Archive | September, 2010

Manhood=Beer. Women, take note.

7 Sep

In the discourse over the nature of men and women there emerges a popular theme: Men and women are two different creatures.

We have various forms of media and social vehicles telling us this; movies , books (“Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus”), our friends (“ugh, men” and “women, who needs um?”), music, and of course, commercials. Commercials are great (from an analysist point of view) because they’re meant to convey a lot in a short time frame. They often employ social short-hand to this end that tells a sociological observer a lot about the target audience.

For me, there are few things as reflective of men’s cultural identity than beer commercials. Beer commercials reflect and reinforce men’s identity as men, their relationship to women, to other men and to the world around them. In this instance I’m talking about straight men as the assumed epitome of manhood but I believe that gay men are also influenced greatly by these images.

The fact that these beer commercials are almost all marketed to men reveals a certain sociological awareness on the part of beer marketing companies: they must realize the phallocentric lens women see themselves through and therefore market to men knowing that it will reach women as well. That is, they’re aware that women are taught to see themselves and other women through the eyes of men. Furthermore, the superior value attached to “manhood” rather than “femininity” in this culture results in a constant attempt to “be one of the guys”, to be “the cool girl” (the one that plays video games, watches football and drinks beer yet remains a “woman” in certain ways).

For example, in the following Miller Lite video women are warned not to be the party poopers who look down on objectification but to, taking a cue from Pam Anderson, join in on the bikini-clad pillow fight of life (for the sexual gaze of men, of course).

Then we have the “Man Up” commercials in which, in a rarely seen twist, women are policing men’s gender performance, encouraging them to reject signs of femininity and embrace their man-ness (the ideal) with beer and pants:

In this example we have a clear distinction between the joys/worlds of men and women (also notice the skin tones of those in the commercial)

(Edit: I read a comment about my post on a forum pointing out that the ad is not an American one and therefore should not have to reflect American demographics. This is fair and true. And I was sloppy in my analysis of this ad. But I do retain the same criticism for American ads that feature entirely white characters):

This one I found incredibly offensive.

I only sleep with someone if they claim to like Celine Dion, not Peter Cetera. Who the hell is Peter Cetera?

This commercial not only offends my musical tastes (as a ticket-to-Lillith-Fair-carrying woman, of course) but also marks women as trophies to be collected (or displayed demurely on someone’s wall) and as the ultimate object to obtain in order to be a true man or “the man”.

And finally this one is my favorite. How dare Heineken imply that women do not also have a telepathic connection to quality beer.

Throughout all the commercials you may notice that the racial make up of the majority of them are white. The few exceptions involve black men (perhaps referencing conceptions of black men as sexually potent) but never a woman of color as the sexual object. White, relatively skinny but large breasted women remain the ideal and white men remain the normative eyes through which we see the (commercial) world.


Still A Virgin?

3 Sep

Saw this ad at the Court House and 23rd and Ely Avenue 7  train station tonight and it made me think about the paradox of sexual expression in this society and who get’s addressed in sanctioning messages.

First of all, as a gendered “woman” I didn’t feel targetted by this ad. There are no obvious markers of gender in this ad at all. There are no references to masculinity and yet my initial reaction was to disregard the ad with the distinct feeling that it was intended toward “men”. Why is that?It seems that “men” are prescribed a different set of social pressures which include expectations about sexual experience whereas “women” are expected to be chaste, virginal. This isn’t to say that “women” don’t feel pressures to have sex, I just think the social policing functions in a different way.

Whereas “men” can be socially berated for being virgins or not having sex “regularly”, to do so to “women” would be considered morally wrong. “Men” are so regularly expected to live up to social quotas of sex, women are rarely publicly (or via the media) pressured in this way. Because I know it’s politically incorrect to put an ad up pressuring a “woman” to have sex, I almost immediately dismiss the ad as intended for another audience.

This topic touches on what I intend to write for my Phd application; about the social mass rape of gendered “men” within American society. My main point being that because masculine identity is so tied to heterosexual vitality, men are socially pressured into having sex not merely for enjoyment but for identity maintenance. That is, a “man” who knowing he can take a “woman” home will likely bring her home, regardless of his current sexual appetite, and ever aware that he “should’nt pass this up”.

Anyway, I came home and went to the site the ad referenced and watched the trailer which reveals that the ad was for a movie about “four guys, one camera and their hilarious experience chronicling the exhilarating and terrifying rite of passage: losing your virginity. As these guys help their buddy get laid, they’ll have to survive friends with benefits, internet hookups, even porn stars during an adventure that proves you will always remember your first.”

Here the story is told from the perspective of men. I haven’t seen the movie but based on the trailer and the description, this doesn’t seem to be an account of a woman’s losing her virginity (imagine if the description above was reference four girls…it would probably be a porn) but of “four guys” and their “rite of passage”. But how often is the “rite of passage” concept used for talking about “women” losing their virginity? It seems to me that masculinity is much more attached to this idea of unlocking one’s true potential; awakening one’s realization of the self through the first act of intercourse.

To further evidence this implied tie between social pressure to lose one’s virginity and “men”, look at the tabs on the page: One says “Epic Fails” and the next says “Male Animal”. The page also makes comparisons between this movie and “American Pie”; another film in which a group of men are pressuring each other to lose their virginity. When was the last time we saw a film in which women do the same?

This consideration of gender targeting also made me consider the placement of the ad. This ad was on the subway platform of what is considered one of the most liberal cities in America. Would this ad appear somewhere that is conceptualized as conservative? Would devout Muslim, Christian, Jewish (etc) American women and men feel equally targeted or repulsed by this ad? Would the gender dynamic prevalent in a more secular society endure? And how does this ad fit into context of a society that remains conservative in it’s expressions of sexuality in the media? Is this the mark of a new age of sexual rambunctiousness or yet another example of our struggle as Americans to address the issue of sexual expression?

P.S. Check out the complexion of those in the movie. It’s another “white middle class teens” represent everyone’s experiences movie.

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