The ad I selected comes from Sky Vodka, a company known for its sexist and controversial ads. In this particular ad, a woman’s hands seem to be bound with what appears to be a roll of photographic film, and her hands are superimposed on a blue background that could be a leather couch or the backboard of a bed. The ad is supposed to advertise the fact that Sky Vodka is the official sponsor of a 2010 Film Festival but this ad is troublesome to say the least.
First of all, these are a woman’s hands, with red painted nails, and the position in which she is shot suggests utter submission. The hands are placed in a cup-like position, in order to form a vessel form, which is in contrast with the phallic shape of the bottle. This not-so-subtle contrast between the phallic shape and the willing vessel who submits reflects the heteronormative expectations of a society which associates drinking and sexual activity as a given. What is more worrisome is the binding, which in this case is seen as playful and the woman is welcoming such sexual games willingly. The fact that she is holding a martini suggests her willingness to be involved in games.
This ad is injurious because it assumes heteronormativity, implied gender roles in which women are submissive, and also hints at submission and violence as “fun” and “sexy” activities which can be done along with drinking. This way of advertising denies the broad range of human sexualities in favor of heteronormativity, objectifies women, pushing them to internalize submissive roles, and suggests that hyper-masculinity and alcohol are attractive, or that every woman can be made to submit if she has had enough to drink. This is especially dangerous in a society which has a big problem with sexual assault done by acquaintances, date rape and physical violence brought on by the consumption of alcohol.
In my jammed version of the ad I tried to show the most damaging aspects of this type of advertising, namely the association between drinking and violent behavior, which is most often geared towards women. The heteronormative tone of this ad is in line with the fact that women are most often the victims of male abuse and not vice-versa. Drinking is directly related to incidents of violence. When we look at the total number of violent incidents in any given year, about half of them, if not more, involve the consumption of alcohol. When people drink, they often become violent and sexual assault and rape is related to intoxication on the part of the victim, the perpetrator or both. I hope my jammed version shows that it’s not all fun and games when it comes to drinking and assuming submission from women. It is actually worrisome that such ads come at a time when we see blockbuster movies and books like “Fifty Shades of Grey” advertising relationships based on submission, control, and violence as some kind of romantic ideal. The kind of “romance” or romanticized images this ad is showing are not romantic at all, especially when games turn violent. The “Fade to Blue” writing within the ad is a great reminder that “Black and Blue” or “Bruises Fade to Blue” are real expressions which people use because they are fitting. My ad intends to be a reality check or wake-up call for any viewers who see this image as inviting, desirable or romantic.