The Problem – Part 1
In today’s competitive consumerism driven society, many observers agree that the dominant public role of the individual has shifted from the citizen to the consumer. We live in a technologically advanced society where the perpetuation of the buy and consume modality is constantly being woven into individuals’ thoughts through advertising. Because we are constantly bombarded with corporate images everywhere we look, it is evident that we exist within an ecology of advertising that influences and alters our thoughts and actions.
Today, we will be deconstructing and analyzing a controversial Van Heusen necktie advertisement which, without a doubt, promotes the ideas of gender stereotypes and sexism. At the top of the ad, the opening line reads: “Show her it’s a man’s world”, which directly promotes the idea that the world is run by men and that women should only act as subordinates who simply aid in a man’s success. It teaches the idea that men are superior over women and this thought is clearly being represented in the picture where we see a women kneeling down on the ground as she obediently serves breakfast in bed. This image strengthens the gendered stereotype that women belong in the kitchen and only exist to serve men and make them happy. On the other hand, the man in the picture looks strong and powerful as he relaxes worry free with his hands stretched out behind his head. The angle at which he looks down at the women signals dominance while her pose communicates obedience.
Lastly, located at the bottom right of the ad is a short passage that reads: “For men only! … brand new man-talking, power-packed patterns that tell her it’s a man’s world … and make her so happy it is”. The confidence on the man’s face and the joy in hers communicates the idea that the couple is content and that Van Heusen branded neckties are key to cultivating ideal relationships. It promotes the idea that men who own these ties can expect the same type of submissiveness from the women in their lives.
Addressing the Problem – Part 2
Looking back at vintage ads, we can see how far we have come as a society as we aim towards gender equality. With slight alteration to the Van Heusen advertisement, a whole new meaning is being communicated to promote women empowerment. In the past, men typically played the “breadwinner” role while women acted as the “homemaker”. However, there has been a changing attitude towards the Male Breadwinner and the Female Homemaker family model as women’s education and employment levels continue to increase.
Women as a group need to understand that their self-worth is not to be determined by the men in their lives, but by herself. Therefore, instead of promoting the environment we live in as a “man’s world”, we as a society can work towards “our world” where both men and women have equal opportunities in life. The saying: “ we cannot all succeed if half of us are held back” certainly holds true in this situation. The big red cross added on top of the image makes it clear that this submissive relationship is not acceptable in today’s society. Women should not feel as if they are obligated to serve men and certainly should not be looked down upon. Lastly, in the short excerpt found in the bottom right corner, I inserted a short passage reading: “Only insecure boys will belittle a women. Working together … TO-GET-HER”. As this advertisement is for neckties, targeted mainly to adolescence men entering a new stage in life, boys need to be taught from a young age how to treat women right. Neckties are worn during more formal circumstances as we young men grow up and it is important for both genders to work hand-in- hand in order to achieve the ultimate goal of gender equality.