Archive | June, 2010

“Master of the Universe”

15 Jun

I receive emails from Daily Candy and in the latest one was a feature of “Fifteen Gifts For Dad”. The first of the series I thought made telling commentary on how subconscious gender conceptions are still upheld by tradition.

Here’s the description:

“Master of the Universe

For Mom, it’s flowers. For Dad, it’s a desktop carnivorous plant set ($25). Everything but the water is included. And after a few weeks of care, seven killers (Venus flytraps, Cobra Lilies) emerge.”

So here we see some associations. Women like flowers, men like killers. Flowers are often delivered cut, or dead. Inactive, ornamental.

Carnivorous plants are alive, active, practical, violent. I say violent because the term “killer” connotes a certain amount of intention and human quality. To say it’s a carnivorous plant is, to my mind, not problematic in that it eats non-vegetation. To say it is a killer implies intention.

Additionally, the ad refers to the gift as for the desktop; implying that the father a. works and b. works at a desk job. Not that this is an ad for a mother’s gift but the “flowers for mom” are not “desk flowers for mom”. And the first google search for “mother’s day gifts” shows no  work-related gifts and very few activity related gifts (the exception being for yoga).

What’s more, the dad gift is on a website called “Think Geek” and at top there is a banner with a headless (white) man with forearm tattoos, hands in pockets (to suggest laid back comfort) and a button up shirt and tie. So here we see associations between whiteness and Geekdom as well as gender and class. None of the gadgets below the banner are ornamental, all serve some purpose or make some action.

It’s not to say that because of just this ad or ads like it that we have constraining gender roles but that they play a part (as do many other factors) in maintaining and reinforcing our ideas about proper gender roles.

And so as little boys are still mostly taught to be active and little girls still mostly taught to be ornamental there remains this conception of men that I suppose is best worded in the title of the email I was sent:

Master of the Universe”


“Who’s that guy?” “Oh it’s my non-hot agent Rich.”

6 Jun

Ah so the other day I was wondering if I, as a white person, found black men attractive. While my thoughts started drifting to Taye Diggs…

The following commercial came on and I remembered that I only find white men attractive and that black men are just here to file my insurance claims and stand in the background.

All snark aside, I didn’t understand why the agent wasn’t a sex object.

He’s a tall, skinny black guy in a suit so there’s nothing immediately unappealing about him by American “traditional” standards. For example, if he had been what this society considers “fat” I could say “okay, fatness is coded as unattractive” and that would be just as sad but would mean that it wasn’t his skin tone that wasn’t hitting the ladies’ buttons.

Likewise, if he had been dressed in say, Bermuda shorts and/or some quirky outfit I could reason that the women found him unattractive for his less-than-sophisticated attire. State Farm Agent Rich’s age, clothing and physique all seem to be prime for finding him attractive.

But instead, when the friend on the left says “with a hot guy”, a “hot” white man magically appears and poor Rich is left in the background.

I don’t believe State Farm is in the business of telling white people who to date or that they’re intentionally being racist or anything. More, I believe the commercial unintentionally reflects conceptions of “hotness” from the dominant white female perspective.

The commercial operates on the assumed notion that when a white woman says “a hot guy” it means a white hot guy.

Additionally, the commercial also reflects what values women are taught to desire in men and what those virtues look like when visualized (hence, the hot white guy holding the bunny when the one girl asks for someone “sensitive” ).

The women themselves embody stereotypes about what a “sensitive”, or “dangerous” woman look like. The “sensitive” woman wears a layered boho dress with a loose hat, while the “danger”-desiring woman is a brunette (I think dangerous women are often brunettes in movies) with more “urban-chic” fashion.

Regardless of my analysis, I laugh when the “sensitive” version of the hot white guy is holding the bunny and says “He’s a rescue”. It’s a detail that humorously attempts to target the “sensitive” (“sensitive” means animal rights in this case) audience.

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