In the media today there seems to be a discrepancy on how commercials portray women. We know that commercials are trying to get people to buy a certain product, but are commercials using women just to get people to buy a product by how they portray them, or are some companies trying to put out a more dignified portrayal of women?
There are several commercials that came out this year that portray women in a way that makes people want to buy a product. In one T-Mobile commercial Kim Kardashian appears and shares a heart felt monologue for the loss of people’s phone data. The commercial catches peoples’ attention because of Kim Kardashian’s fame and heartfelt statement, but she is nonetheless being used to get people’s attention. Her reasons for her sorrow are for the loss of trivial things like pictures of her makeup, tennis playing, vacation photos, and especially her outfits. This does not put Kim Kardashian in a positive light. It portrays her as being unintelligent and as having values that are fleeting.
A commercial that seems to give a wrong impression of the actual company is Weight Watchers. I have participated in the Weight Watchers program before and their meetings have been very encouraging, realistic, and down to earth. The commercial however, seemed to be trying to scare its viewers with images of overindulgence and fast food production, while showing images of sexy, scantily clad women seeming to say “This is what you could look like,” or “This is the kind of woman you could attract.” From what I know from doing Weight Watchers is that their main goal is for you to be and eat healthy and feel good in your body at a healthy weight, not necessarily look attractive and sexy. The women in this commercial however are portrayed as prizes to be won and not as human beings.
An impractical representation of reality is displayed in the commercial for the game app Game of War. The lead actress, who appears in every commercial that I have seen for this app, wears impractical armor with a lot of cleavage showing, her hair is down and styled with no helmet. Now if I were going into battle this is certainly not how I would dress for practicality’s sake. Although there are many more strong, able-bodied, female heroines in media than there used to be, none of the ones that are worth admiring dress like this when going into a battle. The commercial portrays her as a visual heroine and not necessarily one who can actually fight. She is portrayed as an incentive for getting men to play the game, and an object of fantasy for women to be like.
The most offensive commercial of the 2015 Super Bowl was one for Carl’s Jr. It follows a woman down a street in town as she shares how she likes to go “all natural.” The issue is that she is wearing no clothes. Her genitalia is covered in every shot, but enough of her body is showing that it alludes to her nakedness. The men gawking at her body as she walks by only makes it worse. In the last shot of the commercial you find out that she is wearing a bikini and talking about a burger. Clearly this commercial uses the female body to catch it viewers. The woman is not portrayed as having any other characteristics besides her body. The commercial does not acknowledge her as having a brain, emotions, or a soul. She is just a visual object and not valued as a human being with morals, decency, or respect.
Thankfully there were also some commercials that are very uplifting to women and the human race, as well as moving and encouraging. The Always brand presents a commercial where they ask participants to demonstrate what it means to run “like a girl,” throw “like a girl,” and fight “like a girl.” They first interview boys, young men, and young women. They all present a stereotypical response of what the connotations imply: pathetic, wimpy, and weak. Next they ask young girls to demonstrate what it means to run “like a girl,” throw “like a girl,” and fight “like a girl.” The girls put their all into it! They run with speed, throw with strength, and fight with power. The simple reason for this, they said, is that girls loose confidence during puberty. This commercial, though, is trying to redeem what it means to run, throw, and fight “like a girl.” Girls are not pathetic, wimpy, and weak, they are strong, powerful, and courageous! Girls do things “like a girl” because they are girls and that is not a negative thing. This uplifts women to the same value and capability of men and shows that being “like a girl” is just as important as being “like a boy.”
The other commercial that was encouraging was for Reebok. The commercial showed clips of men and women working out, running, climbing, and doing training that was physically demanding. They showed men and women equally in the commercial, doing equally hard things. The point of the commercial was to declare why people work out, push themselves, and strengthen their bodies: to be better at their jobs, daily life, in their family, and whatever they do. The final statement was, “Be more human.” This statement not only equalizes the playing field between the genders, it eliminates women’s bodies being used to sell a product, it elevates the view of human body and the amazing things it is capable of, and it sets priorities straight focusing on humanity and not a product. It shows that the reason we should by a product is to make ourselves better, not make our lives easier, but to make ourselves better people at our lives.
Why is it that commercials use these different tactics in their commercials? Obviously underneath every commercial is an attempt to sell something. In some, women are undervalued as human beings and don’t appear as capable as men. They also demonstrate that people and especially men need a women and her body as an incentive to buy something. Women are used as products and for their bodies all around the world and it is a devaluation of not just women, but humanity. But some commercials also try to make a difference, make people think, and encourage humanity. They teach people to be better people and show women as being equal with men. There’s no shame in appreciating or enjoying commercials like these.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Orange County, USA