Monday, September 6, 2010

You're kidding me.

I happen to have a copy of US Weekly in my dresser this weekend -- but it isn't for the reasons that you might think! To make a long story short, a girlfriend of mine thought I might be interested in blogging about an advertisement she stumbled upon. It was definitely enough to jolt me out of my blogging hiatus, and bring me back to reality.

"When you remove the outer wrapper..."

"...there's something surprising underneath."

Crazy concept, I know, but I thought that the point of an advertisement was to get you to buy the product. Having seen a flight attendant in lingerie, I'm not sure that I'm convinced that Orbit Gum is tasty. In fact, all I know about it is that the wrapper is pretty when you take it out of the box. Oh, and that Wrigley is a pretty perverted company.

Where do we even begin? Here are a few things I observed, although there's much more to be said. It includes faults within the article, as well as what this ad presents to its reader, even unconsciously.

1. The Biggie: Objectification
This very blatantly depicts this woman as an object rather than a person. There is no importance placed on her aspirations or thoughts -- this is all about stripping her down and getting to the most important feature... her body. All the while, she's smiling. Women, after all, want to be taken advantage of. And if you use Orbit Gum, your breath will be minty fresh while you do it!

2. Do What You're Told: Occupational Norms
She is a flight attendant, conforming to expectations regarding women and their career choices. This feeds into the notion that women are caregivers, intended for service. Rather than being successful leaders in any field that they should choose, they are to mindlessly follow orders. What is she, a robot? Can I get you a drink, sir? Here, try this gum, because I'm wearing my pretty undergarments.

3. Smile and Look Pretty: Reinforcement of Body Ideals
Ms. Flight Attendant has a body that is revered by the patriarchy, with a thin but curvy frame. Not only is emphasis placed on this body, but it is an unrealistic depiction. We all know that you would never see a real American woman in an advertisement like these, due to our infamous fatphobia. Let's see women of all shapes and size, chomping on some minty gum and enjoying it. Let's ditch the Barbie dolls already.

Irrelevant note: who in the hell STANDS like that? I don't know about you, but I'm a sloucher.

4. The Culmination: "Generic" Woman
No surprise: this woman is white, blonde, youthful, abled, thin, and beautiful. We can also presume that she is well-off, given her clothing, perfect teeth and occupation. This really ties in a lot of the faults previously mentioned. We hardly think twice about her race, her age, her abled status, or presumed socio-economic standing. The fact that many of us really do not see anything strange about her appearance, apart from her undergarments, just furthers this idea that the "generic woman" must fit into this rigid category.

5. The Cop-out: It's Just a Joke
I think the ad is attempting to be funny. I don't know why else it would be used. After all, the flight attendant does not come with the gum (I think?). This tactic is used all the time when it comes to sexism: everything from Facebook groups to superbowl ads try to pass things off as humor, as though feminists are taking things too seriously. Cowardice is not an admirable trait, and that's all it is -- hiding behind the veil of "just kidding" is not acceptable and is a weak move. There is nothing humorous about objectifying women, as well as reinforcing detrimental stereotypes and ideals.

Advertisements, if they really did what they were supposed to do, would reach out to all persons to reach as broad an audience as possible. An advertisement like this is not only completely missing that mark by using something so irrelevant to the product, but it is repulsive in its blatant stereotyping and, especially, its use of sexism as a tool of advertising -- in other words, it reaches out to a small if not nonexistent group of persons.

Wrigley, if you had half a brain, you would realize not only how offensive your advertisement is, but how stupid you have to be to use it.

Take Action: Email Public Relations at PR@wrigley.com!

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