Thursday, April 4, 2013

60: politics in advertising

My poor neglected blog. You deserve an overhaul.

In the past few years, my perspective on design, marketing, politics – and life, in general – have changed dramatically. Experience does that to you. Instead of evaluating programs and campaigns from a psychological perspective or a “digital” perspective (whatever that really means), I've been appraising them from more of a sociological standpoint.

In other words, I’ve been thinking about how they interact with Western values, traditional gender roles, inclusiveness, racism… It’s hard not to acknowledge these things, given the recent rise of more female-oriented media:
  1. Beyonce’s performance at the Super Bowl, which – despite the unfounded complaints of her naysayers – was perfect for so many reasons and which I should recap at some point, even though it’s already been a few months… but here’s an overview: empowerment, strength, and not a single man on stage
  2. That one guy (I can’t remember his name… Sam? Seth? Something – oh well, it’s not important) who gave an incredibly sexist spiel at the Oscars and rationalized it essentially by saying, “It’s just a joke”
  3. Lena Dunham’s Girls – critics have been hailing it as ground-breaking feminist work (I disagree; feminism means equality for all women and not just girls who are white)
  4. The Steubenville rape case and how every single mainstream media source framed as, “Oh, those poor boys/rapists… such a bright future ahead of them…”
I’m rambling, I know. And that’s really only the tip of the iceberg!

My point is that “political” issues have a heavy influence on the way people perceive advertising and media in general. Something that seems okay in theory may turn out to be totally freaking taboo in execution. I’m thinking specifically of JWT India and their disgusting Ford Figo ad, which was entered as a fake ad into India’s top awards show.

Clearly, a bunch of dudes in upper management had no issue with this blatantly misogynistic ad. Sure, it was meant to be a gag, but that’s the thing, isn’t it? We look at these voluptuous women who are bound and gagged and wearing bikinis, and we’re meant to laugh it off. And that’s just so wrong on so many accounts. For one thing, it’s not funny, period. We should never take that kind of thing as a joke, especially since it happens all the time. That’s not something you make light of – it’s a spit in the face.

Fortunately, we are at a point in time (at least, I think we are) where feminist discourse is a prevalent and ongoing part of our culture – where violence towards women is not tolerated (not as much, at least) and where men as an institution* are put in their place.

*I know there will always be men crying “MISANDRY!!! MAN-HATER!!! REVERSE SEXISM!!!” so here’s my unnecessary disclaimer and a quick and dirty lesson: Reverse sexism, by definition, does not exist. Obviously, not all men are eeeeviiiil. But men as an institution (“the patriarchy”) are oppressive and threatening, particularly to women and people of color. Recognize your privilege and instead of complaining to women about it, start changing the male-dominated culture.