The recent Australian advertisement for Snickers, released about a week ago, has received backlash on social media due to its misleading message. It features a group of Australian builders who are shouting, as described by the Youtube video title as "loud empowering statements", to women walking in the street. Whether or not these statements are actually empowering, although not the focus of this article, is another point of debate. A few examples of what was said include: "I'd like to show you the respect you deserve", "this colour really works on you... have a productive day!" and, for the long winded final one "you know what I'd like to see? A society where the objectification of women makes way for gender neutral interactions free from assumptions and expectations". Unfortunately, however wonderful this may sound, there are several caveats to what one may think is paving the way towards less gendered adverts. The first and foremost is, of course, the closing caption of the video, right after the builders yell out how they want equality and reject misogyny: "you're not you when you're hungry". A picture of Snickers bar then appears. Snickers appears as the saviour snack that could solve the builders' strange and new state of mind, and back to shouting the usual derogatory statements and wolf-whistles women are used to hearing when walking by a building site.
One would think that there isn't any real reason to complain, because, it is after all just another advertisement, not to be taken seriously. But taking issue with the way our society reacts to behaviour outside of an unspoken norm is needed. Too many slights of conduct towards others are excused or brushed under the carpet. This particular advert highlights several complex issues that need to be made explicit. The first one is the simple fact that yelling or shouting at anyone in the street is never pleasant. Even if it is meant as a compliment, or to be gratifying or empowering, being yelled at has not generally been known to procure any of these feelings - at least to myself.
Secondly, and very importantly, this video shows how patriarchal societies affect men as well as women. This Snickers advert is a reminder to everyone: the patriarchy also has certain expectations from men, such as the stereotypical gender roles men would be expected to assume. In this case, this perceives builders to be the time old stereotype of street harassment faced by women every time they approach a building site. While women will report this happening from time to time, how devaluating is it to constantly have this image stuck to you for simply doing your chosen profession? Combatting a stereotype that is so entrenched in people's mentalities, while being reinforced by such adverts makes the changing of mentalities even more difficult. The final message of the advert had it spot on - shouting nice things to people? Builders do that? No, they don't, they just happened to be hungry and hence confused.
Messages like this leads people, builders and others, to be expected to fill in these stereotypically "masculine gender roles". While some people may be incredibly good at getting by without being affected or influenced, others may have a harder time feeling accepted by their peers, thinking that their own behaviour sets them out as different. This can be felt particularly in the formative years of someone's life, and can also become the cause of many future insecurities. Feelings of inadequacy may resurface periodically due to the fact that the "stereotype" is not being fulfilled, leading to a vicious cycle, constantly falling back into the traps of the expectation.
Doesn't this sound familiar? On many levels, this is exactly what women are feeling on a daily basis, even though countless more adverts, magazines, the omnipresence of the internet and other media propagate these messages, and to a much harsher extent.
I would buy Snickers regardless of commercials or publicity efforts simply because I like the chocolate bar. Advertisements like these are not needed to sell such a timeless product. This shows how this publicity spot is not only made to boost sales, but to get people talking about the brand. So maybe this article is falling into Snickers' "capitalist trap", but what it serves to show is a deeper, more profound message that needs to be heard. Is using archaic and harmful messages to both men and women the way to do publicity now? Sadly, it seems that this is what it has come to. We need to make a stand and show that negative portrayals such as these affect not only women but, as this cleverly reminded us, men too are not completely immune to patriarchy's negative influence.
So next time we watch an advert on T.V. or elsewhere, let's give it a second thought. It is time to start challenging our preconceptions, and not merely passing these off as the way things are.