In response to comprehensive media criticism – not just from the deluded feminists with their talk of ‘equality’ and their desire for a redressal of female marginalisation in our phallocentric sex-based gender system – the advertising industry, entrenched in patriarchal stereotype, has been forced to respond to accusations of sexism with swift and ’empowering’ action. They have tried (and on many counts succeeded), to keep pressing tired, antediluvian visions of women as two-dimensional sex-objects, mothers and housewives onto the weaker sex, but research has consistently shown them that their visions do not match those of their audience.
Let us make it clear that women are not being oppressed by an enormous marketing conspiracy headed by a testosterone-fuelled think-tank of bitter male virgins: it just suits men better to relegate women to second-class citizens and then to keep them there. So, faced with murmurings of dissent among the female ranks of a disgruntled market requiring ever new kinds of coercion to purchase pointless waste and assume their given stereotype, the ad-man has sought ever new ways to rekindle his abusive relationship with his female customers.
Generations of cumulative misrepresentation in all facets of life and society has, unsurprisingly, left women with an eroded sense of self-worth, served with a (some would argue entirely justified) side of bitterness and a retaliatory desire for vindication. Sensing this, the omnipotent think-tanks, ever ready to pre-empt, curtail and pigeon-hole society before it can even gather together a collection consciousness, have, yet again, harnessed potential subversion or radical free-thought by pacifying the female population with what essentially amounts to a second prize.
By providing the female market with new types of ‘real’ women to represent them and act as their commercial mouthpiece, the ad-industry has devoured a cry for better representation by paraphrasing tired stereotype, mixing it with a dollop of pseudo-feminism, the product of which is vomited up as something with which women are supposed to engage and relate to. This new spawn of advertising, one unfailingly empathetic and generous towards women, appealing to them as if from the mouth of the matriarch on high herself; a face-less, all-encompassing voice calling women not to question what they are told they are, but to be pacified by this new olive-branch from the companies who fuel consumerist society as we know it.
‘Accept these visions of empowered, beautiful, super-orgasmic, take-no-shit kind of women as if they were yourselves,’ the voice urges, ‘and in turn you will be rewarded with brand, identity, faux-empowerment and a shallow superiority complex.’
All too quickly (and somewhat predictably), frustrated men, assuming themselves to be displaced from their assumed position as central agent, authority and protagonist, take these new visions of ’empowered’ women as some kind of deliberate, offensive slur upon masculinity from woman herself. ‘Haha,’ man hears her mock from on high, ‘you can barely wipe your own arse never mind pleasure your women-folk – what kind of a man are you?’ What they fail to grasp, it would seem, is that both genders are equally at the mercy of this industry that purports to sweepingly represent their sex.
It may seem that for the time being, flagging sales have been injected with some kind of faux-post-feminism and men, shock horror, have momentarily become ‘the other’ – an other to be stereotyped, objectified and ridiculed. Perhaps some women are revelling in this temporary role-reversal, but it is a false hope to assume the tables are actually turning: the ad-man is rubbing his paws in delight, sales are soaring, and the joke is very much on us, all of us – the pathetic consumers, drooling for more.
These campaigns featuring ‘real’ 21st-century women; as exemplified by Dove’s jolly yet supposedly physically be-smirched ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ models, the giggling, menstruating, Compak Tampax-wielding girls or the London Underground’s new ‘Tube Tips for Women’; do about as much to help female self-esteem, self-image or inter/national identity, as do the drivelling men who seem to take such offence from it, using it as yet further fuel for their bile against the entire female populace. (Their collective response to this seems to be in the form of hilarious ‘jokes’ such as the Nuts ad; lest we forget, women are bereft of male assistance on a Thursday. [Boo-fucking-hoo.])
If women, and society as a whole, can no longer look to ‘real’ people to find inspiration and role-models, and are instead left and lead to identify with, and attempt to ape, the pathetic stereotypes advertising provides us with, then by and large we are in a sorry state. We are in a state in which men can take genuine offence at the pathetic portrayals of women which both sexes are mockingly provided with, taking them to be a genuine affront to the size, and potency of their penises, instead of beginning to scratch the surface and wondering which galling societal mechanisms are implementing such lurid gender divides, and how we might all do best to challenge it.
by Jessica Southgate
Illustration by John Scarratt.