Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Manly Man Man Commercials During Football but WHAT ABOUT THE (GIRL) CHILDREN?!

Covered all over the interwebz are discussions of the particularly pathetic and desperately misogynist commercials shown during this year's Super Bowl. Via Jezebel, I quite enjoyed this flow chart to analyze the masculinizing effects of television commercials. As Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon, puts it, these commercials would have us believe that modern masculinity is barely surviving a vagified assault. Heehee. VAGIFIED. That Dodge Ram Charger (ladybrains have trouble keeping track of all those different types of cars!) commercial ("Man's last stand") was so sad, I didn't even want to punch anyone. 'Cause I mean, SRSLY? Dear sirs: No one can MAKE you eat fruit or not act like an asshole in front of your girlfriend's parents, but they are generally advisable actions. Also, why is Dove marketing man-soap? But I digress. But anyway: the problem with the Super Bowl's "I'm a MAN" commercials is not so much that they are insulting to women (though they are) or even that they are insulting to men (which they most definitely are also), it's that a huge (inter)national media event like the Super Bowl reaches its icky, capitalist-fueled gendered message tentacles into the homes of millions: millions of CHILDREN. Though I do a kind of disgusting amount of research on the gendering of boys and the devastating effects of hegemonic masculine ideals enforced by peers, parents, and fucking football commercials on young men, I want to talk about the lady children. Yes: GIRLS. Though I am now a dirty, hairy-legged feminist academic elitist man-hater who is able to view cultural productions like advertising and pick apart the gendered messages therein and sometimes make oversimplified jokes to my gentleman consort like, "Get it? 'Cause [insert consumer good here] is totally like a PENIS!" I was once a young girl. Ahhh, those were the days.* (The following discussion is incredibly heteronormative, so sorry lovely gay readers, I am not quite so familiar with how gendered media messages fuck with your relationships too--or not! Feel free to lay some knowledge on me in the comments.) Growing up in my pre-ex-Mormon days as a kind of proto-feminist girl, the messages I received from role models, peers, and the media made me kind of terrified of men. And I don't mean in a child molester kind of way, though getting leered at by teens and adults while still in elementary school and reading too many of my mother's Woman's Day and Better Homes and Gardens magazines certainly made me aware of my inherent vulnerability to assault or abuse because of my gender. No no, I mean in a "I really like boys and I want to get married one day and hopefully have a boyfriend as soon as I'm allowed to date when I'm 16 and whatnot, but from what I understand, male people are assholes who are stupid, lazy, mean, and just want to fuck me." Though this sentiment probably manifested more as a kind of nebulous, anxious discomfort and with less swearing in my head. See, I have older brothers, and though they are far more masculinely gendered than really seems necessary, they are, after all, PEOPLE with all the complexity that that entails and I experienced the good and the bad the way you do with regular, three-dimensional humans growing up with them. My dad is also happens to be an awesome guy who clearly has feelings, cares about people, is very smart and competent, and appears to be the best kind of partner to my mother. So when my (kind of proto-feminist herself) mom would say things like, "[Mormon] men have to have the Priesthood because it forces them to help people." I thought, "WTF? Like dudes are incapable of caring about people or something? That doesn't jive with the masculine-identified human beings I am acquainted with." Something really rang false when responding to some friends and me talking about a teenage boy we knew being creepy to a younger girl, she said, "All boys care about is sex. If they didn't, they wouldn't ever want to get married and have kids." As much as I cringe at thought of my own our anyone else's parents' sexuality, I (internally) called bullshit even then. I'm pretty sure my dad WANTED to marry my mom and WANTED to have kids for other reasons besides being able to get it on. Gross. And though in elementary school the occasional asshole boy in my class would try and tell me girls were bad at such-and-such task, it always sounded particularly stupid since I was inevitably smarter than whoever was saying it and probably most if not all of the other kids in my class too and I assumed it was mostly motivated by jealousy. Don't worry, my self-esteem took the culturally-sanctioned nosedive at puberty. So while the sexist messages that got blatantly expressed didn't seem to gibe with reality, they caused me a good bit of anxiety (shock, shock). I knew plenty of stupid dudes, immature dudes, creepy dudes, etc., but I figured that any place before college wasn't really the place to find the semi-gender-nonconforming man of my dreams. I think being friends with/having crushes on/being like by so many cool dudes who ended up eventually coming out as gay helped me keep hope alive for men who did not adhere to the arrogant, violent, insensitive dude stereotypes I had been taught were the inevitable elements of masculinity. And though I've never gone for the manly-man type and they're not likely to go for me either, it did take me a few relationships to figure out that just because someone doesn't overtly present as super-masculine doesn't mean they don't buy into certain stereotypes of acceptable male behavior. Casual misogyny in the guise of intellectual arrogance, "irony," or complete inability to comprehend the emotional life of others does not a feminist man make. And while I realize everybody has their flaws and it is difficult to just shrug off our life-long gender training, it becomes clear, at least in retrospect that shit I put up with from men was due to (at least) these three factors:
  1. Insensitivity, cluelessness, or even cruelty become self-fulfilling prophecies for men who grow up in a society in which these attributes are if not exactly encouraged, then at least tolerated as unalterable parts of the male psyche. Being a terrible and immature partner is CUTE and ENDEARING, see? Just ask Judd Apatow!
  2. Male privilege insulates young men and boys from being called on certain behaviors that are unhealthy and I would say unacceptable in interpersonal relationships. Because jackassery has been tacitly or overtly condoned by parents, teachers, previous partners, and probably mostly male peers, many men think that being a jerk is the appropriate masculine performance for heterosexual relationships. Heaven forbid you become "pussy-whipped" and learn empathy! But can I just point something out? Acting like an asshole doesn't make you more of a man, it makes you more of AN ASSHOLE.
  3. Perhaps most troubling, us ladies grow up if not exactly believing in these stereotypes in full, at least having been beaten over the head with them so often as to be complacent when they may be enacted in our real-life relationships. I put up with unacceptable treatment from male partners who were supposedly pro-feminist or at the very least "progressive" because I expected such behavior to a certain extent, and figured that at least they were liberal dudes who didn't REALLY hate women and I couldn't really do better anyway.
Do you see how these things are fucked up? Not only do we (the culture at large AKA advertising executives I HATE YOU ALL) stunt men emotionally and then encourage them to act out like whiny babies who are supposedly victimized and emasculated by the lady-run world that is tragically not just like an episode of Sports Center on loop, but we tell women that this is what men are "just like," that we should accept this, roll our eyes, and clean the toilet our own goddamn selves. NOBODY WINS IN A PATRIARCHY. Duh. And since changing the definitions of masculinit(ies) is a slow and difficult process, the least we could do is find a way to reach out to those young girls and women who are watching the Super Bowl (They exist! Shocking!) and teach them to critically read the media. Most importantly they need to know that they deserve better than what society wants to offer them in the form of romantic relationships. Because as man-hating as these commercials are, women are the ones who inevitably have to clean up the messes (emotional, household, etc.) caused by dudes who have soaked up the cultural stereotypes that allow them to be lazy and reckless because, hey, they can't help it. CARS PENIS STEREO HOT CHICKS FOOTBALL PORN ELECTRONIC GADGETRY BACON SEXBOTS EXPLOSIONS FAST CARS HAMBURGERS CONTROLLING WOMEN'S BODIES BEER CHIPS BEER CHIPS BEER CHIPS. *At 26, I still think of myself and most of my female friends as "girls" as opposed to "women" most of the time, but I would be pissed if someone who had power over me and/or I didn't like called me one. I think that's part of the reason I've latched onto "ladies"--it is kind of silly but still sounds more mature than "girls" without having to claim the full adulthood that "women" entails. I THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS, PEOPLE.


  1. Iiii really like this post.

  2. Only incredibly insecure men would behave in such a way.

    "Why do I have to clean up the sink". Because you made a fucking mess in the sink and the sink doesn't clean itself you overgrown child. How long did you live with your mother, and why did she let you behave that way? The world no longer bends to your selfish desires. You had thousand of years to make the world work for you, you can stop playing the victim now. It's extremely unattractive.

    Cleaning up the sink after you shave isn't the fault of a woman. Eating fruit isn't part of a lifestyle that's being forced upon you. It's just what you do if you want to be a good human.

    Don't want to be a good human? Fine, don't clean up after yourself, be a jerk, and eat chicken nuggets and tacos for breakfast, but don't complain when women are not interested in you. I'm sure your football buddies will still call on Sunday.

    You would think Heterosexuality was a trick that women forced on to men to make them eat fruit in the morning.

    What a bunch of dicks.

    (Nice blog post.)

    -I Like Your New Haircut