Guys, are your products too suitable for women? When you’re using a product, do you ever think to yourself, “if only this was just made for men like me!” Well then, you’re in luck, because advertisers and marketers sure seem to think you think that way! That’s why they’ve created product after product that’s “for men”, “just for men”, or maybe even “not for women”! Sure, you might feel that your gender-neutral, or even, god forbid, WOMEN’s product might be getting the job done as is, but you couldn’t be more wrong! You look ridiculous! The obvious choice is to switch to a product that’s made for people like you, guys, who are completely different than women in every imaginable way. That’s our target market – men who are proud of being men, and want to express their male identity via buying a product “for men”!
It’s not hard to see how commercials that could be described by the above premise can parrot existing ideologies we have about how each gender is supposed to act, and again reflects the logic of capital to maintain these standards – Whether or not you are aptly masculine can come down to the products that you use in the privacy of your own bathroom. From their essay “Advertising in the Age of Accelerated Meaning”, two of Robert Goldman & Stephen Papson’s main senses in which advertising fulfilled ideology were through discourses that reflected the logic of capital and that suppress inequalities, injustices, irrationalities, and contradictions. Though ads such as this ad for Dove Men + Care, the implication is made that men such as the one in the ad express their masculinity (or lack thereof) through the purchase of a certain kind of haircare product. If they have purchased the wrong one, they are not only subject to ridicule, but they feel compelled to render this immediately.
The trait that we see represented in this ad of long, beautiful hair comes to be associated with femininity. This is the clear definition of what masculinity is not. These ads have demonstrated care to ensure that the message of the product comes across via the representation of women. In Dove’s Men + Care Super Bowl commercial, the protagonist goes through his entire life, from birth to parenthood.
Throughout all of the tasks that he goes through to “become a man”, the protagonist must confront or befriend various people. Notably, women are almost invisible in this ad – except for the man’s presumed prom date and wife. They aren’t seen at the parties where the man is having a good time, not on the athletic field or in the gym where the man demonstrates his athletic ability. There are some extras that seem inactive, and they are certainly the minority. The archetype of the commercial tells us that becoming a man involves not only being heterosexual as well, given that “making your parents proud” is said in the same breath as “finding the right girl who’ll say I do.”
Michael A. Messner and Jeffrey Montez de Orca have critiqued representations of women in commercials intended for male audiences in a similar way in an essay entitled “The Male Consumer as Loser”. Women are mainly represented in commercials in two ways: bitches and hotties. “Bitches” represent the archetypical nagging wives or girlfriends, or perhaps even worse; feminists. The “hotties” are women who are objects of desire and do little more than play into the fantasies of the protagonists. Only the male “buddies” as well as the protagonists are able to enjoy the time spent drinking beers as equals, and all of these men are thought to view women in the same way. These representations have a clear message to the men watching them: there is no place in masculinity for men who embrace femininity. The ideal male in this target market then cannot be said to have been a gay man. Again, the ideological function of the ad has hidden the inequalities tacit in a heteronormative culture. No men in any of these ads are seen to be anything other than heterosexual – in fact, they are often seen lusting after women. In this commercial for “Just for Men”, the primary function of the product seems to be to make the user more appealing to women.
In “Selling Sexual Subjectives”, Katherine Sender declares “advertising has constantly reflected prevailing views of gender relations and heterosexual norms, both endorsing “proper” femininity and masculinity and yoking these to the heterosexual dyad.” (172) Common gender targeting in both men’s and women’s ad has thus ignored almost entirely the gay populations of each gender, though they make up roughly 1/10 of that population according to conventional wisdom. In the case of these male ads, we can learn that gay men would not only see them not represented, but see themselves almost as outcast because they won’t ogle at “hotties” or complain about “bitches” in the same way other men would.
My video that called attention to these videos would try and point out some of these disparities. Why are these men incapable of appealing to women without products such as Just for Men? Why are they so insecure about using products which don’t have a huge “for men” label on the front of them? Why is this definition of “men” so narrow that homosexual men cannot be included? These representations of men in unlikely situations can often be seen as ludicrous when analyzed enough, and I would hope to point out overall the absurdity of these situations.
These ads are worthy of analysis for a few simple reasons. They are particularly strong examples of ideological ads. Rarely are the messages in advertising as unavoidable as they are in these ads.. They’re present throughout ads for a variety of products, from soft drinks, to soap, magazines, and even occasionally nail polish. Almost anything that can be marketed to men can be marketed in this way – and often has. To be able to understand what messages these ads are promoting is important to understanding the ideological function of advertising, and the way it influences people.