Target Market: ‘Undesirable’ Women’s Products

There are tons of advertisements that are targeted towards women with desirable products.  However, there are also those advertisements targeted towards women making rather unpleasant and inconvenient objects or tasks look glamorous and desirable.  They have underlying meanings that only women understand.  In contrast, advertisements targeted towards men display products in just the way they are supposed to function; there are no subtle messages.  The ads are usually in a sports background, have women in the background or are set in beautiful scenery.  I will be critiquing the way advertisers attempt to glorify unpleasant products targeted towards women, which in turn enhances society’s vision of femininity, and how advertisers try to equalize the ‘fun’ in men’s products and women’s products when they are, functionally, very different.  With that said, gender roles are not as clear cut in society anymore with the advancement of feminism, so even in their ‘leisurely lifestyle,’ men don’t have a lot of power besides consuming the product.

The main ideology presented in these ads is society’s binary gender ideologies, but the ads also refute this ideology with rising feminism.  They do, however, disguise and suppress inequalities and contradictions in women’s worlds, and promote a normative vision of our world.  The Playtex and Venus ads each glorify its product, and the experience, in a way that’s desirable for a woman to purchase but disguise what the function of the product really is for those who don’t have the pleasure of experiencing it for themselves.  Each commercial is playful, uses bright colors, shows very happy women, and makes the experience appear to be great, when all women know they do not look that way while on their periods or while shaving for that matter.  These commercials reflect variations of the male gaze and depict society’s view of femininity.

Robert Goldman, Deborah Heath and Sharon Smith’s article, “Commodity Feminism” explains how through proper consumer choices a woman can achieve confidence, independence and success.  This is advertisers’ attempt at providing a non-contradictory unification of feminism and femininity.  There is a gender ideology of how women should appear on a daily basis despite their true feelings because this is the way they are “supposed” to appear: joyful, feminine and smiling.  However a common advertising strategy is validating an image of the “new woman” who is independent, confident and equal to men.  Advertising presents an unbalanced communication between women’s actual struggles and contradictions in everyday life, and their lives represented in the mass media.  The Tampax Christina Caradona advertisement connects the value and meaning of women’s emancipation to cooperate products.  Caradona, a fashion blogger, is the speaker in the ad and says how she is not going to let her period get in the way of what she wants to wear; she is going to wear whatever she wants.  By purchasing these Tampax tampons, any woman can wear what they want without letting this “woman issue” stand in the way.  The ad translates women’s discourse back to the women themselves as spectators.  This ad reflects women’s emancipation and independence because they are going to do whatever they want with all the confidence that they are making the right decision – there is nothing and nobody stopping them.  The Gilette Venus commercial redefines feminism through commodities by interpreting everyday relations women encounter into something they can use.  The women in this commercial are referred to as “goddesses” and anyone can be a goddess with smooth and silky skin when using the Venus razor.  All women deserve to feel like goddesses, so why wouldn’t you buy this product?  This also empowers women by showing consumers how they can make themselves feel and look great by using this product for a mundane task.  The power is in their hands to feel wonderful.  It is turning “feminist social goals into individual lifestyle.”  While these ads do empower women and bring out the confidence and independence feminism encourages, the products being advertised are nowhere near as desirable as they appear on the screen.  Advertisers try to make an unpleasant experience into a pleasant one through the depiction of their brand.

Sarah Banet Weiser and Charlotte Lapsansky explain in their article, “RED is the New Black” how the brand matters more than the product because the producers are selling an experience more than a thing.  Both these commercials sell the experience of using the product rather than the razor itself or the tampon itself.  They create the essence of a pleasant experience with their products in a rather unpleasant situation.  Ironically, only the woman viewers (the target market) understand what this unpleasant experience truly entails.  While these advertisements market women necessities in an attractive light, advertisements targeted towards men are usually simply for the pleasure, and function just how they are displayed in the commercial.  In the Corona Extra commercial, “Shoes,” the ad insinuates how no vacation is complete without an ice-cold beer, so the men can kick off their shoes and relax with a beer on the beach.  There is nothing more to this advertisement than the leisure it eludes and the fun of drinking a beer with the guys for the simple pleasure and enjoyment.  The producers are not giving men a hidden message behind what it really means to drink a beer, as producers for tampon and razor commercials do for women.  Men don’t need to go through the difficult things that women do, but if they did they definitely would not appear as they do in those commercials.

As Michael Messner and Jeffrey Montez de Oca discuss in their article, “The Male Consumer as Loser,” beer alcohol ads construct a desirable lifestyle” in relation to contemporary social conditions. The commercial aims to construct a young male consumer characterized by personal and emotional freedom who can get the lifestyle he wants with this product.  These ads make it appear that men’s work worlds are non-existent and are simply about leisure as a lifestyle rather than drinking as leisure as a reward for hard work.  Of course there are women in bathing suits, or ‘hotties,’ featured as a part of the ad because attractive women are supposedly prizes for proper consumption choices.  Messner and Montez de Oca define the white male “loser” as one who hangs out with his buddies, is always ready to engage with sexy fantasy women but also holds committed relationships with real women, and is ironic about his loser status. Women do the hard work and can still appear glamorous.

I would create a video in which the women’s ads are presented against similar ads targeted towards men and showing how the men’s products are simply for entertainment and a good appearance, and nothing more.  Women’s products, on the other hand, present a view of a product that appears much more celebrated than it truly is.  However, within these undesirable experiences there is a sense of women empowerment and the producers capitalize on commodity feminism to detract from the unpleasant experience and create an appealing product.  My video would include bringing unpleasant women’s objects in a male-targeted advertisement.  For example placing a condom or deodorant ad in this beach ad along with the beer, which is sure to push away the hotties, create humiliation for the losers, and encourage the men to revolt against the bitches.  Advertising for the condoms or deodorant on a beach, in a bar or in a stadium will drop the men’s confidence and make their lifestyle seem less desirable and leisurely as most men-targeted commercials seem.  It would also show how men could never endure the hardships women have to while still looking good.

The purpose of these critiques is to re-emphasize the gender ideologies in advertisements and prove that we supposedly live in a patriarchal society shedding the ‘feminine’ light on all women in all situations.  Despite what the product is or what its function is, the producers depict the experience as fun, beautiful, colorful and enjoyable.  While women have to experience many things that men do not such as periods, child birth, emotional hormones, always trying to look ‘beautiful,’ advertisements still portray women prevailing.  Men, on the other hand, see the advertisements just at the surface level as they see the ads targeted at them.  Ads targeted at men are no more and no less than what they appear on the screen; leisurely, fun, friends, beautiful women and exciting settings.  There are no subtle messages left underneath the brand manager’s message.  This shows the rising feminism in advertising today because there is more to women’s daily lives than what it appears, but there is no more to men’s daily lives.

-Alexis

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