The mall is crazy at this time of year. Luckily, I had a pretty quick in-out mall run. Walking through Macy’s, I walked by this odd display advertising Bone China, stopped, backed up, and took a picture of it because it struck me as interesting. It’s not horrifying like some advertising, though it is subtly creepy or at least curious and it got me thinking about women and advertising. It also prompted me to come up with the last blog post of the Grrl Gift Guide.
What happens with advertising’s use of women? That question is referring to: what always happens, but definitely, what happens at holiday time? As women, we are used to sell things to both men and women. We have the next-to-naked sexy look that sells everything from lingerie to hamburgers. We have the homemaker mother look that sells us food, vacuum cleaners, and air fresheners. Then of course there’s the magazine ads where they try to portray us as corpses or about-to-be corpses to sell clothing or cologne.
I took the above photo of “Bone China” because it looks like someone tried to get artistic or clever or I’m not sure what, in order to sell the china. They hung dishes on a partial female mannequin. They also hung a piece of driftwood, which I’m still trying to analyze, but anyway. I get that it’s “Bone” china, but why didn’t they hang it on a partial male mannequin body?
It’s like the compartmentalizing of the female body, which is so often done, but on a mannequin. You know what I mean- compartmentalizing- first of all that they even have only the torsos of mannequins is an example, but not just speaking of mannequins, there are other examples: in the magazine picture they cut off her head and you can only see the body or we see only body parts. Even how we talk about women and about ourselvses: she has a nice butt or breasts or I hate my thighs. It’s that taking us apart thing and not letting us be whole people with real bodies. I know I’m reading into the Bone China display, but I can’t help it.
And then dishes, hanging on the female mannequin. It just makes me want to be domestic. I mean, I wish someone would buy me those Bone China dishes because I saw them on a figure shaped like my torso and it really inspired me to cook, serve, and clean. I wish I could cook something and serve my meal on them and then wash them afterwards. Hell, if someone gets me those dishes, I’ll be so happy, I’ll wear them like clothes. What? Hopefully the sarcasm is understood.
How does what is advertised to us shape our understanding of how the world is? So we say, this weird Bone China display is no big deal, but it re-inforces the gender stereotypes we already have in our heads about what is for women and what is for men. And it re-inforces them to all of us, men and women- and of course, to children. What sells?
How does advertising influence what we like? If I see Victoria’s Secret models in lacy lingerie and I already have the idea in my mind that these women are the definition of beauty, the advertisement re-inforces this and two things happen. One: I want to be that. I want to have that beauty they have, so I shop at Victoria’s Secret and buy their lingerie. Two: Straight men’s sexual desires are peaked while watching women being objectified and they want the women they are with to look like the models, so they go buy her the lingerie or get her a gift card. Win, win for Victoria’s Secret, which, according to Wikipedia, was started by a man, Roy Raymond, who felt embarrassed trying to purchase lingerie for his wife. “The stores were meant to create a comfortable environment for men.” (Wikipedia). Gross- this is a whole other blog entry- so, back to:
advertising, which in this ad-happy season of giving can make you either want to buy everything or nothing at all. Either way, we should ask ourselves: How is gender used to sell? And do I really want this or do I just think I do because some ad or some image suggests that I do?
You don’t have to buy into the idea that women want the gifts that are advertised for us. Or that men want the gifts advertised for them.
Just some thoughts to stir up your analytical and political mind for the holiday season. And you can still go back to the last post and check out the Grrl Guide for ideas as well, though Etsy is also not immune to using women to sell to women and using gender specific gifts, but at least it’s not a blender being pushed on you.