This is a guest post by Noorulann Shahid, who currently studies economics at university. She is the politics editor of Manchester Metropolitan University’s student newspaper Pulp, and would best describe herself as an “accidental feminist”, as she discovered feminism through a Beyoncé music video. She believes that Islam and feminism are compatible. She tweets @hijabihippie.
The other day, I was flicking in between TV channels. I was watching something, sorry to be so imprecise, but I can’t remember what, and something caught my eye. It was an advertisement. I generally loathe adverts. As a feminist, I am aware that advertising uses the gender stereotypes that exist and sell them back to us. Women are more commonly used to advertise cleaning, household, or food products, whilst men can be used to advertise other products.
Now, in this advert, a scene unfolded in which international acclaimed tennis player Roger Federer was going through security checks at an airport, and two attractive, young female airport security staff watched his bag as it went through the scanner. They don’t recognise who he is, but recognise he is a tennis player as his bag goes through the scanner and its contents are seen. They think the bag is full of tennis balls, but they open it to discover it’s actually full of Lindt chocolate truffles. Federer corrects them by adding “Swiss tennis player”.
Both of the women then begin eating his chocolate, and declare they’ll have to confiscate his chocolate as it is a “new policy”. One of them jokes, “I think we should do a strip search too”. In the extended version of this advert – the shorter version is the only one I’ve seen advertised – they then ask him to take off his pants and turn around. He turns around, and they both comment on his physique and say “you must work out a LOT.” When the checks are finished, she still won’t give him the chocolate back, to which he comments, “You ladies are crazy”.
At first I was surprised to see a man used to advertise chocolate. Pretty much all the adverts I’ve seen for chocolate, including the Galaxy one, use women. The previous “do you dream in chocolate?” (No, I do not!!) adverts show a male chocolatier making the chocolate, but a woman consuming it. This advert shows a male buying the chocolate, but the female airport staff consuming it and then confiscating it. This fits in to the fact that because it’s the women consuming the chocolate that the target market for chocolate is also women. Shouldn’t we aspire to more than shoes, handbags, and chocolates?
Also, this advert is one of the rare times, along with some perfume adverts, in which a male is objectified and sexualised. When Federer turns around, one of the staff comments “everything is in the right place” and the comments from the women imply to other men that his body cannot be obtained without working out lots in the gym. I wonder how men feel about this advert. If I was a man, I think it would make me feel inadequate for not having Federer’s body and consequently not being the subject to much female attention.
As feminists, we are essentially calling for equality, and a stop to the objectification and sexualisation of women, since we do not want to be seen as mere sex objects, but as humans with intellect. So shouldn’t we, as feminists, also call for a stop to the objectification of men? We can’t expect to not be objectified if we objectify men.