Half a bottle tomato sauce
several slices of prosciutto
chicken kebabs, breasts and satay sticks
3 cans of kentucky burbon & coke
3 bottles of cider
1 can kilkenny irish ale
2 Bottles of ‘Raging Bull’ 7.5% Alcohol content Beer
2 sticks of butter
1 tub of margarine
half a bottle of sweet chilli sauce
1 tub vegemite
Today I’m talking about ads it’s a new thing, I’m doing Media critiques expect more. I will note of course the usage of heteronormative couples throughout both the ads examined here. But I’m going to be examining anxious masculinity in australian commercials.
First up is an ad for Telstra Next G mobile in this the guy is interested in buying of all things a mounted stuffed hideous fish. He walks around oblivious to his girlfriends obvious sighs.
Talks about buying a stuffed fish on ebay (over his phone) and putting in the lounge.
We also need to examine the behaviour and characteristics on the woman in the ad. She’s feminine and portrayed to be the girlfriend or partner of the man in the commercial.nHowever when the man remarks that he wants to put the fish in the lounge she remarks under hear breath ‘not in my lounge’, later instead of standing up and saying that she doesn’t want the fish in the house she lies to him and says that her phone is not working so the man can’t buy the fish.
She fails to stand up for herself.
Now there have been numerous feminist looks at the behaviour of women in these kind of commercials.
I really don’t want to talk about that right here.
Next we can look at a similar commercial for a company called ‘British Paints!’.
We see the big burly guy so proud that he’s just painted a room bright blue (traditionally masculine colour) and his wife who seems just ecstatic at the job he has done. This is all fair enough. Blue is quite a nice colour. I’ve got nothing against that.
However next the camera pans to a giant stuffed moose’s head on the wall.
The ad cuts back to the man who replies.
“err we had some money left over…’
These ads may not be that serious in tone, and they may even be satirical but I find it very interesting the subject.
The Moose Head. The Stuffed Fish. Taxidermy.
These conjure images of hunting, fetes of ‘strength’ and almost Hemingway-esque ideas about what it is to be masculine.
It’s very interesting to note this because according to the Australian Bureau Statistics survey of Adult Participation in sports and physical recreation 2009 (4156.0 – Sports and Physical Recreation: A Statistical Overview, Australia, 2009) Hunting was not popular enough to even make the census list. (I assume as it is not included in the statistics where-as things like bushwalking are)
So the year is 2010 and we are still being shown these outdated ideas of what it is to be masculine and ‘male’ in todays culture. Is this patriarchy at work subconsciously influencing designers and copywriters to influence masculinity or simply a parody of this kind of masculinity?
Well it certainly is Food for thought none the less.
I’m going to stick my personal opinion as writer in here and put it down to patriarchy clinging to outdated ideas of masculinity.
This is often called ‘Anxious Masculinity’ where the need for showing how manly you are no matter how ridiculous beats out common sense in an effort to hold onto something in a world where the very idea of what it means to be men and women is changing rapidly.
Gender is a fickle thing immediately obvious to all and yet invisible to most, only to be revealed when boundaries are pushed and certain taken for granted assumptions challenged.
How would it be best to define gender? With sex?
Or should we choose something even simpler, something more concrete than simple chromosomes?
I say we start with genitals.
Vaginas and Penises, those things on our bodies which determine who we are and some would say even how we should interact and behave.
But there’s something not quite right with that.
It really doesn’t cover all the bases.
After all if penises and vaginas make us male or female, then how come we do not display them all the time. Who’s to say that cute androgynous guy you saw walking down the street last week didn’t have a vagina.
You never looked.
‘But surely our genitals are what define us! And how we behave and how we act! They make men and women what they are! You can never change that!’ cry the likes of Janice Raymond.
Oh Janice, I’m afraid these things just don’t work that way; no matter how hard you agree that biological determinism makes us men or women, It simply isn’t so. You can argue social constructs to if you like, but then you’d be arguing in favour of the very thing you’ve been trying to change, which is that idea that men and women have to act a certain way!
More recent respected gender theorists such as Julia Serano and Kate Bornstein discuss what is known as ‘Gender Identity’ also sometimes called ‘Subconscious Sex’. This is the concept that gender is something far more complex linked to both biological status (our DNA) and our subconscious mind.
When you were born a girl, you were brought home from the hospital and you were dressed and given the things which girls should have. You were bought Barbies and dresses, your room was painted pink and you went on with your life. You considered this normal.
But where did you get the idea you were a girl? Nobody told you.
It’s not like somebody said to you one day ‘you are a girl, here is how you are’ and then handed you an instruction manual.
No nobody ever did, this was just something you knew. It seemed correct. The way of things.
And that is gender identity, that distinct inner sense of knowing who we are.
That certain je ne sais quoi of our identities.
The inner sense of knowing deep down if we are male, female, both, neither, other or just fluid.
Gender is a complex topic that you can’t define as easily as you might first imagine. I hope this brief intro encourages you to think more every day about how you perceive gender and the world.