Turn on the TV right now. Pick a channel, any channel. It will only take a few minutes to get to a commercial break. What you see might surprise you.
American society has been working to better the way women are treated. Campaigns for higher awareness for the income gap have been doing a very good job of trying to bring awareness to the issues of gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Feminism has taken to blogging and columning, with an almost constant critique and analysis of every possible situation, from media to politics.
|She's about to sell a cheeseburger, I promise.|
But now we’re watching TV, and the commercial break has just begun. Maybe you’ll see the newest Miller Lite ad. You know which one I’m talking about; the one where Miller Lite takes credit for inventing subliminal advertising, while flashing images naked women rolling around in hops. Not that one? Maybe you’ll see the Hardee’s commercial where a woman sitting on an airplane in a cleavage dominated dress asks the man sitting next to her if he wants to joining the Mile High club (who would guess that means a sandwich?)
These are just two of a long list of commercials that use sexuality to sell a product. We are seeing a lot of progress in what is being said by the American public. The problem is waiting for the shift in the way Americans think.
My favorite barometer for the way Americans think is in our consumer culture. Advertising agents, you see, don’t really care about racism or sexism. They don’t care about fairness or morals. They don’t care who has the power, really. All they care about is whether it will make people spend their money.
You see, American advertising will adopt feminism as soon as it becomes financially responsible to do so. They will chase the financial bottom line, and do what the market dictates is necessary to get people’s money. Right now, as much as we think we’re making good progress, we still allow products to use sexy women to sell products, because we continue to buy them.
Products that target men are continuing to use sexualized imagery to get their audience's attention, and they won’t stop until we stop giving them the attention.
Women can also be part of the problem. In fact, one of the best examples is Cosmopolitan Magazine. Have you ever read the cover of a Cosmo? Sex tips dominate, as well as ways to get attention through the use of sexuality and beauty products. Is that a problem? Maybe not. But it doesn’t match the language being shared by most of the feminist blogging community about looking for value in a woman’s identity beyond her physical attributes.
Here’s where it gets tricky. Cosmo also does a lot of empowering of women. Women can read Cosmo and feel better about themselves, feel like they’re not alone, and read about strong, confident women who are highly successful. That is incredibly important and positive. The scary part, though, is that it is foraging a deep relationship between sexuality and a woman’s identity. A strong woman must be sexy, must have good sex, must have a man who she knows how to please. Those are very dangerous things to be linking in the minds of women who are trying to come up with an understanding of their identity.
There is a constant struggle to find ways to make the world a better place for women. We know we’re not there yet, and that there is plenty of work left to do. We do, though, need to be far more conscious of what we do with our eyes and our money, because it can have a huge impact on how the cultural landscape shifts.
I hate when people blame the media for things. I think the public and the media feed one another. There is a balancing act. The media tells the public what to believe, while the public tells media producers, through their spending habits, what they want to see. We now have the chance to choose what we want the media to say, as long as we’re being thoughtful of what we’re being told to think.