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