I read a lot, and in my perusal of the Interweb today I came across several international television commercials that had me wrinkling my nose, furrowing my brow, and rolling my eyes. I'm not easily offended, and really, I'm not sure it's a feeling of offense that has me writing this post. It is more a response to my disappointment with the lack of creativity on the part of advertisers, feeling of boredom with their attempts at sensationalism, and surprise at the lack of sensitivity regarding a recent act of terrorism that has had global repercussions.
While I'm personally in no way rattled by the acquisition/merger, I do think that it provides some opportunities to discuss gender, entertainment and marketing.
Marvel has over 70 years of history, and Disney will have access to over 5,000 characters (though the ones that have been mentioned most in the past week are the most profitable: Spider-Man, Iron Man, and the X-Men. Hmmmmm . … what could be missing here?)
The deal has included lots of business speak about "brands," "vertical integration," "long-term growth," "value creation," and my favorite, "synergy," (mostly because it reminds me of 30 Rock's Jack Donaghy telling Liz Lemon to "never badmouth synergy"). There certainly will be many opportunities for profit, but I'm interested in how y'all respond to the fact that one of Disney's major motivating factors has been securing a young male demographic.
I'm vegan. I think cruelty to animals is unnecessary and unjust. I don't eat animals. I don't wear them. And I don't kill them for sport. However, Ella Es el Matador isn't a film about animal rights, and treating it as such does it an enormous injustice. I don't believe in prioritizing a conversation about cruelty enacted on bulls over one about cruelty enacted on women while discussing a beautiful and melancholy film exploring the world of bullfighting through the eyes of female matadors—so I won't.
Did anyone else notice the bizarre sexism during the commercial breaks on last night's episode of Mad Men? I can accept that a healthy dose of douchiness comes with the territory when I decide to watch currently airing episodes of a show instead of waiting for it to come out on DVD, but I honestly felt creeped out by how skewed all of last night's ads were toward a male (and sexist) audience. Could it be that, because the show itself portrays a stylized hypermasculinity, advertisers are missing the context and coming up with campaigns to try and match Mad Men's outdated sexism?
I saw ads for (and this is just what I can remember): Lipitor, Viagra, NFL Sunday Ticket, and more, all aimed at middle-aged men who I didn't think were following Peggy Olsen's rise to the top all that closely. Oh, and let us not forget this gem, from Clorox:
Because, you know, sometimes even MEN do the laundry! And Clorox apparently dragged that ad out of its archives (here is a Feministing post on it from two years ago) just for Mad Men. WTF?
The Washington Post article linked above, for example, is pretty straightforward. It explains that scientists in Britain tested 17 male and female financial traders for their testosterone levels and then had them play a money game involving risky or safe investments. The people with high testosterone, regardless of gender, chose the riskier investments. But the article makes the mistake right off the bat of saying the study is about "male hormone testosterone." A study whose results should break down gender differences instead is framed as reinforcing them: only women who have high testosterone (which is not a male hormone. It's found in both men and women) act like men. Smaller news sources riff on the same mistake , framing finance as a career for men and viewing women who become bankers as therefore acting like men.
Science journal Nature wins the award for best coverage. They refer to the phenomena as simply "traders' testosterone"—a refreshingly ungendered term.
But whatever, the WaPo's faulty framing is small potatoes compared to this headline from The Economist: "Hormones, not sexism, explain why fewer women than men work in banks." Uh... WTF Economist? This study did not look at reasons women work in banks, it doesn't examine social norms or widespread career statistics. Extrapolating that the presence of one hormone can explain away decades of female career choices is totally unfounded and provides dangerous fodder to folks who want to believe we live in a post-sexism society.
And on the far fringe of poor reporting lies the Press Association who conjured up this bizarre headline from the study: "Risky women are 'hungry for sex.'" I'm not even going to get started on that one.
It wasn't until moving to India that I realized just how much I'd been taking toilets for granted, and it wasn't until coming across the newly published Ladies and Gents: Public Toilets and Gender that I realized the extent of what I'd been missing. So, naturally, I decided it was time to dive head first into the loo… metaphorically, of course.
After interviewing Olga Gershenson and Barbara Penner, the authors of the book, I needed some visual to accompany my article—no small feat for a piece on toilets—so I turned to Google to see what was available in the way of tasteful toilet art. Instead I found gender reification and male sexual anxiety.