Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mmm... sexy...

Societal norms are established through constant repetition. If we are exposed to sexist ads 24/7 we will accept sexism as a fact of life and as a norm in our society. Sadly in large part sexism was and is still a part of our social norms. While this is actively fought against by women rights activists and feminists, it still persists in everyday media.

We are being sold products, services and ideas that we are told will satisfy our essential insecurities and desires. Everyday we are bombarded with media of various formats advertising for yet another must have product, ant-wrinkle cream or the super duper smartphone. Daily exposure to ever invasive advertising has became the norm for us.

Mass media and advertising has been able to compartimilize the female concciousness. There's no unified self as Dougla points out. The American woman has been constructed from sereotypical ideals. ideals espoused by the "Americana" culture. "Women have grown accustomed to compartalizing ourselfes into a whole host of personas, which we occupy simultaneously" (Douglas, 13)

Advertisments and commercials aren't just meaningless works of media. They fill help define our social norms and roles of gender. They will fill in the gaps of what it means to be pretty, successful or a true American. "These stories and imges don't come from Pluto: our deepest aspirations and anxieties are carefull, relentlessly researched. Then they are repackaged and sold back to us as something we can get simply by watching or buying."( Douglas, 15)

As I have mentioned earlier, advertising reinforces the societal norms. From the day we are born, we are conditioned to live and behave as is expected of our genders. Men are suppouse to be decisive, strong opiniated, know what they want and confident. Women in contrast are supouse to be the oppsite of the male ideal. by the reinforcment of the ideals and norms, we began to internalize these sterotypes. They become part of our identity.  For women it's worse obviousely. All the negative stereotypes are grown into her fiber of concious identity. She grows accustomed to these identity markers and everyday she tries to live by them. It's a self fulfilling cointainment of councisness as Kilbourne would say.(Kilbourne, 125)

Mass media magnifies the divisions that are suppouse to separate the two genders. through media advertising, femals and males learn what is expected of them. Males are to be dominative and females are to assume the roles of submissive and passive beings, until they become simply objects. (Cortese, 53)

A perfect example of the gender stereotype.

One can easily see the danger that sexist ads can lead too. Values and ideas on the place of women and their value as members of our society can be altered through the advertisements. We are not only being sold products or services, but ideas, values and standards. Do we really want to have ads that propagate objectification of the female body?

Probably the most prevalent advertisements where women are featured are that of alcohol products. For comparison's sake I decided to look at the alcohol commercials and advertisements in Poland and juxtapose them against their American counterparts.

In comparison, American commercials try to attract the viewer by amusement. Too bad that the amusement is that of the presented women. They are either physically or mentally abused. They are the butt of stereotypical jokes. Women are portrayed as objects and nothing more. What's even worse is the fact that these commercials are found to be funny and perfectly fine for the public. They have became a norm. A norm where women aren't human beings, but objects of desire.

Budweiser ad

The female body is objectified and commodified. The ad clearly sends the message that you can get women with this beer. Women will just be all over you if you drink this piss poor excuse for a beer.

In another ad of Budweiser we see a naked female advertising her body with the beer just being a small prop rather than the main product/focus of the advertisment.

Miller Light

Big breasts, perfect skin, seductive pose, and then there's the the bottle of Miller Light. And here I thought that the it's suppose to be an ad about beer.

Grind it in baby!

In this ad of Corona beer we are presented with an image of a women clearly having and orgasm. Apparently it advertises Corona beer represented by a miniscule image of the neck of the beer bottle with a lime in it, with the following tag line “Grind It Deeper”

Interestingly enough most beer commercials in Poland, focus on the history, tradition, the process of brewing, medals won in competitions etc rather than cheap, unimaginative spots with half naked women used in American commercials.

Few examples

Tyskie- Edison

tagline: “Edison hasn't imagined yet that just after 11 years after his invention of a light bulb, electricity was used in the Tyskie brewing process. Tyskie is 375 years old.” (loose translation)

Zywiec- World Changes

“Ideas change, music changes, technology changes..... almost everything changes [except Zywiec]”

Okocim- “Everything for the pleasure”

“Everything for the pleasure [of taste] since 1845”

Some ads,

Warka- The Best Barley Under the Sun.

Zywiec- “I must admit, I am no angel”

Tyskie- The Best in Europe”- Did you know that aprx. 10 bottles of Tyskie are consumed every minute in Germany?

Most Polish beer commercials are either focused on the themes of sport, history/tradition or the fraternal bond between men. While I have encountered some sexist Polish beer commercials in the past, those seem to stay in the past. There's no direct objectification of women, but in most commercials, there is still the male gaze. I have never encountered an ad or a commercial in Poland where the targeted audience of a beer commercial were females. So there you have it, probably as close as one can get to a gender neutral commercial.

Polish beer commercials aren't overtly sexist, and I would argue that overall they are alot more gender neutral than their American counterparts, there still persists one problem however. All of those commercials are mede with men in mind. The males are the target audience. As steinem points out, there's a huge unexplored market of the female audience (Steinem 114). It's in the best interest of the companies to explore that market.
However there is still this mystification and the myth of "the lady". A petite creature that a "foul and manly" drink such as beer is so unfitting for her. There's wine and champagne for her delicate lips. [sarcasam off]

In comparison here are some American beer commercials.

Miller Light

Coors Light

Like every woman is just dying to get married. It must be a dream of eery girl out there. To get stuck with the old ball and chain over there. This ad couldn't been more stereotypical.

Bud Light

Infamous Guinness

How great is that? Sharing is caring after all, right? While it may be found to be amusing by men, the female subject has been completely degraded to an object of gratification. She is passed around like a a whore.

In comparison, American commercials try to attract the viewer by amusement. Too bad that the amusement is that of the presented women. They are either physically or mentally abused. They are the butt of stereotypical jokes. Women are portrayed as objects and nothing more. What's even worse is the fact that these commercials are found to be funny and perfectly fine for the public. They have became a norm. A norm where women aren't human beings, but objects of desire.

Advertising is a business and like every business, it needs to know its clientele to succeed. Advertising industry dissects and segments the society into a fragmented realm of primordial instincts. There are ads for the young and the old; for males and females; for all colours of our skin, and every socio-economic strata of our society. We become nothing more than numbers and figures for the advertisers.

That being said, it only boggles my mind that there are commercials and advertisements still with the male gaze in mind. The companies are just making a simply a bad business decision. Instead of exploring and catering to the niche market audience, they decide to create commercials with male audience as the primary viewer.

Determination and Persistence

We can do a lot, as a matter of fact. All it takes is some will power and persistence. First, people need to realize that they are not at the mercy of the advertising companies. It is us who hold the power. We buy all the products and subsequently if we were to boycott the ones which use sexist ads and commercials, we would send a very strong message. It is time to remind those smarty pants people in top management in charge of product development that we aren't sheep blindly following one another. We are rational human beings capable of choices. We have the power of the purse, without us they will go out of business.


  1. I had to post it in parts, and then slowly update it with media content because I was getting lost with all of this html code. It was messing up the whole formatting of the post. Luckily I managed to get it look somewhat readable.

  2. great post, zywiec is the best beer ever. I really liked your opening line about the perpetuation of female objectification as a societal norm.

  3. I love the history of beer and the differences between the medias promotion of them in different countries. I would love to see beer ads in the US use more history and product description and MUCH less gratuitous sex pitches and objectification of women.

  4. I love the critical insight within your post Hubert. After reading it, I found myself questioning the motives behind women whom have been CONSTANTLY subjugated and oppressed through advertisements. Honestly, one would have to be pretty blind not to notice. I mean, how it is other countries are able to successfully sell their products and advertisements (in which I thought you did a great job in explaining) while America sells their women on display for an extra buck? Are we that selfish to say to the public, "Hey America! Buy our beer... and while you're at, we'll throw in half naked women for a bonus!" If that's really our M.O., then America as we know it will be screwed six ways from Sunday.

    Great job again!

  5. The Polish beer commercials are awesome. I like that in the ones you showed there is not 1 woman. Beer commercials without the objectifying women is possible! Who would have thought! I think Americans just like to dumb down everything and make it to the point where the commercial is completely tasteles

  6. Your opening sentence hit it right on the nose about what women have become because of pervasive forms of media. Just like your Budweiser ad, women have become the molding clay of socitey. We aren't people anymore, we are the bits and pieces of wwhat society tells is we are allowed to be.