"Ladies": Why Do Adverts Treat Women Like Morons?

18/08/2011 09:06 | Updated 22 May 2015

Help! I am being driven mad by an advert. You know the one: four women having lunch in a flat wondering aloud how their host "does it". The secret, apparently, is a pot of yoghurt. Whoopie doo.

There are many things I hate about it: the identikit model body/hair/dress sense of the women involved; the idea that any woman would go snooping in a friend's drawers for "her secret"; the inexplicable mispronunciation of the word "Ladies".

The worst thing, though, is its insidious promotion of the idea of eating as sinful. The "dessert" brought to the table with a flourish at the end of the meal is less a dessert and more, er, what looks like a pot of yoghurt. Since when did an insipid-looking substance in a plastic pot count as a delicious way to end a meal with your mates? Isn't pudding supposed to be a treat?

This kind of thing makes me quite cross. In ad land, women are rarely concerned with anything other than how they look and how to make other women jealous. The message is loud and clear: denying yourself food makes you attractive, successful and happy – the envy of your friends.

I recently watched the film Eat Pray Love. There's a scene in the film where the main protagonist, played by Julia Roberts, sits down for lunch in a café in Italy, the first destination on her quarter-life crisis journey to "find herself". She orders a bowl of pasta and a glass of red wine. She eats the pasta and drinks the wine. So far, so unremarkable...or so you would think.

But no. This is apparently a moment of such intense and feverish transgression that Roberts flicks her eyes from side to side to see if anybody is watching, giggles to herself and covers her mouth like a naughty child. At moments she closes her eyes and looks to be having some kind of orgasm.

This woman is having an ordinary sized lunch in a restaurant at lunchtime surrounded by lots of other people also having lunch. But she comes from an environment where eating what she wants to eat (carbs at midday – are you mad?) has become so unusual as to be unutterably sinful.

Probably most of us have absorbed this message at some level. It's hard not to – we are bombarded constantly with the white noise of self-denial, thinness, "beauty". And it's a message that's always aimed at women. Men's ads are all about having more of what you like: another beer, a faster car, a nice big plate of chips.

The only thing women are encouraged to have more of is anti-aging cream. Personally I'd rather have another spoonful of pudding.


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