Challenge to Madison Avenue: Make Men Look SMART in Commercials
I don't own a television. It began as an experiment when I moved a year ago...but has evolved into a lifestyle. This does not mean I am unexposed to TV; weekly visits to my mom's house, coupled with a steady diet of MSNBC.com and my weekly viewing of Army Wives online, keep me plenty abreast of the boob-tube doings, so I never feel deprived. If anything, I'm realizing how relieved I am to be free of so much of the banality...not in the shape of programming, mind you, but rather, the advertising.
Dogsitting this weekend for a neighbor, I had the TV on for more than my usual 2-hour-per-week dose. What caught me completely off-guard — beyond the plethora of weight-loss, real-estate investing, and Olympic programming — was how each commercial break seemed to include at least one commercial with the premise of man-as-idiot. A "smart" dust-cloth, because surely a man couldn't do a good job on his own. Men who can't be trusted to feed their kids healthy foods when Mom's away. And, of course, the ubiquitous depiction of guys screwing up the laundry.
Here's what I don't get. Are these campaigns really working? Ad metrics are difficult to measure — it's not an exact science. We can never know for sure if the spike in widget sales came because of that commercial or because someone famous blogged about it. But they must be having some impact, if for no other reason than that they continue to proliferate.
Take a few comments found on the Web. Note that these were not written yesterday, or even last year. These comments go back to 2003 and '04:
Now, I don't agree entirely with the latter poster...in Home Improvement, Jill was portrayed as ridiculous, too...albeit, admittedly not quite as often as Tim was. But both of these guys (I assume they are guys) are correct. We keep on deriving our humor and ad revenue at the expense of portraying men as morons.
Posted by Hestia, Jun 2, 2003
There’s been a recent trend in TV ads that has me baffled. It was brought home to me most clearly on the beer commercials during the NHL playoffs. Young men are increasingly being portrayed as klutzy, moronic, sophomoric, and just plain stupid.
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June 28th, 2004, 06:17
I dunno if you've seen commercials lately (within the last 20 years) but there is a continuing trend of us men being treated like idiots all the time. Ever seen a computer commercial that says "ooh so easy even daaaaaaad can use it". Oh, you mean the guy that bought you the computer? That dad? The dad is the one always using the inferior product or always messing up.
Enter SUPERWOMAN. She's modern, she can think for herself, and she's still not making as much as those with the cursed fifth limb.
In soap operas, it's always the guy cheating on the girl and breaking her heart. And if it's the girl cheating on the guy- it's the guy's fault for not being a good husband.
When women can't get aroused, it's her man's fault. But when we can't get aroused-her man has to go to the doctor.
The prime example was that show Home Improvement with Tim Allen and his Nazi wife, Patricia Richardson. In every episode, Tim always wronged Jill and was forced to apologize again and again - that show was so popular cuz it always showed the MAN crawling on his belly for forgiveness from the all wise woman.
It doesn't take Scooby Doo to solve this mystery - if women were portrayed as men were, hell would be raised by feminists and more.
I suppose I've up-leveled the quality of my friends and business associates in recent years, so I don't very often receive those "men are so stupid" e-mails anymore. When I they do come, however, I do as I've always done and delete them. I'm not a prude here. If there's an equal opportunity joke that puts the onus for relationship troubles equally on both genders — and it's funny — chances are, I'll share it. But I have no desire to promote and further this ugly, untrue depiction of men that has somehow received a cultural stamp of approval from us.
Here's the thing. Women, far and away, still earn less money for equal work than men do. A woman is raped somewhere in America approximately every two minutes. As many as 22 percent of the 1.35 million homeless women in our country cite domestic violence as the reason they became homeless. There are lots and lots of ways women still suffer at the hands of men. However, none of that is ever going to change if we — those of us blessed not to fall into any of the three above-mentioned categories — continue to bash men, promote the lie that they are incompetent, and find funny such portrayals by the advertisers who attempt to attract us to purchase their wares or services.
According to the most recent statistics, women make more than 80 percent of purchasing decisions in America, and influence as many as 94 percent of them. Ladies, our dollars equal our votes. Let's start standing up to Madison Avenue and demanding that they portray our men accurately. Yes, there are men out there who couldn't use a dust cloth properly if the directions were spelled out in BIG BLOCK LETTERS. But I have to believe these are the exceptions, and not the rule. Because, really, what does it say about us — about our judgment as women — if we raise, date, and marry those buffoons in all those ads?