We have been writing quite extensively about advertisements that we find sexist, stereotypical, or in other ways bothersome. Whether overt or covert, all advertisements send a message about not only the product they are selling, but also society as a whole. Gender battles are typically played out in advertisements, pitting men and women against each other in a biologically driven battle (because it is so much easier to view gender from a strictly biological perspective) where drinking beer and watching sports is strictly “manly,” while shopping for the latest Glade product and worrying about residue on dishes is strictly “feminine.” This is exactly the way gender works, right, both on and off the screen?
One specific advertisement has been bothering us for a while now because of its play on gender and sexual behavior. The advertisement, from Direct TV, wants consumers to switch from cable to their services.
In the ad, a woman showers while a man (presumably her husband) brushes his teeth. As she gets out of the shower, a levitating television screen pops up right in front of her eyes with the message that there is a conflict between the shows recording. The screen only shows up for a very brief moment and is partly covered by the woman’s body, but if we look closely we can see that the man is trying to record a show called “Hit the Switches,” while the woman is recording the show “Diva Dentists” (play on gender stereotypes, anyone?). As the screen startles the woman, she states “Okay, I am sick of this thing.” The husband stops brushing his teeth and turns around to face her: “Hmmm, well see we have cable. If you didn’t record your shows while I’m recording my shows we wouldn’t have to deal with this.” The woman replies, “I just feel like it’s watching me walk around naked,” to which the husband responds, “at least somebody gets to,” and then goes back to brushing his teeth.
Not only does the woman have to take the blame for recording her show at the same time as her husband is recording his (clearly, she should know better), but his snide remark about being able to watch her naked is not very funny. When it comes to any form of sexual activity, merely wanting something from another person does not entitle you to actually getting it. The man might want to watch his wife strutting around naked, but is he entitled to that or anything else if she does not want to? No, he is not. Sexual activity (including watching someone naked) is not a person’s right. It is a privilege given by one person based on their consent (and yes, you can change your mind at any time). But considering the blame game this man plays on his wife, it is no wonder that he is making snide remarks about her unwillingness to take her clothes off in front of him. It is also not difficult to imagine that that remark is not only about nudity, but also about sexual activity overall. Don’t record your shows when I want to record mine, and make sure you take your clothes off. That’s the way to treat a woman you (presumably) love.
Photo of banner reading Consent is Sexy uploaded by flickr user ctrouper and shared under a creative commons license.