23 flavors of sexism

Writing about bullshit sexist advertising on a feminist blog can be tricky.

On the one hand, bullshit sexism makes me mad. So I want to condemn it,  shame it, and deconstruct it to take away whatever power it might have developed in the course of its million-dollar-ad-campaign life.

On the other hand, we’ve all heard the saying “Any publicity is good publicity.” How can you call out a bullshit advertisement for its negative qualities without inadvertently contributing to the product’s visibility, and thus the success of the ad campaign?

I think I have come up with the perfect solution to this heretofore unsolvable feminist blogger’s quandary.

Let’s just say there’s a soft drink out there. Not naming names, but it kinda sounds like Schmoctor Schmepper. Call it Sr. Schmepper for short. So Sr. Schmepper is rolling out a new low-calorie drink, and they’ve decided that the best way to peddle their bubbly sugar water is with an ad campaign that proclaims “It’s not for women” and “No girls allowed”.

Hmm. Why would Dr…errr I mean Sr. Schmepper want to alienate half of their potential consumers right off the bat?

Well it seems they did some research and found that men won’t drink something that is perceived as lacking in the “manly” department, so they went out of their way “to eschew women” in their ad campaign, as the AP puts it.

You might wonder what that looks like. I’ve gathered together a few of the more egregious instances of sexism in the company’s campaign:

  • Bullets on the packaging (because nothing says “manly” like gratuitous and pointless violence amiright?)
  • A “men’s only” Facebook page, fully equipped with an application that allows it to exclude women from viewing content (didn’t know there was an app for that).
  • Facebook games and videos aimed at being “manly” including a shooting gallery (for targeting high heels and lipstick of course) and a “man quiz” with questions on activities like fishing and hunting.
  • TV commercials featuring “manly” activities like snake battling and laser shooting, and this gem of a voiceover: “Hey ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not. Because this is our movie and this is our soda…You can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We’re good.” The ads will air on all major networks, FX and ESPN during college football games, of course.

These tactics seem so aggressively sexist and obnoxious that I can’t help but suspect they were designed to go viral for their controversial tactics. The drink already has an AP article written about it, after all. Here’s hoping that Schmoctor Schmepper’s plan backfires drastically, and their sexist prodding results in more discussion of sexism in the media than it does their actual drink. In the meantime, the product that could quite possibly take the cake for most sexist advertising campaign of 2011 is not getting the SEO boost off my back.

Brooklyn, NY

Lori Adelman is a writer and advocate focusing on race, gender, and sexual and reproductive rights. In addition to her work at Feministing, Lori is an Associate Director at Planned Parenthood Global. Lori has previously worked at the United Nations Foundation, the International Women’s Health Coalition, and Human Rights Watch, and has written for a host of print and digital properties including Rookie Magazine, The Grio, and the New York Times Magazine. She regularly appears on radio and television, and has spoken at college campuses across the U.S. about topics like the politics of black hair, transnational movement building, and the undercover feminism of Nicki Minaj. In 2014, she was named to The Root 100 list of the nation's most influential African Americans, and to the Forbes Magazine list of the "30 Under 30" successful people in media.

Lori Adelman is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Partnerships.

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