general silliness

I Would Like to Register A Complaint…

The New York Times reports that the European Parliament is admonishing the advertising industry:

Last week, the legislature voted 504 to 110 to scold advertisers for “sexual stereotyping,” adopting a nonbinding report that seeks to prod the industry to change the way it depicts men and women.

Ok, fine. That seems reasonable – unless you consider the types of things they object to, such as the implication that Mr. Clean’s image implies that only men are strong enough to handle filth, or that ads for food depict women rather than men. On the latter, I’d like to point out that, in the early 1990’s (according to Statistics Canada), women performed over 69% of household work, which included meal preparation. The proportion may have changed, but I suspect that women, as part of their second, unpaid indentured servitude maintaining the health and well-being of the family, still perform the majority of these tasks, so it is not unreasonable to have a female representing the concept of ‘food preparer’. Anyway, the European Parliament obviously has nothing better to do than flog the dead political correctness horse a little more, apparently.

Having said that, I have a related complaint. If I see one more stupid advertisement for any type of product in which

  1. a woman has all the answers and is the only competent member of the household, and
  2. The male of the house is stupid, childish and completely incompetent to function without specific guidance from his wife

I will be really pissed. I mean, seriously, at the level of functioning displayed by most of these men, it’s obvious that, as soon as the commercial ends, they are crapping into their hands and throwing it. Just because it’s necessary for ‘humour’ to be introduced, why is is always at the male’s expense? Are women immune to mockery now? This is, I suppose, an extension of the ‘complete schlub with hot wife’ genre of sitcom, which I also hate with every fiber of my being.

Don’t get me wrong – most of the incredibly intelligent, charming, talented individuals with whom I’ve come in contact have been women, most notably Ms. Flash, the Goddess of the Computers, and Ms. Kevvyd, who has a creative streak a mile wide. I work for a woman, and she never fails to impress me with her political acumen and determination to do right by the citizens of this province. I am not a misogynist, as any of my compatriots will tell you. I’m just easily annoyed by cheap manipulation and tiresome gimmicks.

Sorry, kids, but nobody gets off scott free. You want equal, you got equal, and that includes being subject to ridicule like those of us with the Y chromosomes. I seriously despise these cheap attempts at ‘humour’, and will continue to complain as much as I am able.

If my wife says it’s ok.

It’s a Flash Fact.


9 thoughts on “I Would Like to Register A Complaint…

  1. I think the old “guys are stupid” meme is fed to women to placate the fact that they still are doing more housework and making less money in the workforce. (Though it is definitely better than it once was.)

    As for the EC legislation, I don’t know much about the specifics, but I think the intention is to remove the depiction of gender tied to specific roles outright. The housewife with the mop” commercials, even if they target the right demographic, serve to reinforce the stereotype that women do the housework, whereas if we show more men in household-chore roles, we break them down.

    There is a reciprocal relationship between advertisers and the marketplace – ad placers want to relate directly to their potential customers, and so play upon commonalities. Unfortunately, this often means playing on stereotypes, thereby reinforcing them in the marketplace. Laws like this one aknowledge the power of marketers in promoting change on specific issues, in this case gender equality, by prompting the advertisers to make changes that will then later be reflected back in the marketplace.


  2. Absolutely. The reinforcement of gender stereotypes through popular culture is a subtle yet effective way of maintaining the status quo in behavioural expectation. I hope there are very few consumers that don’t actually recognize that, but I am an optimist.


  3. Good point on the sitcoms, Flash, I’d also like to go on record as despising the meme of the children always being smarter than the parents. On the European Parliament action, I’m of two minds, I think some of the complaints are on the order of those people who objected to the “Ode to Newfoundland” because it contains the line “as loved our fathers” – kind of smallminded, on the face of things. On the other hand, while I agree that the advertising does reinforce gender steroetypes, I think Kev is on the right track when he says that they’re playing to the marketplace – if more men were buying mops, for example, there would be more ads targeting them. Where I disagree, and where I part ways with the Parliament on this, is that what they’re doing, to my mind, is basically trying to effect change through legislative fiat, which I think is too heavy-handed to work effectively.


  4. My inner totalitarian and my inner libertarian go to battle over issues like these. Legislative fiat is never an optimal solution, however obvious sexism and other forms of discrimination might not go away otherwise.


  5. I think a good analogy was one I’d run across the message boards on the Wizards of the Coast website a couple of years ago, someone had started a thread calling for the Rust Monster to be revamped, on the grounds that DM’s were screwing the players over by making their nice shiny armour go away. Now, you and I have both DM’d before and you know very well that even had WOTC revamped the Rust Monster, it wouldn’t have made any difference in the long run, any DM who wants to fuck his players over will do so, no matter what. The way to deal with it is not to ask for rule changes, it’s to go and find another DM. Similarly, if people think the advertising industry is engaging in overt sexism and racism, write and complain – they’re out to make money, if they think they’re driving away a customer base, they’ll cave in.


  6. I think we’re both agreeing on the basics here, I think we just disagree on the best way to go about it – you feel legislation is the best way to go about it in the short term, and I’d probably agree with you – I’d just rather see more emphasis on an education-based, long term approach.


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