many of the adverts aimed at young men, and if you dare to venture past the front page of a lads mag, you will find this message continually used and reinforced. Men are stupid, they just can’t help themselves.

From a psychological point of view, I actullly do think this is quite dangerous. OK, consciously men are not going to go around saying, “I do this because I’m just a stupid man and I can’t control myself,” but these associations are being made and reinforced constantly in the subconscious. When these young men get into situations that do not allow for measured, logical thinking they may well act in accordance with these subconscious associations, and if something goies wrong, you can almost guarentee that everyone will try and defend them with the same rhetoric. “Oh, he’s a lads lad, it was just a bit of fun.”

Really I think it’s time to start engaging with some new ideas of masculinity, because the ideas being put forwards by the lads mags and the advertising industry are pernicious and frankly quite dangerous. They certainly don’t encourage young men to take reponsibility for their actions. (See Gendergeek for a great post on the treatment of sportsmen by the media). Personally, I find it quite sexist and offensive that men are continually portrayed in this way. Yes there are men out there who fit this category, quite a lot of them I’m sure, but there are also many intelligent, sensitive men out there who don’t fit this category, and who probably find this type of stereotyping of their gender offensive. Frankly I find it baffling that more men don’t complain about the sexist treatment of their gender by the advertising industry. Men, why aren’t you out there complaining?

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Comments»

1. Laurelin - November 28, 2005

That advert has had me in a rage for ages!

2. Winter - November 28, 2005

It’s hideous. In my ideal world, women would head out there together and tear the lot of them down.

I agree absolutely about the sexist representation of men as stupid, sex obsessed oafs and I don’t understand why so many men accept it. They shoudln’t.

3. Haplo - November 28, 2005

Insidious and dangerous huh? Your high regard for us pathetic men who just can’t handle a sex laden advertisment really shines through. 🙂 Seriously though, this ad is aimed at the 17-26ish year old male, for a goodly number of whom, sex IS about all they are interested in. I have a hard time believing that this is surprising..? That said, even sex obsessed young adult males aren’t dumb enough to really believe that spraying some stuff on them will make the women swoon. (well, maybe it makes them realize that its better to not smell like beer or body odor if you want the attentions of the opposite sex.)

Your contention, while not actually stated, is that ads like this make a male more likely to force themselves on a woman, I guess? Could you explain that a little bit? I don’t see a logical line between sex drenched ad and male readers of such ad to be more likely to rape a woman. Maybe that isn’t your contention.

If you want to engage with new ideas of masculinity, you are looking in the wrong place. I mean, seriously, would you expect to find good ideas about femininity on the pages of trashy womens magazines? Cosmopolitan for example? Come on.

“but there are also many intelligent, sensitive men out there who don’t fit this category, and who probably find this type of stereotyping of their gender offensive”

If men got offended at every bit of stereotyping of their gender that occurs, we would all be perpetually offended. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but negative stereotypes of men abound, not just as sex obsessed primitives, but as bumbling idiots, insensitive brutes, and (if you are a white male) racist oppressors of, well, everything. I suspect that, like myself, rather than attempt to engage every silly idea about men that exists, most of us just tune out. It’s not acceptance; its more like deciding that the constant thrum isn’t worth paying attention to.

4. Winter - November 28, 2005

Your contention, while not actually stated, is that ads like this make a male more likely to force themselves on a woman, I guess? Could you explain that a little bit? I don’t see a logical line between sex drenched ad and male readers of such ad to be more likely to rape a woman. Maybe that isn’t your contention.

I doubt that’s the contention. I think the concern is that the old men = beasts equation can be used as an excuse by men already inclined towards sexually abusive behaviour. I’ve cetainly met men with an “I’m a man so I can’t help sexually harassing you” attitide. I haven’t got round to writing a post about my experiences of sexual harassment yet, but the men involved were all big consumers of lads mags. They would have been misogynists anyway, but the mags supported their behaviour. They had something to help them pass it all off as a bit of a laugh.

I also doubt Naiadies was looking to Lynx or lads mags for a new concept of masculinity! Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think we were hoping for it from men…hoping that men might become more politicised around issues of masculinity and representation.
Apparently, you don’t think that’s necessary or, rather, you don’t want to spend your life feeling pissed off at stupid stereotyping.
There we’re clearly going differ! I think becoming a feminist is partly a decision to accept being angry about media representations a lot of time, because you can no longer tune all the shit out. Obviously I would disagree that it’s not worth paying attention to.

That programme, a little while ago, when they had women taking their male partners to dog obedience classes… nothing is going to make me think that’s ok and easily ignorable.

5. Haplo - November 29, 2005

“I think the concern is that the old men = beasts equation can be used as an excuse by men already inclined towards sexually abusive behaviour.”

Ok, so let me get this straight – sex ad = reinforce that males love sex = an excuse for men acting like pigs? The link between the reinforcement and excuse part seems kind of tenuous, but I sort of get it. However that implies that just about anything aimed toward males that says or implies “sex with women = good!” suffers from the same problem, no?

“I’ve cetainly met men with an “I’m a man so I can’t help sexually harassing you” attitide. I haven’t got round to writing a post about my experiences of sexual harassment yet, but the men involved were all big consumers of lads mags. They would have been misogynists anyway, but the mags supported their behaviour. They had something to help them pass it all off as a bit of a laugh.”

Eh correlation vs causation. In my experience, the main reason that such behavior would be excused is because males take their cues from other males. You might argue that the ad is what sort of started the whole thing, but I would argue that it all comes down to whether a male had a positive male role model when growing up. That and groups of males tend to follow the lead of the alpha or alphas, which is why some of the worst behavior can be found in groups of college age men that spend time together. From my standpoint though, its not realistic to want ads like this to go away. Regardless of whether stuff like this reinforces the beast in men, sexually themed ads and pop culture will stick around because men, especially at these ages, love sex. And I don’t think that will ever change.

“Tell me if I’m wrong, but I think we were hoping for it from men…hoping that men might become more politicised around issues of masculinity and representation.”

Maybe if I thought that the stereotypes were unjust and false, I might be moved to combat them, but the fact of it is that they aren’t unjust or false. Sure, they might apply to a minority of men (though I’m not entirely sure about that :P) but I would feel eternally compromised trying to defend the things men do. “Ok yeah, so some men are sex obsessed pigs, but not all of them!” Boy does that sound fun. Besides, if one was able to prevent such an ad from being shown, what has been accomplished? Simply driven it further underground. Better to have the dirty laundry aired, so to speak.

You are right though, we would differ on whether paying attention to media representation is important. I guess I think that representation will never be how you want it, and the only solution is to grow men capable of discerning what is right and wrong for themselves.

“That programme, a little while ago, when they had women taking their male partners to dog obedience classes… nothing is going to make me think that’s ok and easily ignorable.”

I think you underestimate the willingness of some males to put up with indignities if it gets them sex. 🙂

6. Naiades - November 29, 2005

“Eh correlation vs causation. In my experience, the main reason that such behavior would be excused is because males take their cues from other males.”

I don’t think I claimed causation anywhere, and I don’t think Winter did either. It’s interesting that you write in a way that looks for a cut and dry explanation of the way men behave. I just don’t see it like that, to me the way men and women grow is dependent on many many factors that are constantly acting and reacting with each other. The point I was trying to make is that this kind of avdertising and media represention continually reinforces stupid brutish ideas of masculinity. I’m not trying to say that it causes them in the first place, but it certainly goes a long way to reinforce these ideas and these behaviours.

My other point is that this is a factor that can be changed or at least toned down. As I said in my post, I don’t think men are consiously going t go round slapping people around and saying thats ok because they say so in maxim, but, on a subconcious level, this kind of representation will have an effect on the way young men view other men and masculinity, even if it is to only reinforce tired old gender stereotypes.

I’m glad you believe your self to be immune to these kind of representaions, but many other young men arn.t, why do you think they pour so much money into advertising and lads mags of this kind.

Appologies for spelling etc, i’m in a bit of a rush:)

7. Winter - November 29, 2005

As far as I’m concerned the idea that stupid adverts directly cause sexism is ridiculous. I don’t think the media can make non-sexist men sexist. But I do think these representations are symptomatic, rather like pustular boils, on the surface of a society with much deeper problems in relation to gender and relations between the sexes. The media helps create a kind of social atmosphere which supports gender stereotyping which supports sexism.

8. Jen - November 30, 2005

I think ads like these definitely reinforce sexist ideals, whether or not they cause them is a chicken-or-egg arguement that no one can really answer. But I think we can all agree they’re not good and not feminist- which leads me to my question, does anyone know what company makes this ad so we can write some letters?
Cheers.

9. Winter - December 1, 2005

It’s Lever Faberge who make Lynx. This is interesting because they also make Dove. Talk about cynical marketing ploys!

10. Andrea - December 2, 2005

Except Lynx ads aren’t actually about sex, they’re about getting women to fuck you, two different things. And as for the 17-26 year old males thinking solely about sex, bollocks. I know plenty, and they are actually capable of acting like humans if they choose to.

And as for relationships between depictions of sexually objectified women and rape, I suggest you read this.
http://freespace.virgin.net/object.object/Publications/publications.html

11. Andrea - December 2, 2005

And I thought the original post was actually arguing that men should be offeded by advertiseing that treated them as stupid, not that it’s not nice to mislead them about the effects of Lynx, but perhaps you’re more offended by a woman ‘patronising’ you than you are by an ad agency.
Oh well.

12. Haplo - December 4, 2005

>It’s interesting that you write in a way that looks for a cut and dry explanation of the way men behave.

If relating my experience with younger males, ones that would fit into the rough age that would be reading lads mags, then I guess I’m guilty..? Not entirely sure what you mean by that. If you are saying that I am overgeneralizing, maybe its because I tend not to put qualifiers in my writing because I think they are assumed. If I say, “men are x” isn’t it sort of a given that not every single man in the world is x?Clearly Andrea, for example, seems to think I was making some kind of all inclusive statement about men though, so perhaps I should be more careful.

>The point I was trying to make is that this kind of avdertising and media represention continually reinforces stupid brutish ideas of masculinity. I’m not trying to say that it causes them in the first place, but it certainly goes a long way to reinforce these ideas and these behaviours.

Can’t say I disagree with that, though I think we’d disagree on the amount. I’d say it goes a very *short* way to reinforcing those ideas. This has already been stated by other posters in one way or another, but what seems more likely – that a male is pretty much normal, and seeing an ad like this pushes them over the line, or they were already over the line and this ad provides a tiny bit of cover for them to stay there? The second of course, but in order to be at the point where the ad provides cover, you had to cross the line in the first place. To me that seems by far the most significant step, and an ad like this pales in comparison. Your milage may vary, of course.

>I’m glad you believe your self to be immune to these kind of representaions, but many other young men arn.t, why do you think they pour so much money into advertising and lads mags of this kind.

Huh? Not sure where I said/implied I was immune, and I’m especially not sure where I said/implied young men are immune.

Andrea:

>Except Lynx ads aren’t actually about sex, they’re about getting women to fuck you, two different things.

I guess the distinction escapes me.

>And as for the 17-26 year old males thinking solely about sex, bollocks. I know plenty, and they are actually capable of acting like humans if they choose to.

Yeah, I guess I should start adding qualifiers to my language. I mean, did you seriously think that I meant that EVERY SINGLE 17-26 year old male thinks of nothing other than sex? Actually, I did put a qualifier in there. Huh?

>And I thought the original post was actually arguing that men should be offeded by advertiseing that treated them as stupid, not that it’s not nice to mislead them about the effects of Lynx, but perhaps you’re more offended by a woman ‘patronising’ you than you are by an ad agency.
Oh well.

Hmm. Are you the resident comment flamer? I could take the time to try to describe what was really going through my mind, since what you say isn’t even close, but I get the feeling you don’t really care.

Anyway, I guess it comes down degrees – I agree that adverts like this aren’t a positive influence, but I think their overall effect is trivial with respect to sexism. Other commenters (ok just about every commenter) think they are more important. I don’t think I established anything else, and no minds were changed. Time marches on. 🙂

13. Naiades - December 5, 2005

Haplo

As for adding qualifiers to you posts, that’s probably a good idea as some of the men that post on feminist blogs clearly think in absolutes. As we don’t really know you and you provide no link to your own blog/ website really we have no idea if you are one of those types who unfortnately try to hi jack discussions for their own end. You don’t seem to be like that but we have had bad experiences with posters like that in the past, not everyone thinks and writes with the same level of sophistication.

As for for the influence of advertising. one silly advert isn’t going to do it, it’s not going to turn an ordinary male into an idiot. But i think you really have to look at the one advert in the context of the many many adverts and media sources that treat men as idiots. lads mags, films, sitcoms, advertising. when you look at the amount of media time that is dedicated to portraying men like this you have to wonder what, and how much influence it is having on young men. Obviously this is just a point of view, but as someone who studies the psychology of persuasion and attitude change, I could qualify my arguments with various scientific papers that go some way to supporting this point of view if you want.

Personally I just find it odd that emn don’t feel offended when they are constantly patronised and treated as thugs. Again, it’s just an opinion.

14. Anonymous - January 12, 2006

Sorry if this is a bit long – I couldn’t agree more with Naiades, I’m a 29 yr old male and have been annoyed with the way in which men have been portrayed by the media for years now (the Kelly Broook/Lee Jeans advert for example came out in ’99). However over the last five years it’s just got worse. Everywhere you look men are [in the mainstream media] either portrayed as single minded, sex, alcohol and football driven reprobates ‘having a laugh’. And that’s the men’s magazines. Everywhere else men it seems are simplistic, bumbling idiots, either totally dependant on their intelligent, confident woman to get them through the day or being outclassed and outperformed by the same type of woman. It’s everywhere, e.g an IBM training course brochure shows a man using a non-IBM laptop nervously looking over the shoulder of a smug looking, smartly dressed woman, presumably as she passes her course with flying colours; in a nicotine patch advert, men are dressed as cigarettes whilst strong, feisty women determined to give up, beat the men dressed as cigarettes up. There’s even ‘acceptable’ violence towards men – the Nissan Micra advert showing a man bending over whilst holding his crotch with the caption “Ask before you borrow it”. It would be easy to go on and on. Whilst women have a collective voice in women’s magazines (these usually campaign or raise awareness of some issue), men have no such camp – as mentioned previously a man’s magazine is just going to give him the message that drinking so much that you pass out on the pavement somewhere random, covered in sick, is the cure for all ills. At first I thought that all this just the pendulum swinging the other way – a little bit of revenge on men for the years of sexist advertising women had to face, but five years on it’s still swinging the same way. Also the stereotype that adverts sexist towards women would create was just patronising, it never seemed that unpleasant (admittedly I’ve only remember ads from the 80’s and have seen a few from 60’s/70’s) though certainly violence towards woman seemed never to have been shown, the image portrayed of men now however is much more unpleasant and damaging, and in an era where mass media is more powerful, and much more difficult to avoid.

15. t0P d0G - September 7, 2006

Yeah I agree this whole sexist advertising should be stopped


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