The original ad I have selected is by the famous rum-producing company, Bacardi. The ad shows a semi-clad female body, with a drink in hand. and the catchy writing says “Veterinarian by day/Bacardi by Night.” There are many problems with this ad, besides the fact that is says nothing about the qualities of the product itself. One problem is that it shows a white, implicitly heterosexual female body, with some middle-upper class symbols, such as fashionable clothes and jewelry, thus clearly aiming the marketing techniques at a certain demographic while excluding all others. It also uses a marketing technique which aims at eliciting emotions rather than giving facts, so, it’s targeting both a male, heterosexual audience, and a female audience who believes they need to be overtly sexual in order to be popular and “cool.”
A second, much more serious problem with this ad – which is just one of a series of such ads by this company – is that it promotes a culture of legitimized violence against women by suggesting that alcohol makes women “easy,” or transforms them somehow. This headless woman could be anyone, but she is a professional, a doctor, by day, and someone who is willingly pulling down her pants by night, or after she has had a few drinks. This suggestion is injurious because we live in a culture in which certain social groups (particularly young women) are constantly targeted with what Young (1990) calls oppression in the form of violence. Women in our culture continue to be the victims of sexual assault and ads such as these are promoting an ideology of victim-blaming, as many rapes go unreported due to social stigma, and many women are further victimized when they go to trial because the judges and lawyers are biased. There are countless articles about judges who openly state that the victim was “asking for it,” “was flattered by the attention,” was “drunk and perhaps did give consent” and ads such as these are playing a part in creating this association between drinking and promiscuous sexual behavior.
For the jammed version of the ad, I have mixed these two images in order to address what I feel it’s the greatest problem with ads like this one. The image on the left shows a woman activist engaging in feminist protest, and I wanted to take this image and super-impose it on this sexist and misogynist ad. The idea that women who have a few drinks suddenly become “loose” or “easy,” is a patriarchal concept which is based on a social illusion or a social paradigm which legitimizes men’s violence against women. Whether dancing at a club, drink in hand, or marching down the street, women never ask to be victimized, and the fact that they are often assaulted has to do with the fact that we live in a society which continues to be deeply patriarchal and deeply oppressive. Women, especially young women who live alone, are in college/university, and go out to party, form a vulnerable social group, which is overwhelmingly targeted. Ads such as these are also suggesting that you don’t want to be the “boring” veterinarian by night, and that if you are a professional who dresses demurely by day, you should dress up and “let loose” at night. So, these ads are doubly injurious. On the one hand, they put pressure on women to be slim, attractive, and dress sexy so they offset their boring, everyday persona. They also invite these women to purchase this product, which is marketed for upper-class people with disposable income. They suggest to these women that they need to be sexy consumers, while they are also making women into targets of assault. The men who see these ads internalize the idea that women are “asking for it,” and this is proven by how many discussions we see in courts in which the judges ask victims how much they had to drink and what they were wearing when they were assaulted. My jammed ad is meant to allude to everything that’s happening right now in terms of legal battles and feminist activism, and also suggests that Bacardi and other companies should be more socially responsible in their ad choices.
Young, I. M. (1990). Five faces of oppression. In Justice and the politics of difference (pp. 39- 65). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.