In a modern, First World society where equality and the elimination of gender bias is more present than ever, it is generally unarguable that most of the emphasis we place on equal treatment of the sexes is primarily focused on women.
Historically, like all people who have gone through oppression, women in our culture have made great strides in overcoming chauvinism and unfair treatment. I am not going to argue the point that gender bias still exists today, because I know that it does.
Many things that we see in the media that portray females in a negative light cause huge, angry controversies. If an advertisement shows a stereotype of a girl that makes her seem ditzy, annoying, shallow or over-sexualized, we ladies are the first to jump on how inappropriate, ignorant and degrading it is to us.
However, if a commercial shows a guy acting dumb, incompetent or idiotic, no one says anything, even if the stereotype is so far off the mark it isn’t even relevant to almost any man watching.
For example, consider commercials aimed at women that market household products, foods or domestic goods.
If portrayed in an attempted humorous light, many ads show a wife and her totally lost and dorky husband making idiotic remarks or actions.
A fairly recent commercial for Orville Redenbacher’s popcorn shows a family on vacation in an RV while the typical wife character makes popcorn. The husband leaves the driver seat to come eat it, giving a classic dumb-and-confused face until he realizes he did, in fact, leave the driver’s seat, while operating a moving vehicle.
What if it had been a “women can’t drive” commercial?
I am not saying that the poor stereotypes of women in advertising aren’t offensive or just plain stupid. I am just pointing out the fact that the same stereotypes are present for men, too, but not as many people care the other way around.
There are many gender-related double standards that also affect the balance of our relationships. Not only in advertising, but in our culture in general, are the norms for what a man and a woman’s role entail still practiced.
Although the happy housewife ideal of submissiveness and domestic responsibility has faded drastically for women in the United States, the idea of a man being financially responsible and always paying for the lady when out in public, for instance, is still looked upon as a normal standard.
Don’t get me wrong, men — I absolutely love gentlemen and chivalry. To see a man showing respect and manners towards a lady is extremely attractive.
The point is, both genders take certain traits and behaviors of the opposite sex for granted. I feel that many women whose idea of complete equality is centered around achieving the same status as a man need to re-evaluate their definition of “equality” and whether or not they truly want men and women to engage in the exact same set of societal expectancies all the time.
Even in our personal lives, there are unfair stereotypes for both genders.
Assume a couple was having intimacy issues and appearing on a daytime talk show. Get your trash-TV thinking caps on for me, readers.
Let’s say the boyfriend told the host his girlfriend didn’t have enough sex and he was frustrated and just wanted more from her. The reaction would be negative towards the man. How dare he say something so selfish and shallow?
What if the situation were reversed and the woman came on the show to say her boyfriend did not satisfy her needs, he didn’t do enough sexually and she was desperate to have a better sex life?
Both times, the reaction would be “what’s wrong with you, you egotistical male pig?” But in the first situation, it would be because he was asking far too much and in the second situation he was doing far too little.
The conclusion I would like to make with this is that maybe equality is the wrong blanket term to be using when dealing with gender stereotypes. Perhaps a more effective mindset would be impartiality.
Men and women are not the same. They never will be. We deserve the same respect as each other, but to take offense only when it’s your gender being typecast is just as bad as if you were acting like the stereotype you hate so much in the first place.
Jillian Aramowicz is a senior in advertising. Please send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.