"There is difference and there is power. And who holds the power decides the meaning of the difference." --June Jordan

Friday, December 14, 2007

A return to blogging and a story

When I started this little blog last winter, it didn't occur to me that there might come a time when my life would be too crazy to post on it. These last three months or so were definitely one of those times. Between the theft of my computer and taking the hardest, most work-intensive class of my life, blogging really got put on the backburner. Do you ever have one of those times when you constantly have so much work to do that you feel totally guilty for spending time on anything else? I guess that's how I felt about blogging this quarter. As long as there were assignments to read and research paper deadlines, I couldn't justify doing anything else.

But now that the work is done, and now that my insurance company has come through with my replacement computer, I can finally breathe and return to the blog. I hope you haven't deleted me from your blogrolls and feeders!

I thought I would start by sharing this little story of something that happened the other day:

So, the boyfriend and I were amazingly home at the same time on a weekday, and I had the TV tuned to ABC when The View came on at 11. I was working on some stuff and in my own little world when he commented:

"Wow, it's amazing how different the commercials are during 'women's programming" (making air quotes around the last two words).

When I looked up and noticed the Swiffer commerical on the TV, I was pretty sure I knew what he was getting at, but I was curious about what he was thinking, so I asked:

"What do you mean?"

"In this commerical break alone, I've seen three different cleaning product ads, a diaper commercial, and a minivan commercial."

I knodded knowingly.

"Sad, isn't it?" I said.

Knowing that he mostly watches prime time dramas and comedies, X-Play, and shows on Comedy Central, I kept the conversation going by asking,

"What kinds of commercials are you used to seeing?"

His response:

"Um, I don't know. Movie trailers. Ads for upcoming programming. Commericals for I-pods and other electronics. Car commercials, but the kind with fast driving and rock music instead of this minivan kind that show how there's room for groceries and kids (gesturing at the screen). I can't even remember the last time I saw a household product commercial before today."

And there you have it. I have to admit it was slightly vindicating to me that he noticed the difference -- how women are still assumed to be solely responsible for keeping houses and caring for children while men are almost never targeted by advertisers as consumers of products associated with homes and babies. I like to think that he has developed a much keener sense of sexism for having been around me.

But after that feeling of satisfaction wore off, I was left to reflect on how much it totally sucks that this is the way it is. This aspect of advertising is just another huge piece of evidence that gender socialization manages to creep its way into every little nook and cranny of our lives. It happens when I don't even notice it. Like when I am sitting at home with the TV on in the background, unaware that constant images of (mostly white middle class) women cleaning houses, grocery shopping, changing diapers, and carting kids to soccer practice are coming into my home and into my subconscious mind. Ugh.


The Red Queen said...

I would give my left ovary to see a commercial with a guy scrubbing a toilet or a girl enjoying a beer (instead of the girl being the magical gift guys get when they drink the right kind of beer).

Thursday said...

Targeted advertising, I'm afraid.

Guys tend to be worse with money - we'll piss it away on pretty much anything shiny - whereas women are more likely to buy essentials.

Sure, it's annoying; but I'm not sure it's deliberate as much as it is thoughtless sexism.

Red Queen -

Moosehead beer ad: guys on departing ferry realize they left some beer on the dock with their girlfriends/wives/sisters/whoever they are. They call down, and like a good little girl, one woman sprints down the dock to get them the hooch... before keeping it herself with a "yeah, right!" look.

Not great, but an improvement!

Jeff Pollet said...

Welcome back to the blogging world...

I think it's also interesting that, to the extent that advertisers were trying to target men, they succeeded with your boyfriend (whether or not he bought the products might be a different story). Sounds like he generally fits into what they see as a male demographic of tv programming, and watches what advertisers think that men watch. That we are all so easily pegged is part of the problem, too, I think. If we were 'allowed' more often to diversify our interests more, then advertisers wouldn't be as successful at targeting.