I’ve often asked if all marketing is sexist, and I think the answer is yes. Or at least, all advertising is offensive, if you look hard enough.
Advertising works on the principle that something is wrong or missing, and the product being advertised will solve that problem. To get that point across, someone must be portrayed as stupid, lazy or incompetent-in a word, inferior. Women were always the easy scapegoat, so old “classic” ads used women to show how the product they were hawking would make their lives better, by giving them more time, praise, love…whatever.
So, if advertising is simply reflecting the times and mores of society, perhaps we need to change in the hopes advertising will follow, instead of expecting them to sell us values and useless consumer products. I’ve seen a shift in commercials recently as they start to portray men as helpless and unintelligent. But is this a step forward or across? Improvement or redirection of sexism?
I came across this book of old, exceedingly sexist ads which I think gets at a point I made about the Heineken commercial. These “classic” ads are hilarious now because they are so over the top that we can’t take them seriously. But, they were seriously degrading when they were first released.
While it’s obvious we’ve come a long way, I maintain that advertising will always be sexist, or racist, or ageist, or some other -ist that alludes to some form of stereotype, because it is easier to sell that way. It’s just a question of who the next scapegoat will be.
Oh, and the book is definitely being added to my Christmas list. Please let me know of any similar books or memorabilia that might be of interest, ‘cuz I’ve been very good this year.