This Super Bowl, we learned a few things: Bruno Mars has a twin brother/two-bit doppelganger who plays drums in his band. Wearing Axe body spray will create world peace. And Morpheus will pretend he respects Kia for some amount of money.
One vintage ad warns women, “Don’t let them call you SKINNY!” while another promises that smoking cigarettes will keep one slender. If the task of morphing their bodies into the current desirable shape isn’t enough of a burden, women are also reminded that they stink.
The Do I Offend? blog chronicles such vintage body-shaming advertisements geared toward women, and the baffling shifts from one feminine ideal to the next.
I'm usually skeptical of advertising. I know companies spend millions of dollars hoping that their body lotion or paper towels or lunch meat will bring me to tears.
But ads are powerful. They're a form of media where we see representations of ourselves and our society, just like on TV shows they interrupt. And it's rare to see people like me—with a black father and a white mother—represented in ads.
Earlier this year, like many other people, I heard about a Cheerios ad, "Just Checking," that featured an interracial family—a white mother, black father and their daughter—before I saw it. I was excited about it, sure, but why I was excited didn't really register until I finally did see it for myself.
Clear Channel is a behemoth—the media conglomerate owns 850 radio stations, making them the gatekeeper of mainstream radio airwaves across much of the country. And this week, the company is being a total douchebag.
The crime? Refusing to run ads for the South Wind Women's Center, a full-spectrum reproductive healthcare clinic in Witchita, Kansas that opened this year in the space that was Doctor George Tiller's clinic before he was murdered. Clear Channel says the Kansas clinic's ads violate the company's "decency standards."
Earlier this year, Huggies launched a series of TV spots that showed moms putting their products to the "dad test" —the implication being that if those big dopes could use 'em, anyone could. The backlash was swift and vocal, with both moms and dads taking to the brand's Facebook page to complain that the ads played on out of date stereotypes. Huggies was clearly panicked by the strength of the negative response: they yanked one of the ads, emphasized that they featured real couples rather than a fictionalized idea of what fathers are like, and even rushed to a daddy blogging conference to issue an "our bad".
What's interesting is that this criticism didn't come from the media or the feminist blogosphere but the intended audience, suggesting a real-world shift in attitudes towards stay-at-home dads (and hands-on fathers in general). But while Huggies' campaign was unimaginative and hackneyed, it's understandable: for years, the Homer Simpson-esque clueless papa has been a reliable and uncontroversial target for humor. He still features in many ads, like Kroger's current Christmas commercial, where a woman informs us that her husband helps out at this time of year by doing his own wrapping (just like a grown-up!) — and then we see said wrapping, and it's atrocious.
In both a national and global context where the rates of domestic violence against women are consistently soaring (according to the United Nations Population Fund Report, more 55 percent of women living in India face violence within the home), awareness campaigns and messages which seek to address this particular manifestation of gender-based violence are incredibly pertinent. Calling on women to recognise that they are not alone in what they experience, and highlighting the ways in which this violence manifests itself and affects other facets of a woman's life are key components of such outreach.
"Suffocation is the worst kind of abuse"
"It always starts with the little nicks and cuts"
"Respect the space you really deserve"
"How much longer will you adjust?"
These taglines, part of a far-reaching poster campaign, seem to fit the bill. Or they would, if violence against women were their subject. In fact, they're being used to sell bras.