Advertisement Perpetrates Inequality

Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Have you seen the Farmer's Insurance commercial where the employees are dressed up like Avenger characters? Watch it here.

Because of my PhD experience this year, I think a little differently about some aspects of our culture. I notice forms of behavior and oppressive media messages that may be subtle or overt but messages none the less.

One of those messages that I would argue need to be changed has to do with Patriarchy and  gender inequality. What is Patriarchy? A modern day definition (mine) would be: when men, in general, are more powerful in a society or culture, in more positions of authority and have more influence on a society than women. Practices of Patriarchy have to do with behavior or organizations that prohibit women from being as important or as powerful as men in a culture or society.

Here's how the Farmer's Insurance commercial goes:

Women and male employees are dressed up as Avenger characters (the movie is coming out soon). Their boss (white male) is standing in front of them giving them orders. One employee (minority ethnic male) shoots a dart gun at a target to show his skills. He misses. The boss shakes his head, takes the gun, fires without looking at the target and hits the bullseye. Everyone is impressed. An employee (white female) says in awe, "How did you do that...?" The boss walks to her, puts one finger to her lips and says "SHHHHH" to stop her from talking.

I'm sure the creators of the ad didn't mean to present cookie-cutter, cliche gender and race inequality messages but what does the commercial reflect?

Females should be silenced.
Females are not as important as males.
The minority male is inept.
The white male is in power because all others are incompetent.

My soap box is cracking so I won't stand on it much longer - however, I brought this up in a non-threatening way to a male friend. His response? "Uh. Oh. Don't be a man-hater." Honestly, that response was frustrating. I wanted to discuss the message in an abstract way but felt that my observation was "dismissed" immediately.

One way perhaps to react to ideas about inequality would be acceptance of the possibility that males and females are not on an even playing field. This at least would allow the mind to be open to observations in culture and society of messages and behavior that frame women as less important (not as smart, weaker) compared to men. Awareness helps.

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