I have never been a fan of the ridiculous Axe Vice Body Spray commercials, the ones where women uncontrollably become porn-star-esque when in the presence of a man wearing the Axe scent. You know, the ones where everything is wrapped up in the male ego. My issues with the campaign were only exacerbated when I saw the “Naughty to Nice Program” viral video on the Axe web site.
This “comical” take on the old television show Scared Straight is offensive to me on many different levels. As with the Axe commercials we see on TV, the women in this video have no sexual motivation of their own. No matter who the guy is, if he is wearing the right scent (i.e. Axe) it will literally drive women sexually crazy. The underlying message being that “women don’t really have preferences, and if they do they are so easily manipulated that it doesn’t matter.” Because the women don’t have a sexual point of view in this video, they are, yet again, merely sexual objects in existence for male pleasure.
This video also very clearly highlights the line between what is and what is not acceptable behavior for women. The clip starts out with a news anchor stating that “squeaky clean nice girls [are] turning into lust-crazed vixens.” This statement, and many others like them in the video, informs the viewer that women can’t be “nice” and simultaneously have sexual feelings. What era are we living in? Why can’t we acknowledge that people are multifaceted and that a woman can both bake cookies and have sexual desires at the same time!? Have we as a society still not realized that humans are sexual beings? I guess not.
Lastly, the part that truly got under my skin is how the imprisoned women were portrayed. They were locked up for having a sexual appetite, and made to appear less attractive than the cashmere-clad girls coming in to be rid of their “wild ways.“ The women behind bars shown in the yard were significantly older, didn’t have the “ideal” body type, and were loud and abrasive. All characteristics considered unattractive for women. (I guess that is where the “humor” comes in this commercial–the idea of “unattractive” women being in prison for their sexual aggression.) Though these women are shown in the prison yard, they are not the ones who have the major speaking parts. Thinner, younger-looking, and all-around softer women — you know, characteristics we are repeatedly told are attractive — play the hard criminals in the Scared Straight scenario.
This video has many layers and just as many things to be offended by. I can not stand the images and messages put out into the world by Axe.
Take action! Start by sending Axe an e-mail by clicking here. Another way to take action is to talk about why these kinds of images are harmful. While helping others to understand these harmful messages, you can encourage them to stop spending their money on products like Axe that use degrading images of women to try and sell their products.