“Ad” Nauseum


OK – I have been thinking about the ads I saw during the Superbowl.  I have to admit that, for the most part, they avoided objectifying and sexualizing women.  Of course there was the dynamic duo from GoDaddy that feature Indy car driver Danica Patrick that portray her, and all women in the commercials as sex objects.  Those were horrific!!!  Outside of that…the rest were not too bad.  Nothing really jumped off the screen at me at screamed “WRITE A BLOG”.  That is the good news.

The bad news is that I did find a few that were damaging in a much more subtle way.  I am talking about the ones that reinforce notions about masculinity.  The one that really got me was for Diet Pepsi Max called “I’m Good.”  Check it out…

Funny, right?  I mean who doesn’t love watching dim-witted men hurt themselves and each other?  Honestly, I find it entertaining.  However, I also realize that commercials like this one have a sinister side to them.  Commercials like this one reinforce and further normalize the notion that men are not allowed to show weakness.  To show pain or reveal the severity of an injury is to compromise your masculinity. 

Of course, we do feel pain.  We all have nerve endings and pain receptors that tell us when something is painful (like having a bowling ball dropped on our head).  It is society that says men must hide their pain (both physical and emotional) in order to retain their masculinity.  Showing emotion or pain, is considered to be feminine in our culture and therefore a threat to our patriarchal society and male privilege.  To combat this, men in powerful and influential positions (CEOs, politicians, clergy, etc.) have developed a very sofisticated an interconnected mechanism to perpetuate male power, strength, toughness, and control. 

One vital part of this mechanism is what some refer to as the “fake it until you make it” approach.  Men in power postitions look for ways to portray men as tough, strong, unfeeling and powerful beings.  The easiest place to find examples of this are in the media.  In my opinion it is not a coincidence that mega corporations like Pepsi work with media giants like NBC – Universal to create commercials that portray men who never show one ounce of pain or weakness.  We see these messages by the thousands on a daily basis.  Can you name the last time you saw a male character in the media that did show pain or weakness?  I can’t – at least not one that wasn’t making fun of that character for showing pain or weakness.  When you do see a male character that shows emotions (other than anger) or that is sensitive or talks about his problems, he is either ridiculed or feminized (ex. a character that is a stereotypical or “flaming” gay man).

Seeing these messages over and over keeps men from wandering outside the social definition of normal masculinity.  The men that are in power positions in society continually introduce these images of masculinity into the media as a means of maintaining the patriarchy their forefathers built.  These images are intended to teach men and women that men are strong

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2 thoughts on ““Ad” Nauseum

  1. Tulloss says:

    Um, hi. I stumbled onto your site while looking for sexist ads to show in the class I’ll be teaching today about gender stereotypes and then I just got hooked onto what you had to say. First, I’ll confess that I thought it was a woman writing this blog when I saw that the topic was about gender inequality and was thus rather surprised to discover that it was a man. Does that say anything about the society I live in and the cultural beliefs I hold?
    Anyways, to get back to commenting on the blog I was just reading, I tried to think of any movies I’d seen where the man showed emotional pain. The only one that popped into my mind was a movie that had Whoopie Goldberg in it. This man’s father had just died and he went over to her house to apologize (they had a fight) and try to have her come back into their (his and his daughter’s) lives. Only after she had closed the door and he had turned away and walked down the walkway did he start crying a bit.
    So does that reinforce the “no pain” rule for men?

    • Hi! Well…I am glad you found it and that you liked what you saw. Hopefully it will be useful in your teaching. As for the “no pain” rule, it’s kind of like the old deodorant ad that said “never let them see you sweat.” Rule #1 is to not cry. Rule #2 is if you have to cry do it in private where nobody can document it. Rule #3 is if you have to cry publicly, make it an angry cry like “Damn you God…why did you have to take my mother??? I hate you!!!”. Anything other than those 3 things puts your masculinity at risk according to the laws of the land. I think of Brad Pitt’s character in “Se7en” at the end when he finds out [SPOILER ALERT] that his wife and unborn child have been killed. He obviously is overwhelmed with sadness, but it manifests itself in rage and ultimately another murder.

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