We live in a world where society constructs ideas of racial and gender standards. There is no doubt that the media accounts for the majority of us being influenced into believing that we should look or act a certain way. It's almost impossible to escape advertisements nowadays. Celebrities, corporations and even small businesses are constantly promoting products and beliefs on social networking sites, radios, billboards, newspapers, or even on TV programs. There have been consequences and issues that have arose due to ‘marketing strategies' used in ads such as weight-shaming, racial discrimination, and sexism. The Geico ad analyzed insinuates the sexist stereotype that shopping is a feminine activity. The ad displays a single high heel on the page followed by a phrase your eye simply cannot avoid that says your shoes won't pay for themselves. It portrays women as weak and overly-obsessed with fashion clothing. The subliminal message within the ad depicts women as both vacuous and financially illiterate to the point where they overlook other tasks.
The advertisement analyzed was of Geico, an insurance company. The ad consists of a bright red heel pump with the sentence, “Those pumps won't pay for themselves” in big bold letters which take up about half the page. Under it, in small text it says “Switch to GEICO and save money for the things you love. Maybe it's those Parisian pumps you just had to own. Or that oh-so-amazing handbag. Fashion is what you love - and it doesn't come cheap.” The ad makes it very vague about what they're trying to sell, but make it obvious that their intention is to convince you to switch to them because you'll save more money with them. One of the reasons why advertisements do this is to captivate people's attention. In this case, it was found on page 140 of the October 2017 issue of Real Simple magazine, which is a women's interest magazine that discusses topics such as cooking, health, cleaning tips, childcare and home decor ideas. Surely enough, the purpose of this ad was for Geico to coerce the targeted audience, women, to switch or choose their insurance. But did they really have to choose one of the most stereotypical activities? It would make sense if the magazine was in a fashion ad, but a majority of the content in the publishing, deals with female adulthood. The ad could have easily just been a gender-neutral or even straight-to-the-point advertisement but Geico tried to be relatable and funny, yet ultimately failed. We should all collectively be combating sexism instead of contributing to the idea.
For numerous years, the media has been feeding the idea that certain activities are meant for a certain gender. Some families have even based their values and morals on this. Movies and TV shows have always portrayed males as playing football, video games, being interested in science or even just as CEOs of companies while women are pictured as loving makeup, shopping, gossiping, cleaning and cooking. In the essay “Learning to Be Gendered,” Penelope Eckert and Sally McConnell-Ginet discuss what factors impact the characteristics of children to act a certain way and lead up to what society determines as their gender. As authors Langlois and Downs state, “But whatever the workings of biology may be, it is clear that this divergence is supported and exaggerated by the social system. As, children get older, their play habits are monitored and differentiated, first by adults, and eventually by peers. Parents of small children have been shown to reward their children's choice of gender-appropriate toys (trucks for boys, dolls for girls) (Langlois & Downs 1980)” (qtd. in Eckert and McConnell-Ginet). Adults are what set up the foundation for what a child is supposed to grow up to be. They encourage children from a very young age to play with toy trucks and sports if they are boys while rewarding girls with sparkly toys and dress-up dolls. Society creates this barrier between what interests are acceptable for a child's defined gender which eventually stays with them until they're adults. When people go against these social norms, they are seen as an outcast because society has always designated a specific idea with a specific gender. Men can also shop for clothing or makeup without having it look absurd. Since we're living in the 21st century, we should be able to look beyond these conventional ideas.
The advertisement conveys the message that the idea of women love to shop and although it may seem harmless, it downgrades and portrays us as submissive. For the population to think that a woman's weakness is money, makes it almost seem as if we lack consideration for other things such as tuition, medical expenses, rent, etc. We have the same necessities as men. The essay, “Two Ways a Woman Can Get Hurt” deals with the author, Jean Kilbourne analyzing a majority of ads, primarily those with sexual content or an underlying misogynistic tone. She goes on to explain how there is an obvious double standard between both men and women in terms of what defines them as compulsive and having power. The author claims, “Women are still socialized to be physically and emotionally nurturing, so eating disorders, obsessive shopping or cleaning, self-mutilation, and compulsive behavior in relationships are common female forms of addictive behavior, as is prescription drug abuse, which reflects the cultural belief that women's emotions need to be subdued and controlled” (Kilbourne). The author goes on to list examples that define a woman's compulsive behavior in comparison to those of a man's which consists of work addiction, gambling or sexual addiction. This demonstrates that there is a greater difference in how each gender's weakness is perceived, with women being more weak and resorting to more compulsions. In this case, when women are known to be head over heels for shopping, no pun intended, it is perceived as some addiction rather than an occasional hobby. There are other activities that women enjoy doing besides shopping and it shouldn't necessarily be an activity that is tied to women, especially if it gives us a negative perception. Views like this are the reason women are infantilized and sexism is still highly contemporary.
We now live in an era where we should all be entitled to participate in whatever activities we want regardless of our gender, so why are women constantly being reinforced to act a certain way? Advertisements are the culprit when it comes to people shaming women and setting high standards for the way they are supposed to act and look. Companies are constantly using slim and tall models with eurocentric features and unintentionally establishing a superiority over others. It's not uncommon to portray women in stereotypical feminine activities. It influences other people to believe that this is a standard. In many ads, women have even exploited their bodies or dressed seductively in ads just to advertise sports or even food while men don't have to do any of that. “Race and Gender in the Media” is an essay written by Vanessa Hazell and Juane Clarke. Both individuals represent their ideas of how both genders, specifically Black people, are portrayed in publishings in an attempt to appeal to the audience depending on who the magazine or ad is targeting. The authors includes in their essay, “Ads perpetuate and reinforce traditional gender roles and gender inequality by portraying how ideal men and women act and present themselves (Baker, 2005)” (qtd. in Hazell and Clarke). In terms of the context of the essay, the authors elaborate on how those who are not white or men are portrayed in an unfavorable manner. Women regardless of their race will always be seen as fragile compared to men, they are the protagonists in perfume ads - dressing in a sexual manner, enthusiastically doing laundry or cooking dinner. It is rare to see women presented as leaders in any form of commercialization. It is obvious that the population still identifies certain characteristics with a certain gender. The mass media should understand that the male population shops every single day, so if they are to judge women for that then might as well do it to men too.
Although the ad is meant to provide a sense of humor towards the audience with its satirical content and doesn't fail to captivate the audience's attention, it isn't necessarily the best way to promote an insurance company. Society has come a long way from this portrayal of women being addicted to makeup and shopping for an insurance company to push us back. How is it that when men are seen working-out it isn't considered a compulsion? Why is it that the majority of the times when men are being portrayed as going to the gym, staying fit or drinking a protein shake it's a sign of strength, while women get stuck playing these mediocre activities? Geico is a large corporation and delivering this message to their consumers and future consumers is a risk. For a company that is meant to help you save money, it's ironic that they would want people, specifically women, to switch to their insurance company and save money just to buy unnecessary products such as heels. However, if it were something like tuition or saving to buy a house and targeting all demographics, it would have been much more effective. Humor does not always equal success and that is what creative directors fail to realize. In fact, a company can even lose customers of the targeted demographic. There is no surprise that a misogynistic insurance advertisement would receive criticism for it's unprofessionality.
Advertisements in today's culture have changed drastically compared to those in the past decade where much more uncensored and provocative ones existed. Nowadays, it seems that due to the foul nature of the ads and removal of them, creative directors want to leave a hint of the satirical ads we once had. Marketing strategists and creative directors fail to overlook the damage that these pictorials can cause. The Geico ad is just another example that proves the lack of understanding that most people have in terms of gender characteristics. Saying that women just want to irresponsibly spend their money on clothing and accessories leads to the social construct of gender roles considering other activities exist. It also feeds into the idea that men can easily win women over clothes when we are more than that. There is no doubt that an ad can easily influence someone to buy or do something and having an ad that suggests that women are easily drawn to clothes and accessories can be dangerous. When seeing this, men would continue to portray women as submissive and that is not the characteristic that should be displayed, especially in 2018 when rape culture exists and men believe that women would do anything for them if they are given something in return. Removing the sexist undertones can just as easily promote the product or service and even in a more brief manner.
...(download the rest of the essay above)