Sexist and Misogynistic Adverts

Our babysitter in this day and age can often be the TV and there’s no escaping the fact that we’re exposed to more media than at any other point in human history. What we see teaches us how to view the world and while we have an ability to work out the fact from the fiction, the marketers try to make it harder to tell the silicone/airbrushed,/digitally-altered product from reality. In fact we’re so bombarded with these images the media we see creates the world we think we live in. This should be of concern, because so much of what we see is designed to create desires that influence how we think and what we crave.

From a White Ribbon perspective it’s concerning as women are often represented in adverts as objects We feel this leads to the continuing oppression of women, and the continued belief that they are objects to quench the ‘male desire’.

Some adverts achieve this with subtely and slip by unnoticed. Today we are looking at those images which push the boundaries too far. They’re easy to spot and hard to understand. But by looking at the extreme examples you can see the subtext of many more sophisticated and successful adverts.

Duncan Quinn USA

Lawyer-turned-designer Duncan Quinn tried to sell suits by dragging a dead-looking, underwear-clad model across the roof of a fancy car? As if that’s not enough, there’s blood next to the models head.

We put these images up on the White Ribbon Facebook site  and as suspected there was little support for these adverts. They try to sell a product by degrading women and portraying them as objects.

Perhaps the advertiser was trying to suggest a duncan quinn  suit equates to power and success.  Most would agree it’s an epic fail that generated comments on our site such as;

  • I don’t think I’ll be buying
  • I think this ad is insulting to men as well
  • Most men would not want to be portrayed this way

To add to our dismay this advert was created in 2006 not 1956!

Advert for used BMWs.

Marketing as a profession long ago identified the ability of sex to sell. This next advert from BMW is horrifying in so many ways.

Marketing ‘used’ BMWs, the model who looks very young is saying “You know you’re not the first”. How does a family-friendly company does allow its products to be promoted like this?

Well it not the first from BMW. This is a car-maker that thinks its cars are sexy. They sell to the wealthy and supposedly the educated so why do they use marketing like this? At some point and in some demographic we have to assume it works. Whether it’s because the adverts create attention or play on the desire that men supposedly crave young women – the adverts are disgusting.

Love Cosmetics

Another advert that struck us as appalling with is sexual connotations and appalling message, was the Love Cosmetics advert for perfume.

Who is this advert aimed at – child molesters? The slogan of the ad, “because innocence is sexier than you think“, is not just disturbing, it walks past that boundary. As one blogger wrote, “to consider that once this was
considered appropriate advertising is astonishing”.

And it only gets worse in this next video advert where it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the writer has a very low opinion of women. Perhaps it’s that there is a market for this type of misogynistic material. Click to watch.

Which leads us to why we’re concerned with advertising. These images help create what we think of ourselves. In the case of young women, they are being bombarded with images of women that are unattainable. Where once it was just that the models were too young, too pretty and too thin – the models are now photo-shopped to create an image that is simply unattainable.

Cindy Crawford had this to say about press adverts she appeared in “Even I don’t wake up looking like Cindy Crawford”. Says it all really!

What we know is that despite the unreality of the images, we try to reach for the unattainable. The effect this has on teenage girls can be a loss of esteem, feeling of inadequacy and this leads to depression. While it’s not just the media who are responsible for this chain of events, they are part of the problem.

And what of our young men. Well they grow up in a world where they are expected to also conform, take and not feel. Our masculinity is warped, our sense of entitlement enlarged and our expectations unreal.

So what’s the answer? There’re many things we can do. Here’s our starter for ten.

  • Don’t buy the product being advertised. That’s a sure-fire way to make the company think about how they are being perceived.
  • Object to the advertisement. Let organisations including White Ribbon know so we can profile the objectionable material. We can Facebook our objections and so can you. You can change public perception.
  • Educate our children so they know what the adverts are doing – that they are not sources of information, rather they are trying to persuade you to purchase a product.
  • Educate our children on how Photoshop is used to manipulate how we look in advertisements.
  • Make a complaint to the Broadcasting Standards Authority.
  • Try to break down the gender barriers with children. Try buying them both male and female oriented toys, read them stories with an equal number of heroes and heroines, and try to reinforce as much as possible that the child does not have to conform to the modern gender, but can be anything they want.

Got some other suggestions, email us. And if you’re still not sure this is a problem in NZ, a gourmet burger chain has publicly apologised for ‘poking fun’ at Chris Brown’s assault case against Rihanna as part of an online promotion. They believe they were only having fun! Read more here.

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White Ribbon is a community led campaign to end men's violence towards women

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