Tuesday, February 09, 2010

And Now for Something Completely Different

We’re going to take a bit of a time out from our usual fare around here and write about something that’s been chewing at us since Sunday.

Yesterday we were over to Pandagon reading about the sexist Superbowl commercials—which by the way are pretty sexist, even by advertising standards—and at first we just chalked the whole thing up to the need for people who create thirty second spots to rely on cultural stereotypes to do their work for them since exposition really isn’t an option. That and the fact that ads aren’t great literature to begin with, so the bar is already pretty low when it comes to aspects of quality, propriety and good taste.

Then we heard a commentator from Salon on the evening news talk about the anger against women in the spots and how that was something new and to her at least, surprising and more than a little unsettling.

So we went back and looked at the ads again and, sure enough, there it was. The Dodge commercial is the most blatant, right down to the slogan “Man’s Last Stand,” against women apparently. But the Flo TV ads were openly aggressive as well, blaming women for the loss of men’s spines. Additionally the Dockers ads implied it was time for men to put their pants back on, literally by donning a pair of Dockers, but metaphorically by reasserting their dominance over women.

Apologists point to the fact that commercials are not meant to be taken seriously, must fight for the viewer’s attention in an environment saturated with distractions and therefore often attempt to provoke and shock and it’s all in good fun anyway so lighten up.

All that is true, but there’s something different about these ads. First of all, there were so many of them. Was there some sort of meeting amongst the different agencies somewhere at which it was decided that the theme for this Superbowl would be misogyny? We doubt it. Yet, commercials don’t sell products anymore, they sell lifestyles, and as such advertising tries to latch onto the cultural zeitgeist and use it to ride to the customer’s pocket book.

And what about the argument that commercials are just harmless fun? Well, yeah, we suppose there is still a mild chuckle in the Flo TV ad that threw a bra over the guy’s shoulder in the shopping mall, the classic fish out of water stereotype. But when you take the whole ad on balance, you don’t have to peel very much humor away before you find anger. Believe us, we know about hiding anger under humor.

Amanda Marcorte, who wrote the post over at Pandagon sees this as just more of the same anti-woman blather put out by men who are intimidated. She writes, “In general, the theme of this year is that that masculinity is barely surviving a vagified assault, and the modern man needs a bunch of products in order to revolt and/or survive the hellish matriarchy…”

We agree, but we think it’s even bigger than that. Take a step back for a moment and look at the general interplay between groups in our culture. When it becomes acceptable to call the President of the United States a traitor—and not just down at the corner bar, but on national TV and in main stream media outlets—and then be invited back to those same outlets to do it again; when it becomes acceptable to carry guns to a political rally; when arguments are carried through volume, threat and intimidation rather than deliberation; when racists, homophobes and religious extremists are given the same deference as the dwindling voices of inclusion, those who don’t see sexual preference as a trump card for every other human characteristic and skill, and of course people who actually know something of what they are talking about, it shouldn’t surprise us that the nature of the discourse shifts from a debate to a power grab.

And that means that not just women, but every other vulnerable group in our society gets a bull's eye painted on their collective backs. Immigrant? Expect only obstacles. Gay? Soon to be illegal. Child? See yesterday’s post. Minority? Welcome to the 1950’s.

The general coarsening of our discourse follows a coarsening of our attitudes. Perhaps this is an unavoidable result of a country at war as some studies suggest, and we’ve been at war off and on (mostly on) for almost 70 years now. Perhaps it’s an outgrowth of the fear our politicians have fed us because that is so much easier to do than actually lead. Perhaps it’s economic in nature, after all, policies that pit one group against another for limited resources generally don’t tend to promote cooperation and altruism. Perhaps it’s all three, or something else all together.

We don’t have answers. There may very well be no answers to begin with, only ways to mitigate the level of destruction we do to ourselves, our planet and out future. We do know that a democracy is like holding water in your hand, the tighter you try to squeeze it, the more it slips away.


James said...

Well said. I don't have anything to add other than it is truly disturbing where we seem to be going.

I didn't watch the superbowl so I missed the commercials. Guess I didn't miss much.

scripto said...

What's the opposite of misogyny? Because that's what those adds were. We men were depicted as a bunch of witless, nutless, drunken lamos, driven only by our coarse and base desires. And that is not always true.

Ironicus Maximus said...

That would be misandry, Mr. Scripto sir, or as Ms IM refers to it, "Oh, you again."

Anonymous said...

This is a very good subject IM. It is the very reason why so many women have ended up dead, missing and also, never found.
The rage society has had due to economic meltdowns, mindless religions, and basically, disrespect to the "weaker sex" as an excuse to expose man's muscle as opposed to his brain, speaks volumes.
How sad it is that poorer nations follow the same agendas.
Very revealing indeed.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Women are also armed. I just wanted to point that out. Even old Moose Juice is packing up there in Alaska. So buyer or Stalker beware.

I am not surprised at all IM, and for all the reasons you so eloquently listed. This is naked power grab. Men do feel powerless and as usual they are blaming the wrong party.

Back in the day, it was get reemed by the boss at work, and come home kick the cat and beat the shit out of the little woman who didn't hang the towels just right.

This is the warning, mock slap going in that direction. That *To the Moon verbalization you get just before the implosion. Only the Superbowl, and the Politicians and the Scrotum lickers and Operation Incubation make it very clear that this is a mass beat down.

We can change the words of Blame Canada with Blame Vagina--for all the worlds ills, along with gays, racial minorities, handicaped people, intellectuals etc., [the list grows].

Its ironic too. I am a dyed in the wool Feminist. I have lived that life blatantly--flagrantly. And I am married and I guarantee anyone who reads this, that My husband still has both his balls, and they are not in a jar in my underwear drawer.

But then he is a man. Plain and simple. He has no reason to prove anything to me. His brand of masculinity is inherently stable enough, that my personal power and intelligence are not intimidating so much as they are attractive. He doesn't have to worry about me and I don't have to fear him. We work together, we both bring assets to the table.

Its a shame that more people could not have a relationship more like that.

We value each other as we are, and for who we are. I don't need him to be my girlfriend and he doesn't need me to be his doormat.

scripto said...

Thanks IM. You learned me somethin. I still don't see it, though. Except maybe the Dodge commercial. That may as well have been an ad for Mega-Dick. But, c'mon, what do you expect? What demographic likes to spend 3 hours watching large men try to cripple each other? (Not, me of course) What are they gonna show, tampon ads? They save those for the Michigan games.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Liking Football or any other sport or activity that has been culturally branded as "Malborough Man" country is half the goddamned problem. It opperates on the assumption that all fans or participants are no neck troglodytes who lack the emotional quotient to avoid stomping fuzzy duckies to death, for fear of being labeled homosexuals or pussies.

And it also furthers this idea that women who enjoy these same pursuits must also be Homosexuals or Bull Dykes.

Scripto, your inability to grasp the nuances here, and how this is interconnected with other aspects of American Culture is kind of sad.

This bleeds into a lot of shit, and I got to say, that I have dealt with the Brunt of a lot of it.

It perpetuates this idea that there are strict gender roles and anyone who lands outside those paradigms are deviant and need to be punished or at least ostracized, or in the woman's case, beaten or raped into her place.

Fuck that.

I am sick of it. People who haul things regularly should drive big ass trucks. People who have an image issue should get a goddamn therapist instead of overcompensating with a big ass truck to make them feel like they have a great big dick. And they should take driving lessons.

And discriminating against women in this country is a fucking crime. Its not a nod and wink kind of crime either, but a big one that affects real people, productivity, child rearing, education and a whole lot of other things.

The Fucking Super bowl and these Fucked up add companies should have their wee wees slammed in the screen door {if they can find them} for promoting this bullshit.

オテモヤン said...