In addition to selling stuff, advertising tell us something about what “normal” relationships between people look like, such as the case below, submitted by Kyra M.

What’s it saying? When a woman’s upset, you can fix it with flowers.

In equating “she’s upset” with “get her flowers,” we’re discouraged from considering whether she might have a good reason to be upset.

Women have long been considered irrational creatures (it’s one of the justifications for denying them the vote — they didn’t have sufficient reason to make good choices in government) — much like children. When a child’s upset, you don’t reason with them, or think about whether you need to change your behaviour, you assume it’s because the child is immature. This ad encourages us to treat women the same way, as if they’ve just had their feelings hurt and a little consideration and then everything will be fine.  This undermines women’s status in a variety of contexts, communicating that women’s complaints do not need to be taken seriously. This kind of attitude makes women less able to structure their social environments to meet their needs.

More, this trope suggest that whatever a woman’s concerns are, she’ll abandon those positions and principles if you spend enough money. This construes women as corruptible — another construction justifying the lack of women in positions of authority. After all, would you want someone’s who’s irrational, materialistic, and corruptible running your company? Or your government?

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Anastasia Kulpa teaches Sociology at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Her research interests include the sociology of post-secondary classrooms, and cultural vehicles for transmitting ideology (class, music, television, etc.).

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