I was inspired to spin thoughts about this post/link by @novium into a separate topic.
To start with, I should explain that I am genderqueer and aspie and more or less hostile to advertising and marketing generally. But because I don’t relate to the vast array of assumptions underlying most people’s experience of these, I always have lots of questions. To some, I will probably come off as being rather thick. But, like I said, I really have trouble relating to many things most seem to take for granted. I am sensitive to the problems, but I simply don’t assume much.
So, Basically We Are Screwed?
So far, this articles says “It makes totally sense to exclude women and to spread sexist messages, because it works.” Does this mean we are fucked? Does this mean, as long as companies want to make profit, women will get thrown under the bus by everyone?
I think the article made a lucid explanation of how and why marketing has tended towards sexist practices. But one aspect of this it glossed over was the question of why sexist practices should always seek to profit at the expense of women, specifically. To be clear, I do not approve of sexism towards anyone, including men. But the “bottom line” mentality would suggest that there is a vast, ignored demographic of women who are not marketed to. This would suggest that some of the campaigns which opt for sexist targeting towards males exclusively, could just as easily choose a sexist targeting of selling to women instead. After all, most people are women. So, why not?
This I think relates to criticism I have had of the “male gaze” principle. Not that it doesn’t exist, but that a corresponding female gaze is somehow an obvious impossibility. I have read feminist articles online even which go far as to say that even movies made exclusively by women and for women still somehow embody a male gaze, supposedly because somehow nobody can know what the female gaze would look like. This sounds suspiciously disempowering to me.
Sexuality versus Sexualization
Isn’t there a difference? Years ago, I often heard people describe things as being sexual. But most uses of this I encounter now replace it with the jargon of sexual ize. This seems to connote a sex-negative attitude, by implying that the topic of discussion is not innately sexual in itself, but was made to appear sexual through some act of artifice. To me, this seems to be a huge distinction. But of the hundreds of times I have asked people what they suppose the differences between the terms to be, I have yet to get one answer. Is your sexual identity or behavior something that you have always embodied? Or was it given to you by others? Does either outlook offer more agency?
Object/Subject versus Partners
How safe or realistic is it to assume that the average sexual relationship is not between willing partners? Wouldn’t it be solipsistic to frame them all as each person assuming that the other is an object? And even if many had such a depersonalizing attitude towards you, would you believe them?
How does this phenomenon differ with sex compared to, say, careers? Is everybody depicted in advertising with an easily recognizable function such as a carpenter, doctor, or cop instantly reduced to no longer being a person? How does this differ functionally from the role of being depicted as somebodys sexual partner? If it is normal to assume that every person has a sexual identity, does it really follow that some people are really more sexual than others, where this seems less overt? Does assuming that a person represented as having an overtly sexual appearance necessarily connote that they are exploited rather than empowered by this?
Referencing two pictures from the article here for illustration:
Sure, it says “for men”, which is rather sexist and corny. But does the photo re-enforce or contradict this? The woman appears to possess both the man and the game! So how/why are both the man and the game not the “objects”? Media criticism of these things often presumes an offensive double standard: if the man seems to possess the woman, he is “powerful” - but if the woman possesses the man, she is “needy”. But these conflicting contexts do not appear to be present in the ad, they are brought by the viewer! Why should anyone assume innate asymmetry here? Might the woman be “powerful”? Might the man be “needy”?
This one seems even more peculiar!
Here, not only is the man in the grip of women, but he has his body labelled with the name and legends of the product for sale! He IS the TMS 9900! He has electronic parts labelled as apparently being parts of his anatomy! Interpreting this, I can also perhaps see two women who desire a guy for his savvy computer buying skills (hey… it could happen). But visually, the man is the product, the “object”.
What seems to happen then, is that the adverts are coded with the intention of being sexist, and are interpreted as such. But why do people choose this particular coding, these associations? When there are easily available interpretations which can be seen as empowering either group, aren’t people (women!) more likely to intuitively identify with the ones which favor them? And if not, why? Does it help?