From the editor
// Sarah Vitet

In 2010 Old Spice launched their “Smell Like A Man, Man” ad campaign. Featuring Isaiah Mustafa transitioning smoothly through a variety of environments and costume changes in a single, uninterrupted shot, the ads were an instant success. The humour appealed to both men and women and it served to completely re-brand Old Spice and distance them from the high school-hallway-clouding Axe body spray. The ad agency (Wieden+Kennedy) understood exactly what they were doing and recruited the best writers and actors to see their vision through. Once the campaign launched Old Spice’s sales went up 107 per cent in one month.

Not only did everybody and their mom become masters of deadpan “random” jokes, TV ads for all kinds of products mimicked the “manliness” portrayed in the Old Spice ads. Pizza Hut is now “a guy thing,” Dr. Pepper 10 is “not for women,” Dairy Queen is whacking open piñatas with female gymnasts inside them, and Sleeman beer is boasting their bad-boy past full of pirates and gangsters.

But why settle for ironic sexism when you can have the real thing? Dodge Charger points out how incredibly demasculinizing it is for a man to be in a relationship with a woman. When walking the dog, eating fruit, shaving, cleaning up after yourself, going to work, doing chores, and having conversations with your girlfriend (and holding her lip gloss) get to be too much, you, The Man, can escape to your Dodge, which is “the car you want to drive.”

A pulled Got Milk campaign also focused on the suffering of straight men in relationships. Some research suggests that the calcium and vitamin D in milk can help alleviate the symptoms of PMS, which led to the “Everything I Do is Wrong” campaign. The ads encouraged men to get their girlfriends to drink more milk in order to prevent their “crazy” PMS behaviour. The campaign was too blatantly sexist, though, and as a result they pulled the ads and shut down the companion website after much negative response.

However, gender stereotyping in advertising did not begin with these examples. For decades men have been the “dopey husband” who can’t cook without Boston Pizza, and women are always Swiffering or plugging in a Glade to cover up that musky odour. In this current trend reversal, with refined Moogs and caricatured Midriffs, men and women have never been so funny … or so unlike each other.

These extreme depictions are reinforcing gender roles and widening the divide between men and women, as well as promoting sexist ideals to viewers. According to T.V., real men are tall, fearless, handsome, arrogant and emotionless. They like cars, beer, chicken wings, football and boobies, and they have no trouble confidently navigating their way through any situation. While these things may represent some men, they by no means define masculinity, nor are they traits that women cannot possess. Contrary to these stereotypes, some men are born short, some men start balding at 19, some men are vegetarians, some men like to kiss other men, some men ride bikes instead of cars, and some men are shy. Obviously, that’s O.K.

Breaking down gender barriers allows for individuality and freedom of expression, while tightening the binary leads to conformity, intolerance, and low-self-esteem. Instead of breaking humans into two marketing groups, with women being skinny and blond and men being big and hungry, we need to focus on realistic depictions of individuals. Objectification in any form is harmful. While parodying gender stereotypes had comedic potential, the joke has been milked for so long it’s curdled.

// Sarah Vitet, Editor-in-Chief

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