Monday, June 27, 2005

What is a man? - World -

(Warning: Stream of consciousness post)

A.K.A. when sociology hits advertising.

One thing about advertising that I believe in is its utter honestly in the manner in which it attempts to seel us a particular product. It does not generally hesistate to use whatever appeals to us. In its own amoral manner, it truely is more a reflection of society than a shaper in its own right.

Hence if beer advertisments suddenly stop using images of sex in their advertising, it's a more ready answer to say that our attitutes towards drinking, beer drinking and the demographics of beer drinkers than to try to make claims that advertisers suddenly have a change of heart. What they have had a change of is more likely than not motivated by profits than puritanic/moral reason(ing).

As such, this article raises a very interesting junction for advertising agencies as they seek to appeal to (and failing which, might attempt to create) the definative version of what a man is. According to the article, "The Leo Burnett advertising agency, which created the iconic macho cowboy, said a new study it conducted found that half the men in most parts of the world don't know what is expected of them in society and three-quarters of them think images of men in advertising are out of touch with reality."

What is more interesting is the manner in which it claims that ads have created/appeal to two sterotypes of men the 'metrosexuals' and the 'retrosexuals'. As we all know, sterotypes are mostly crude generalisations but nevertheless exist simply because of the truth behind them as well as sheer societal need. Regardless of how progressive we think we are, we still sterotype people according to whatever constructs we choose to use. Race, religion, gender, profession (all those lawyer jokes come to mind), and even nationality. Furthermore, sterotypes need not necessarily be negative so one could conceivably choose to focus on the positive aspects on which societal construct we choose to put people in.

Anyway, back to the issue of the social construct we know as gender, what is meant by male and female is indeed breaking down. I think in a manner of speaking it has been worse for us males then it has for females. After all, when one talks of gender studies or the general intellectualising and intellectual thrust of what gender is, it has seemingly been the purview of the female and much more 'work' has been done on what it means to be female than what it means to be male. The 3 waves of Feminism (1st: Women as as good as men and deserve equal rights, 2nd: Women are different from men is certain areas, suffer discrimination as a result and ought to be protect e.g. maternality laws and anti-discrimination based on those laws, 3rd wave: Girl power - reclaiming sexuality and women as anything and everything they want to be) have given women the knowledge and capacity to be whatever they want to be with heavy intellectual support. So feminity is not exclusive from being a feminist.

But the difficulty for males is that there has been a noticable lack of intellectual thought and public persuasion with regards to them. Instead it seems that what males are is defined in opposition to or in defence to the feminist movements. As a result, it's becoming increasing difficult to say what being a male is. But unlike females, this nebulousness is not a matter of choice and thought but the sheer absence of them. So to put it very crudely as a thought experiment, you could legitimately have something called 'slut/bitch power' but not 'jerk power'.

So spare a thought for your poor advertisers today. They don't know how to advertise to us.



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