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Mad World: Fembots, Advertising and Male Fantasy

Advertisers are tapping into some of the most misogynistic male fantasies when they use futuristic fembots to convince men to buy their products. They are selling a fantasy of control by turning women into obedient, mute, homemaking, sex slaves.

Texts referenced in video:

1. "Heineken 'DraftKeg': "The Most Sexist Beer Commerical Ever Produced?"

2. The Gender Knot by Allan G. Johnson

This video now has English subtitles on YouTube and is available to be translated at DotSub into many different language. Please help reach global audiences by translating!

Full video transcript is also available here.

Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist media literacy advocate, pop culture critic and fair use proponent. She maintains an ongoing web series of video commentaries from a fangirl/feminist/anti-oppression perspective at her website www.FeministFrequency.com.

OH_Logo.jpg This project was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Comments

18 comments have been made. Post a comment.

Loved this

First of all, the commercial at the end totally freaked me out. I had the Jamie Sommers/Bionic Woman doll, but had NO IDEA there were companion dolls. Fembot? Holy shit! Why have I never heard of this?

Second, thanks for this commentary. Bitch did a piece on the prevalence of fembot advertising a couple years back, but it does seem to have gotten even more extreme lately. The body of the Svedka girl seems so much more exaggerated than before...or maybe I'm just more disgusted than ever. And the razor one is extra disturbing because between the music and her visage I'm getting the impression that she's supposed to be a robot geisha...I guess because regular geishas aren't subservient enough?

Anyway, hope this will be a regular series!

Isn't that commercial crazy!

Isn't that commercial crazy! Apparently, the term Fembot originated with the Bionic Woman. Thanks for letting me know about the article Bitch did on Fembots, I'd love to read it.

re. robot geisha, ya that ad REALLY disturbs me, especially with the smug look he has on his face as he walks away... *cold shiver* If you would like even more disturbing content with that particular ad the ROBOT SKIN campaign even has animated videos and it might be safe to say they are worse... http://theinspirationroom.com/daily/2007/philips-shave-robot-skin/

When Fembots Attack!

Anita, I love this video! I knew I had seen these "fembot" types around, but seeing a few of them in one place really drives home the misogyny inherent in their existence.

Though all creepy, I think the Heineken one bugged me the most. I guess because she opened up her ladyparts and POURED BEER OUT OF THEM! Aaahhh!

Has anyone seen any bot ads where the gender is reversed (i.e., a manbot serving women)? I can't think of any at all. It might be interesting to compare them, if they exist...

Great post!

I have not seen any ads

I have not seen any ads where the genders are reversed, I assume mostly because the insatiable desire to dominate another being isn't the "emotional" appeal that advertisers are going for when marketing cleaning supplies and tampons to women.

There are however, examples of androids in film/television, it would be interested to do a comparison of the roles of androids versus fembots... but I think it's safe to say that androids aren't generally acting as sex slaves and house servants.

I've seen androids depicted

I've seen androids depicted in a few movies...in "Bicentennial Man", the robot-man is meant to be a household appliance but it turns out that he has feelings and he spends the rest of the movie convincing people how human he is. There's also "AI", which is about a robot-boy, again spending the movie convincing people of his humanity. I can't say that I've ever seen that Will Smith robot movie so i do not know what the deal is with the robots in that movie. But I also know that the "fembots" in Austin Powers (like all the other women in the movie naturally) are simply there to serve the men. I really don't think I've ever seen a female robot character doing anything but servitude, and while like Rosie from the Jetsons some are supposedly "part of the family", none of them get to convince anyone of their inherent humanity.

Now that you mention it

"AI" did depict male sex-robots made for the purpose of serving women. There are female sexbots as well, but the film focuses, in part, on a male sex android played by Jude Law. I have not seen "AI" in years, but thinking back, I'd be curious to rewatch in case it has anything interesting to say about idealization, objectification or female sexuality.

Wow...

I managed to completely miss this phenomenon. It's disheartening that these commercials and ads still get made but encouraging that people are speaking in protest (including generally less-than-feminist men and groups.) This video is excellently made and was also my first exposure to Feminist Frequency, which I certainly will check out. Will we see more from you on Bitch in the future?
Also, good call with the Robyn song. Feminist pop fans unite!

Yes, I will be making

Yes, I will be making monthly videos for the Mad World blog! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

ooooo, I can't wait for more

ooooo, I can't wait for more monthly Mad vids.

I feel like I've seen a lot

I feel like I've seen a lot of fembots in ads, but you've managed to show more! Yikes. It's sexist AND it's been done to death!

Oh and there are even more,

Oh and there are even more, these are just the ones I was able to fit in the video *ack*

I see the Stepford Wives are

I see the Stepford Wives are alive and well.

Thirsty for more!

Hi everyone!

Those of you thirsty for more Anita Sarkeesian video blogs (and who can blame you? They're awesome) are in luck – Anita will be doing a Mad World video blog post on the third Tuesday of every month. Right here!

Of course, if you want even more (again, who can blame you) make sure to check out Feminist Frequency!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

keg bot!

Also loved it, the Heineken ad was super weird. If i'm trading in my uterus for a keg, it'll be for my own imbibing thank you very much. I loved the commercial at the end too. Looking forward to more, Anita!

____________
Kjerstin Johnson, editor-in-chief
Did someone say "Comments Policy"?

thanks!

thanks!

Fixed!

Should be working now. Thanks for the heads up!

____________
Kelsey Wallace, contributor

Ask me about our Comments Policy!

Awesomely depressing

Hi Anita, thanks for this round-up. I've been keeping an eye out on the fembot phenomenon for a while now -- I actually did a post for this blog last year when Battlestar Galactica wrapped up in the same week as the Japanese supermodel fembot was debuted. But I had no idea what was happening in advertising, since we don't have a TV. I've really been more interested in the actual robots people have been creating (which are almost uniformly sexualized females designed for various service roles), and hadn't given much thought to representations of fembots beyond what I've seen in sci-fi. This was eye-opening, so thanks.

Regarding masculine robots, I recently came across a few that are more male-oriented. Surprisingly, they've all been cooking robots, which is a little counter-intuitive, considering the trend is generally towards female robots. I did a brief write-up about it on my own site (http://leazeltserman.com/2010/03/the-kitchen-bot-revolution/). You can also take a look at the NYTimes article that first brought it to my attention; they also have a bunch of video links to various kitchen-bots: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/24/dining/24robots.html?pagewanted=1&ref=....