Earlier this year I was whinging about gender stereotypes perpetuated in ads and wrote this:
Show me a heterosexual guy in a television advertisement getting... excited about making his house into a home that smells like flowers and I’ll show you a small but encouraging example of progress in our journey towards gender equality.
Well. Last week I saw this ad for Harpic...
...and I reckon it qualifies. The Gruen Transfer once pointed out that it was advertisers who invented ’body odour’ and therefore the need to buy deodorant; if these people can sneakily reshape such massive ideas, it truly excites me to see them put a man on television talking about cleaning a toilet. (I’m not so excited that the drive behind this is most probably money- rather than equality-related, but ONE STEP AT A TIME, PEOPLE!)*
My celebrations were short-lived, however, because a couple of nights later I saw this ad, in which a couple of girls get out of bed early to go perve on a group of men training in tight pants. It seems that some people in Marketing Land have misdiagnosed the problem with “the sexual objectification of women,” deciding it’s the last part of the phrase rather than the first. Sexually objectifying someone means regarding them as an object for use for sexual pleasure, “with little or no regard for [that] person’s personality or sentience.” Doing this to men doesn’t mean that us women are suddenly even now and all is well, it means things are getting worse.
I don’t want droves of men to discover how it feels to be judged on appearance alone, and question their worth once their tummies bulge and their hairlines start to recede. I don’t want men to have to wonder whether anyone will find them attractive if they don’t have washboard abs and a hairless chest. I don’t want men to one day know that millions of women are watching pornography in which men are consistently dominated, and that these images are conditioning viewers to believe that the pleasure or comfort of men in sex is unimportant as long as the women are enjoying themselves. I don’t want men to have to experience being harassed so often by women that they’re unable to tell the difference between someone who is an idiot and someone who is a danger**. And yes, I know that the consequences of sexually objectifying men may/will play out differently than it has for women - guys are generally physically stronger, the process has been going on for women for centuries, yadda yadda yadda, but I can’t be bothered processing it more deeply because I DON’T EVEN WANT TO HAVE TO BE THINKING ABOUT THIS and now I’m just annoyed that Libra made me do it.
I’m going to go watch the Harpic ad again but this time pretend that I live in a world where men doing housework in ads is boringly normal.
* I found this article on advertising while looking into the body odour stuff, and thought it was interesting!
** As Catherine Deveny writes in this article, “If women reported every drunk, creep, loony or f**kwit who hassled them the cops would have to multiply their numbers by a thousand and still be flat out.”