Destined to Be His Toy
by grace on February 24, 2017 - 10:15am
When thinking of shower gels, hygiene and cleanliness are typically the first words that come to mind. However, Axe’s promotion of its new grooming product will make you think otherwise. According to its advertisement published in 2012, “the cleaner you are, the dirtier you get.”
The above picture, an unedited version of this particular ad, shows a male and a female in very similar positions - though their actions reveal two entirely different intentions. On the left side, the man is in a shower, using the advertised product in question. On the other hand, on the right side, the woman is spraying whipped cream on her body; she does not seem to be making promotions for the shower gel in any way. The phrase “the cleaner you are” is placed on the man’s side, whereas the words “the dirtier you get” are positioned under the woman and are written in a much more alluring font. Even her facial expression is more sexualized compared to her male counterpart. Her hair is also carefully pushed to the back with a headband, putting even more emphasis on the spectacle on her body. Thus, the features of this ad promote a clearly problematic message that is, by buying the Axe shower gel, men will be able to fulfill all of their sexual desires as women will be unable to resist to them.
One of the most outrageous aspects of this advertisement is how dehumanized the female is. The slogan of the ad suggests an eventual sexual intercourse, and the whipped cream and overall context implicitly imply that the woman is the sexual prop. Just like in the growing phenomenon in today’s advertising world, “[her] face becomes a mask . . . and [her] body becomes an object” (Cortese 11). This type of scenario in the media publicizes the fact that women’s role in relationships is limited to being toys with the only purpose of satisfying men’s desires. This demeaning view may also become the catalyst of female self-objectification. As young women learn to perceive themselves as objects, they become more vulnerable to depression and have lower confidence (Newsom) and are at a higher risk of “psychological problems, including eating disorders, bipolar depression, and sexual dysfunction” (Cortese 11). Ads like this one not only degrade women physically but also trigger emotional distress.
Male superiority is another worrisome yet dominant concept put forward. In this ad, there is no doubt that the subject is the man. He is the one buying the product and the one using it. He also seems to be the one directing the “getting dirty” part of the experience. Meanwhile, the woman, naked and covered with whipped cream, seems to be highly responsive and compliant to the man’s desires. Indeed, the media today often conveys this same stereotypical gendered message that “men are dominant and women are passive and subordinate” (10). In these cases, females are deprived of the right to speak. They simply exist to be a visual appeal and sexual object for the males. Besides, in the ad, as the man thoroughly cleans himself, the woman dirties herself... for his own pleasure.
Although the Axe shower gel’s advertisement mostly aims the male public, women in our society are also exposed to it, and serious consequences can ensue. As illustrated in the above picture, the female figure possesses a slender and seductive body with perfect proportions, curves, and absolutely no flaws. When faced to these ads, some young girls are very likely to become insecure and embarrassed of their own physique. In fact, this provocateur look, “a form or hollow shell representing a female figure,” conveys the idea that attaining bodily perfection is the only way to be appealing to males (10). Thus, in the contemporary world, being a woman signifies reaching unrealistic beauty standards, living under social pressure, and doing anything in order to conform to males’ ideals (Newsom) - but it is surely not an easy task.
Today, the mass media is finding new methods to attract customers, though sometimes in very problematic ways. These ads do succeed in increasing the renown of a product; however, advertising agencies do not realize the impact, on women especially, of the gendered messages being conveyed. In this above ad, not only would I have taken out the sexualized female figure, but I would also have listed and emphasized on the veritable benefits of the shower gel. Besides, Axe’s primary objective should be to promote its actual product, not to sell a male fantasy.
Miss Representation. Directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Girls’ Club Entertainment, 2011.
Cortese, Anthony. “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising.” 345-102-MQ: Gendered World Views, edited by Sarah Waurechen, Eastman, 2016, pp. 9-25.
“Axe Cream.” Ads of the World, BBH, 4 Dec. 2012, http://adsoftheworld.com/media/print/axe_cream.