Analysis of the Original Advertisement
Madison Avenue, a cookware company posted a series of advertisement pictures promoting their products. One of them is the above picture. The main design of this picture consists of two cooking pots and a line of slogan. From the pots’ texture, it appears that their products have high quality and are elegant. The slogan “a women’s best friend” also wants to address that their products are the best among competitors. This simple slogan has two underlying assumptions. First, it assumes women and men have their own gender roles. It assumes all women are cooking in the family and if women acknowledge this brand as the best cookware brand, it must be truly good. This assumption also includes another assumption which is binary gender categories. It only recognizes two genders, men and women, and it neglected the queer communities who do not fall into these fixed binary gender categories.
An advertisement is a single direction communication where companies show and feed information to consumers. Therefore, assumptions made in advertisements might be seen as “common knowledge”. In this advertisement, the marketer is trying to demonstrate the quality, and the unsaid “common knowledge” is that we all know women should cook. As the audience receive and internalize such “common knowledge”, they internalize the expectations and eventually produce gender roles. More accurately, they reaffirm their gender expectations, which perpetuates and strengthens men and women’s gender roles. Moreover, in such process, gender fluidity is also being denied. Queer people are being neglected, binary gender categories are being constructed as natural and normal and queer identities as unnatural and abnormal (Mortimer-Sandilands & Erickson, 2010). Therefore, such a picture can produce and perpetuate gender image as well as binary gender categories.
Analysis of the Jammed Advertisement
Instead of changing the slogan to break traditional gender expectations, I added words under the original slogan to emphasize the absurdity of such gender expectations. The original slogan implicitly assumes that women should cook. Following this logic, as part of women’s gender expectations, she should also clean the house, marry to a man, have children, and babysit her children. These gender roles not only include expectations for daily behaviours, but also for people’s sexuality. She is expected to be a wife and a mother.
The term housewife implies that a marriage has to have a man and a woman. Therefore, heterosexuality is being naturalized whereas homosexuality and asexuality are being seen as abnormal and unnatural (Van Anders, 2015).
By merely looking at the original ad, it might not appear very ridiculous and inappropriate, because the assumption is hidden under the superficial marketing message. Therefore, following the underlying assumptions, I wrote down other gender expectations for a woman to let people notice the absurd assumptions made by the company. The phrase “to be a good housewife” explicitly points out the final expectations for women in this advertisement.
Women are also being objectified in these gender expectations, because women are expected to have children. If she does not “use” her body to bear children, one of the main purposes of a woman is not fulfilled. Although bearing children is not explicitly connected with the original advertisement, it is seen as one of women’s traditional gender roles which also include cooking as expressed in the advertisement.
In the jammed photo, the main message is that Madison Avenue will help women become the perfect housewife. By extending and exaggerating the original marketing message, I tried to expose the fact that it is perpetuating binary gender categories and stereotypical gender roles. Overall, I am trying to send a message to people that cooking should not be related to female gender, and more importantly, we can be anything we want to be regardless of our gender.
Mortimer-Sandilands, C., Erickson, B., & Project Muse University Press eBooks. (2010). Queer ecologies: Sex, nature, politics, desire. Bloomington, Ind: Indiana University Press.
Van Anders, S. M. (2015). Beyond sexual orientation: Integrating Gender/Sex and diverse sexualities via sexual configurations theory. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44(5), 1177-1213. doi:10.1007/s10508-015-0490-8