Here in New Zealand we are still *sigh* perpetuating the old, irritating double standard in advertising, and it’s tiring beyond belief.
We continue to have a culture where we champion the “typical Kiwi Bloke”, who is “every man” and his mates, affectionately championed for his ordinariness and always welcomed into the brotherhood.
Men in NZ advertising appear in all shapes and forms: small/large, fat/slim, ugly/cute, smart/scruffy, but the Bloke is predominant — an often overweight, dishevelled, relaxed individual, giving the “you are accepted just as you are” message to men. He is used to market everything from banking to rugby tickets, alcohol to DIY.
This would not be something to complain about — in fact, this glorious acceptance and celebration of diversity could well be something to cheer for — if it worked for our women as well. Sadly, this is not the case. Women in NZ advertising continue to fit the age-old slim, pretty, constantly attractive stamp. Women in the U.S. are also expected to look astonishing rather than normal. The man portraying the “uncool” or “outdated” PC in Apple’s recent campaign is just that, while his female counterpart is miraculously still slim, tanned, and beautiful. Go figure.
Nowhere is there any affection for the ordinary, unaltered, or — God forbid — “unattractive” woman in her natural state. Even ads marketing to a female audience feature sanitized, altered women.
It is so depressing to regularly see this kind of combo in our TV ad breaks: the “lovable”, overweight NZ Bloke, accompanied by a slim, pretty partner. In following ads, we see that same Kiwi female counterpart being told she should be losing weight. Our distinctly less-than-stunning and variously aging Blokes stand happily up there on a pedestal, while we Antipodean women must succumb to the quintessential anti-female-aging and beauty messages in the absence of any real sisters up there in our advertising lights.
New Zealand advertising is just a small example of the continuing expectation for ordinary women to stay young and attractive and keep their real selves hidden, while their brothers get to bask in the media sunshine.
In what world do women come only in an attractive, slim, and young package while men exist in a wonderful variety? Ah, yes, the advertising one, still *yawn*.
In other parts of the world there will no be doubt countless equivalents, but here in NZ and Australia, this marketing to men using images of men they can relate to, while marketing to women using images of females most of us can never be, seems to be particularly prevalent. What’s it like in your country?
Elizabeth is a Human History Museum professional and part time artist from New Zealand. Over the years, her growing exasperation at the media’s uncontested obsession with womens’ appearance and youth has driven her to either self combust or start blogging. She chose the latter.