Yes, In Fact, Your Ridiculously Sexist Ad Means You’re Sexist
For a long time I drove by a billboard of this advertisement everyday on my way to work. It seems to me to embody so much of what is wrong with advertisement and its relation to the distribution and reinforcement of social prejudice. If you don’t get how offensive this advertisement is, let me break it down somewhat for you: You are necessarily a male. All men necessarily like women. You also probably like to stare at women (just like you’re staring at the woman on this sign!). Our beer is just like the beautiful women you stare at—sexy, thin, able, white, heterosexual—the perfect object(-to-be-consumed). I personally feel no shame in holding the advertisers fully responsible for promoting these detrimental ideologies (sexism, homophobia, ablism, et al).
People often excuse such things given that it’s an advertisement merely ‘presenting’ a ‘situation’. This ad in particular further defers its prejudice by couching the advertisement in a faux-50s era nostalgia. This is the intentional shock of shows like Mad Men—by presenting sexism as blatantly as possible in the context of the ‘innocent’ 50s, it upsets a lot of the preconceptions we have of the 50s, nostalgia, and representation. But, unlike hopefully Mad Men (although things like this make me doubt), advertisements such as these are meant to simulate, create really, some lifestyle or situation for you as a viewer via a product.
Advertisements like these function as an extension of the Western gaze—film, TV, billboard, etc. all present some visual content in which the viewer is intended to penetrate, visually ‘enter’ (TV ads or whatehaveyou that feature a blank screen and just audio typically are there to entice the gaze all the more). The advertisement is created as a simulation with no original, the simulation itself is genetic. This man and this woman never had the hypothetical date that is implied. The extension of your gaze into the situation as a simulation of a hypothetical-date is itself the advertisement. It’s not copying anything. Not representing some genesis. The simulation is the thing.
Given that the advertisement is this simulation, it is responsible for its simulating. I know that sounds silly and redundant. My point is this—this ad is responsible for the heterosexism it’s simulating. Yes. I get we live in a heteronormative culture. I get that we live in a culture that has an ablist history of preferring sight to the other senses as both more objective and more sensual (Western conceptions of beauty and sexuality are frequently equitable to voyeurism—we Westerners are obsessed with the sense which distances us from our desires). I get that we live in a culture that thinks of the gaze itself as ‘male’ and the object of desire as ‘female.’ But given there is no ‘bottom’ phenomenon, no genesis, no origin(-al) the advertisement is ‘presenting,’ given that its presentation itself is the phenomenon, it is fully responsible for these sorts of ideologies it ‘represents.’ Because it isn’t ‘representing’ them—it is them.