While it is likely that this Metro Forward rebuilding campaign based in DC tried to make a lighthearted joke with this advertisement, it received backlash from many transit users who criticized the ad for being sexist and completely missing its mark. The depiction of one of the women in the poster who “just wants to talk about shoes” reinforces the stereotypical view that females are ditzy, ignorant, and only capable of conversing about shallow, materialistic things such as fashion, instead of deeper topics such as math, statistics, or bus reliability. What I found especially discouraging about the ad was the fact that in the version of this campaign that featured two men, when asked whether he’d noticed some new hardware installed on the train, the man’s reply was not something stereotypical like “Can’t we just talk about sports?” but instead “No, Billy, not so much”. When slammed about the ad, Metro’s assistant general manager for customer service unapologetically claimed that the ad was meant to “poke a little fun at ourselves” and “contrast dense facts with light responses from both men and women on both sides of the conversation” (Hedgpeth, 2013, para. 5). Yet, there is nothing funny or contrasting in the male version of the ad. The completely different portrayal of women and men in the posters reflect the dominant patriarchal views that are upheld in society today.
Moreover, an intersectional approach would be beneficial to analyze this ad. Although it could be due to mere coincidence that the two women in the ad were non-white, there is no denying that women of colour struggle to be represented in various aspects of media. That being said, the portrayal of them in this ad does not do them any favours. In fact, they have portrayed the Asian woman in a negative light by suggesting she is somehow not competent enough to talk about important subjects. In this sense, it should be acknowledged that by using two women of colour in their advertisement, it is not necessarily white women who are being targeted, but rather minority women who already struggle to find their voice in society.
In my culturally jammed version of the ad, I added words like “xoxo”, “love” and “omg!” on the poster because they are considered very feminine and therefore go with the theme of the original poster. In addition to this, I aimed to highlight the sexist nature of the poster by decorating it with other stereotypically female themes, such as pink hearts and dainty flowers. By accentuating these ideals, I brought attention to the ridiculousness of the response that is given by the Asian woman, because we can probably all agree that it is unlikely for this conversation to actually take place in real life. It should also be mentioned that I decided to keep both of the women of colour from the original ad in the jammed version because it brings awareness to the fact that women of colour continue to be common targets of belittlement today. Finally, I changed the logo on the bottom right side of the poster to read “Metro Backwards” because it was ironic to me that an organization with a name like “Metro Forward” could have such a backwards and outdated way of thinking about and considering women.
The goal of my version of the ad is to get people to critically think about what kind of underlying unintentional message the original ad sends instead of passively accepting the advertisement that is presented to us. By making the sexist theme of the poster more obvious, I hope that viewers will be able to recognize the problems that exist within it. Despite the fact that my version seems a little over the top, the message that is being sent out is essentially the same: women are limited in their capabilities when it comes to important issues. But what do I know? I’m just a girl who would much rather talk about my new pair of fabulous heels.
Hedgpeth, D. (2013, December 5). Metro defends ‘shoes’ ad some call sexist. The Washington Post. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/dr-gridlock/wp/2013/12/05/metro-defends-ad-some-call-sexist/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.49ac96054734