Tag Archives: Axe Effect

Taking a Page from a Different Playbook

As I have stated many times before, I am a huge football fan.  College or Pro – it doesn’t matter.  I am a fan and have been for as long as I can remember.  As a small child I recall begging my mom and dad to buy me a pair of Dallas Cowboys shoes out of the Sears and Roebuck catalog circa 1978.  I lugged my school books around Pulaski Elementary in a Cowboys book bag that was bigger than I was.  Football is something I have never grown out of and likely never will.

Sadly there is a lot about college and professional football I don’t like.  You may have read some of my previous posts about that.  It seems we can barely go a month without reading another headline about some player being arrested for beating his girlfriend or for raping a stripper.  Stories of homophobia, violence, drugs, and murder at the hands of current and former players seem to be rolling on a continuous loop.  They have become the dominant narrative for football and sports in general.

Yet from time to time a story emerges from the abyss that blind sides us like Demarcus Ware coming unblocked on a jailbreak blitz.  They are stories that are shocking, not because they are horrific or disturbing, but because they go against everything we’ve been taught to believe about football players.  During the week of the 2010 Superbowl,  two of those stories managed to find the light of day.

The first was in the days prior to the game.  I read an article at Jezebel.com about New Orleans Saints linebacker Scott Fujita.  In the article I learned that Fujita had recently given an interview with the New York Times where he “diplomatically but firmly” opposed the Tim Tebow ad that eventually aired during the Superbowl.  While I thought it strange that a football player would publicly state his stance on such a hot button issue, I didn’t think too much else about it.  However, from that same article in Jezebel, I learned that Fujita also lent his name to the 2009 National Equality March and has been quite outspoken on many gay rights issues. Now that got my attention!  Why was this story not dominating sports headlines in October of 2009?  Fujita’s surprises don’t stop there.  Check out the entire Jezebel article here.

The second story came moments after the Superbowl ended.  Amidst the boom mic jungle and the on-field  mass hysteria, television cameras caught something extremely rare and beautiful.  Take a look… [watch it a second time with the sound muted ;-)]

With the world intently watching their every move, it was as if Brees and his son were the only two people in the stadium.  During the most watched event in television history we witnessed an NFL champion football player turn into a world class dad.  Brees could have just as easily handed his son off to his wife or a nanny and celebrated with his teammates.  It would have been fine for is son to be in the stands or at home getting a wave or a wink from the Superbowl MVP.  Nobody would have even questioned it.  Instead, on the biggest of stages, we saw a caring father telling his son that he loves him.  We saw a father holding, hugging, and kissing his son in exactly the ways we, as men and as fathers, have been socialized to not do because it isn’t considered “manly.”  And as if that weren’t enough, we witness the moment where the enormity of it all hit Brees right in the heart.  It was the moment he realized that he was sharing this incredible moment with the most special person in the world to him.  And then, his brow buckled, his head turned and his eyes filled with tears of joy.  That was truly a beautiful moment that I feel fortunate to have seen.

What am I taking away from all of this?  Well, I realized that as an armchair media critic I often lose site of the good stuff in the media.  It is sometimes a little harder to find, but it is there.  I guess in some ways when I blog about the latest Axe Body Spray ad I am also recirculating that ad into the media landscape.  I am not sure that is a bad thing, but it is a missed opportunity to recirculate stories like these.  So, I am going to take a page out of the Scott Fujita/Drew Brees playbook and, well, throw out the playbook every now and again. I am going to  look for media examples that highlight positive masculinity, uplift and empower women and model the world I want to see rather than the one I’ve got.  In the meantime, I hope that other men will take some plays from their playbook as well.  Or…we could all get together and draw up a few of our own in the dirt.

Go deep on 2…ready…BREAK!

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“Real Beauty” is only pocket deep

Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty is incredible, right?  If you haven’t seen it take a look at these videos:

Finally, a company that standing up for women and disconnecting women’s value from their looks or sex appeal.  This is in stark contrast to the majority of horrific ad campaigns that teach us that women’s worth lies in their beauty and level of sexiness.  One of the worst offenders is Axe grooming products for men.  I have written about them before. In case you aren’t familiar, take a look at these ads:

Terrible, right?  I mean, it’s a good thing we have things like the Campaign for Real Beauty to help combat the awful messages embedded in those Axe ads.  It is easy to see the differences in these two campaigns.  However, can you tell what they have in common?  How about this…

unilever-logo

You see Unilever, the makers of Axe, are also the makers of Dove.  Let me repeat that.  The makers of Axe are also the makers of Dove.  The same money that backs the horrific Axe advertising campaigns comes from the same pockets that created the Campaign for Real Beauty.  Ponder that for a moment.  I have been pondering it for quite some time.  I don’t want to believe it, but I have no choice.  Fact is fact whether I like it or not.  So…what does this all mean?

Well, to me it means that Unilever is playing all of us for fools.  They are also proving to me that they have no real interest in crumbling the beauty industry or increasing girls self esteem or making the world and equal place for women to live as the campaign would lead you to believe.  No.  They only care about making money.  The Campaign for Real Beauty, to Dove, is nothing more than an advertising campaign cleverly disguised as an attempt at bringing justice to the world.  Ah, Capitalism!

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I do believe that the Campaign for Real Beauty is wonderful and it should be blasted from every mountain top.  However, I feel that we as consumers cannot abide this sort of underhanded deception being doled out by Unilever.  We must demand that Unilever stop undermining the powerful and necessary work of their own campaign and start advertising Axe in a way that is consistent with the messaging in the Campaign for Real Beauty.  We should accept no less.  After all, it is our children that will live in the world we are creating today and it is ultimately our money that deepens the corporate pockets of irresponsible companies like Unilever who gladly profit at the expense of women.

Ultimately, we have no direct control over Unilever or any other corporation.  However, we can control our own behaviors and actions.  We can choose to let Unilever know we feel about their advertising practices.  We can also choose to not purchase any Unilever products until they change.  No more Wishbone salad dressing.  No more Vaseline products.  No more Skippy peanut butter.  No more Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream (yes, them too).  No more Unilever.  For a complete list of Unilever products visit http://www.unileverusa.com/ourbrands/.  Be sure to click around and do your homework.  Our actions dictate their actions.

We have the power to send a clear message.  We have the power to create a world where women’s bodies are no longer a commodity.  We have the power to create real change.  If we are willing to come together and take action.

Now THAT would be real beauty!

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the app of my i

Sometimes a new “thing” comes along that causes a shift in our culture.  I don’t mean in the way that electricity or cars or the internet changed us, but smaller things that might seem less important, but that help plot the course ahead.  Often we don’t recognize these things in the moment. It is only in hindsight that we come to know these thing as cultural icons.  One of those icons is the Apple iPhone.

The iPhone has taken the country by storm and is only just beginning to show signs of slowing down.  There is a very good chance that you know at least 1 person with an iPhone…there is an even better chance that you know 7-8 people with an iPhone.  At it’s peak, Apple was selling a whopping 20,000 iPhones every single day.  Well over 4 million of them have been sold in all.

So you may ask yourself “what is so cool about an iPhone anyway???”  Many users will tell you that their favorite part of owning one is the applications or “apps”.  You can get apps that do just about anything you can imagine.  Some are tools. Some are games.  Some are novelties.  Many are very useful.  Some are just for fun. For example, take a look at the iBeer app:

Personally, I think that is kinda cool.  I’d much rather have a real beer, but I can see why people think that app is cool and fun to have.  Part of owning an iPhone is the competition for having the coolest apps.  That can be fun too.  Check out this popular one called Wobble:

I thought that was kinda neat when I first saw it.  However, it would be naive to think that Wobbling a pig’s nose is the most common use for Wobble.  If you do a search on You Tube for Wobble demos you will find the majority to be something like this:

Ug!  I am not sure who to angry with.  Should I be mad at Apple for approving this (and many other apps that aren’t “adult content” but objectify and sexualize women)?  Probably. In their defense, it is the users of the app that choose how they use it.  The app itself is not inherently indecent or inappropriate. Also, Apple has a fairly strict policy banning adult content.  However, they have nothing in place that bans the blatant objectification of women.

How about I point my lazers at the app developer?  Clearly the app was designed for making breasts wobble.  Even their own marketing suggest it…see:

wobble

I’d say that the developers are  a pretty good place to start.  However, they are a business and by definition are bound by the law of supply and demand.  There is a demand for this type of product, so they are supplying product to meet the demand.  That is what businesses do.  While it is horrible for them to profit from exploiting women, they aren’t stealing money from people.  Consumers of their content are freely giving their money to the developers.

So, I guess I am angry with all of the people (the vast majority of whom are men) who purchased this app.  Why can’t these men understand that every time we support a business that exploits women sexually we are reinforcing a culture that allows for violence against women to occur???  Why can’t men understand that things like this are more than just harmless fun?  Wobble, combined with the hundreds of thousands of other little things embedded in our culture that objectify and sexualize women, does massive damage to women (and men for that matter).  Ask any woman that has been physically or sexually assaulted.  Ask any child that witnessed or experienced abuse in their home.

Most people can see that one cockroach in your house isn’t a huge deal, but having thousands of them would be horrific and unacceptable.  Do you get my point? If you saw a cockroach in your home, you get out the bug spray and take care of it or you’d call an exterminator, right?  But when we come across things like Wobble or an ad for Axe Body Spray or a billboard for Skyy Vodka we remain silent and right it off as no big deal.  Well, it is a big deal. We have to speak up and we have to be more responsible consumers and citizens.  Tell these companies to stop exploiting women.  Educate men on how damaging these products are to women.  Support men in our efforts to change our behavior and our culture.

ACTION STEP:

Forward a link to this blog to 5 people, particularly men.  BUT – don’t treat it like any other forward.  I hate those and so does everyone else I know.  If ending sexism (and ultimately violence against women) is important to you, tell the people you are going to send it to that it is coming and that it is really important to you that they read it and pass it on to 5 more people.  Tell them face to face or on the phone (not in an email) and let them know that you mean it.  It is important that they hear your actual voice so they know this is personal to you.

We must build a critical consciousness around the root causes of violence against women in our society.  This will be a giant step in the right direction. What if we could get 1,000 people to view it this week or 10, 000 by this time next month or 100,000 in a year?  Think about the impact that would have.  One small action on your part could be enough to tip this issue toward gender equality.  I challenge you to make it happen.

Don’t let one rotten app spoil the entire bushel.  Take action today!!!

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The Real “Axe Effect”

A friend of mine always says “In life, you can make choices that give you more choices or you can make choices that give you fewer choices”.  If you are lucky, you have someone in your life that is helping you make those decisions.  However, it is far more likely you have been kicked out of the proverbial nest to learn to fly before you hit the ground.  Like most of us, you are left to make these decisions on your own.

 

So, how do we make decisions and where do we get our information from?  Our friends?  Our families?  A gut feeling? The answer to these questions is usually “yes”, but they are not the only sources.  One other I’d like to focus on is corporate America – the creators and producers of pop culture.  You might not even know who they are by name, but I am sure you are familiar with their products.  For example, you may not have heard of corporate giant Unilever. However, I bet you are familiar with one of their brands – Axe male grooming products.

 

Axe is a cultural icon as far as products go.  It is the number one selling male grooming product line in the world according to Unilever.  It is also one of the fastest growing brands in the Unilever family.  It is no coincidence that it is so popular.  Axe has gained it’s prominence by lots of advertising.  Sadly, Unilever subscribes to the old advertising adage that “sex sells”.  If you have ever seen one of their advertisements, you know that they try to sell Axe by making it seem as if women turn into mindless, sex-hungry animals after one whiff of any Axe product.  In addition, they show that even “average Joes” become irresistible to these beautiful, barely clothed women by the hundreds.  What is wrong with this picture?  

 

Advertisements, like those created for Axe, actually do some pretty hefty damage to both women and men by helping form unrealistic and even dangerous gender roles.  For women, their value and purpose in life are tied directly to their sexuality.  In other words, without their sexuality women have no value or purpose.  They are portrayed as sexual objects that are there to serve men’s needs and they are a dime a dozen. Women are also dehumanized by making them seem as if they are not in control of themselves or that they have lost free will.  

 

For men, these ads connect men’s value to their sexuality as well, but in a different way.  These ads reinforce the idea that as a man the more sex you have the more of a man you are.  In other words, they send the clear message that men are supposed to have sex as often as possible with as many women as possible in order to thrive in male culture.  If men do not adhere to this standard, they risk losing their social standing within male culture.   In the end, we are left with the same message that is echoed throughout society today.  The message is that men have all of the power and the only way for women to share in that is to be sexually available to men.  Also, there is a double standard.  Men are valued for having multiple intimate partners and women are devalued for the same thing.  In society, men who have had a large number of sexual partners are labeled as “studs” or “pimps” – both considered to be compliments.  In contrast, women who have had a large number of sexual partners are labeled as “sluts” or “whores” – both are obviously considered insults. It is this power imbalance between men and women that creates a culture of abuse that can lead to domestic and sexual violence.               

      

When we, as consumers, support companies like Unilever and others that engage in similar marketing strategies, we are collectively sending the message that the objectification and sexualization of women are acceptable practices. Effectively, we are paving the way for dating violence and sexual assault to occur.  Keep in mind that Unilever is certainly not the only guilty party.  There are a large number of companies that employ marketing campaigns which degrade women to sell their products.  Remember this the next time you go to buy something designed to make you smell better.  You might just realize that it stinks.

 

Want to let Unilever know how you feel about the “Axe Effect”? 

  

Visit their websites at: 

www.unilever.com 

www.unileverusa.com

www.ideas4unilever.com

 

Check out some of the Axe Print Ads:

 

AxeConfession AxeSharks

AxeJeans axe_grave

AxeWeddingCake AxeBathtub

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