Sexism in Advertising

Nothing new, right? American ads for household products usually target women as well – but they usually leave out the “man in charge” bit and generally those women look like all they want in life is to have the cleanest dishes ever/they are on drugs.

I don’t watch tv (on the television that is, I watch my favourite shows via laptop) so I’m not up to speed on the local ads and whatnot but stumbled across this awesome letter to to editor in Stabroek News criticising the ad of a rice company. So, I checked it out.

Pretty lame:

Man doesn’t lift a finger while the wife and kids and sister-in-law run around getting the home ready for a special visitor. Oh, and fat shaming thrown in for good measure.

Sadly, this is not a far cry from reality.

It’s not surprising to me to find such an ad on tv. Sexism is pervasive in Guyanese society, 24/7. What boggles my mind are the, I assume, adult men (and women) who say inane things like “It’s not sexism – it’s the way things are!” and “It’s not sexist – it’s funny!” and let’s not forget “It’s not sexism – it’s just an ad”. As if the status quo, humour or making money excuse disabling stereotypes. And to be sure, excuses are what are being made for none of the above explain away the sexism charge. It’s about as informative as “It’s not classicism – it’s the way things are!” or “It’s not racist – it’s funny!” or “It’s not anti-Christian – it’s just an ad!” See? Explains nothing.

“Domestic violence is oppression fostered and condoned in our culture through myth and media, by neglect from groups that could help and from the results of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism.”

People who think that our social environment has no effect on us need to wake up. There’s a high incidence of violence against women in this country not because some men are just evil but because “good” men who don’t beat their wives or girlfriends let sexism slide.

For shame on irresponsible media and the people who read this letter, watch tv passively and can only come up with there being “nothing sexist” about either the ad or the social reality because the ‘hard working man’ is finally getting to rest on Sunday. For shame on anyone who accepts without question ‘the way things are’.

Much needed sexism check by Sherlina Nageer:

“I realize that cooking and cleaning have traditionally been women’s tasks, and that many women take pride in their ability to do these things well. In a more equitable world however, more men would also cook, wash, and clean, and such tasks would be recognized as ‘real work’, with proper wages, since many women spend a great deal of ‘real’ time doing such work daily.  Some may think that this is a trivial point, but I would argue that it is vitally important because these tasks take up time that women cannot then use to do paid work. Also, the gender stereotypes perpetuated in this ad still play a huge role in oppressing Guyanese women today. Too many of our girl children still believe that the most important thing in life is for them to be good housewives, and too many wives are beaten by their husbands for ‘failing’ in these areas.

It is crucial to Guyana’s development, I believe, for our girl children to be exposed to a variety of visions of female success, as well as encouraged to seek fulfillment in any avenue that interests them, not just the usual, socially sanctioned ones.  Also essential, in my opinion, is for Guyanese- men especially- to embrace a more holistic understanding of gender, like Mr. Ghansham has done, where one’s success is not limited to narrow definitions and spaces. Men with this holistic understanding would partake in housework and caring activities voluntarily and without shame, would support their sisters, daughters, wives, female friends and colleagues in non-traditional roles, and would raise their boy children to do the same. Maybe then, we will see a lessening in the scourge of gender-based violence that has poisoned our society.”

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2 thoughts on “Sexism in Advertising

  1. Girl I was going to link this letter by Nageer on my page yday. Totally agree. I think the ad was trying to simulate a typical Indo-Guyanese countryside Sunday afternoon scene, but the sexism is onerous, threading its way through the entire ad. I raised an eyebrow when he ordered everyone around him to go prepare food… while he remained in the hammock. Indeed it is disappointing.

    1. Ahhh a friend posted the letter on her page and you wouldn’t have liked to see some of the comments (from men) that it got. One guy say that “coolie women like to be subservient to men”. No joke.

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