The Ultimate Aversion: Misogyny in Advertisement
by Mr.Anderson on October 11, 2016 - 8:46pm
Most of us in the Western world are exposed to so many ads that we grow unaware of its effect on us. Whether it’s from colossal billboards on the side of freeways or from a non-traditional marketing method such as product placement in movies, our brains are somewhat wired to take this information in subconsciously without realizing its meaning or even comprehending its effect. This is particularly dangerous when such ads work as scaffolds to build the patriarchal world view.
“The ultimate attraction” ad is that of BMW marketing from 2002. In the given picture, a man and a woman, tan, fit and beautiful, seem to be engaged in sexual activity, given the bedroom setting. The man is on top and the woman on the bottom. The scene suggests a rather passionate love-making atmosphere; the woman in the ad has her hands on her partner’s face in a caring, warm manner, and the man seems to be looking at where her eyes would be to suggest intimacy. However, a BMW magazine is placed on top of the woman’s face in such that the man is looking at the magazine rather than into the eyes of his sexual partner.
The sexist aspect of the ad is blatantly displayed: despite the supposed intimate setting and the seemingly passionate couple (notice man’s posture, woman’s hands on his face), the woman is nothing but a tool for the man, a means to serve his needs. Whereas the woman’s hands on her partner’s face gives the idea that she cares for him, the man, on the other hand, has put a magazine on her face, putting away the notion of his affection and care for her, and representing sex, the supposed act of love, as simply realizing a demand for himself, therefore making the woman an object. Furthermore, as the dominant man (notice his position on top) gazes at the BMW publication, it can be said that the “ultimate attraction” is actually for the BMW models, and not for the submissive woman (notice position on bottom) with whom he’s having sex with. This further ties in with the objectification of women and of sexual relationships and men’s perception on the value of women.
Ads such as this one in the media have somewhat shaped our society today. Nowadays, girls are shown that their value lies in their body image (notice the “perfect”, borderline skinny body of the woman) and their use to men, rather than their ability to be leaders. As Anthony Cortese puts it in his article Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising, “Internalizing cultural standards of feminine beauty leads to increased shame and anxiety about the body and appearance, partly because societal images of idyllic beauty are virtually impossible to achieve.”. This is significant because it plays in the heads of young girls and women in our generation, who themselves start to see their value only in their youth and beauty. On the flip side, the objectification of women and of the sexual relationship molds even the way that men perceive women’s value.
There are still ways, however, to salvage something out of the ad while getting rid of the misogyny. To still keep the essence of the ad alive (presence of sexual activity), I would suggest that the man and the woman in the bedroom, cuddling under the sheets, and both glaring outside the window at their new BMW. The ad would then be entitled “Three-way attraction”, acknowledging the affection in the man and woman sexual relationship, but still insinuating a different kind of appeal when it comes to the car. This new narrative would take the man out of his dominant role and bring the woman to equal ranks with him, there would be no objectification of the women or of the sexual relationship due to the absence of the magazine on the woman’s face and still recoup some commercial allure out of the ad.
Perhaps the saddest thing about this ad is not that it is blatantly misogynist, it is more that it’s merely one of the many sexist ads that are out there. Misogynist ads are so common that in searching for one, I spent more time in denial of the legitimacy of the ads than actually trying to find one. Part of the tug of an ad is in its ability to be relatable to the customer so society should dictate the norm, not the other way around. This being said, advertisement plays such a major role in building the social construct, that consequently, it has a great deal to say about gender roles and identity, which is why misogyny should not be a part of it.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” Provocateur: Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising, Third Edition. (2008): 57-67. Print.