Coco Chanel has often been quoted as saying, “A women who doesn’t wear perfume has no future.” If perfume staves off doom, perhaps that’s what inspired this otherwise-inexplicable new ad by GlaxoSmithKline for its HPV vaccine:
As you can see, it leads with a blue-eyed, fair-skinned, made-up–and apparently affluent–young woman lounging on an antique sofa on the first floor of her mansion. But softly shimmering lights and fairy-like chimes distract the waif from her book. She dreamily follows the golden twinkling lights up an impressive staircase, where she gazes with a beautific smile upon a champagne-colored perfume bottle magically floating in mid-air. But as the bottle rotates to reveal the words “CERVICAL CANCER”, the young woman’s expression switches from bliss to frowning concern. Enter a narrative voice:
Maybe it’s unfair to get your attention this way, but nothing’s fair about cervical cancer. Every 47 minutes, another woman in the U.S. is diagnosed. But, there are ways to prevent it. Talk to your doctor.
“Unfair”? I would have said “insulting.” As in: Maybe it’s insulting to assume that the best way to attract a young woman’s attention to a serious health issue is to dupe her into thinking she’s watching a perfume commercial? But if you want to talk “unfair” … Maybe it’s unfair that there hasn’t been a public health campaign to educate young women and young men about sexually-transmitted HPV (human papillomavirus), which can cause not only cervical cancer but also other serious cancers in men and women?
Maybe it’s unfair that there hasn’t been a public health campaign to educate young women and young men about sexually-transmitted HPV (human papillomavirus), which can cause not only cervical cancer but also other serious cancers in men and women? Maybe it’s unfair that the only public “education” about the HPV epidemic has come in the form of pharmaceutical ads that continue to narrowly brand and market HPV vaccines as “cervical cancer vaccines”?
The ad finishes by presenting a GlaxoSmithKline’s website – which troubles me, as a sexual health researcher, because it does not offer visitors a comprehensive HPV education. But that may have been too much to hope for, given that their HPV vaccine Cervarix received FDA approval for use in girls and women (ages 9 to 26) just this past October.
So, skip this ad and website if you’re looking for a more neutral source of information about HPV vaccine options, and visit the CDC instead. And those who’d like a thorough STD/STI education should check out the American Social Health Association and other website resources which are not funded by pharmaceutical companies.
Text: “Watch our shower babe shake her bits to the hits every morning.”
Um, yeah, so everyday you can go to the website and watch a girl in a bikini sing a song in the shower (don’t miss the burger boobs). You can also vote on the song and bikini for the next day, as well as enter into a contest for a date with the girl. If you don’t win the date, you may still be a lucky runner up and win Burger King “proper man toiletries”:
Has Axe been so successful in using misogyny to pitch its products that Burger King feels that it must sell toiletries to fully get on the pornification bandwagon? I just don’t know.
In any case, as A Sarah points out at the Shapely Prose, this is insulting to women and men both. Apparently Burger King presumes men are stupid or shallow enough to be impressed by BKs facilitation of bit-shaking and, therefore, that the campaign will actually translate into a desire to consume their product (as opposed to a desire to avoid it).
The fact that it’s supposed to be funny doesn’t make it better, it makes it worse. Because, really, this is the kind of humor they think men respond to? “Hahaha. She’s wearing a bikini and it looks like there are fried eggs on her boobs! Hahaha!” “Hahaha! I smell like meat!” Dudes, Burger King thinks you’re stupid.
Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
The text pointing to the black part of the “Axe Detailer Shower Tool” (the name of which is worth a post all by itself) says:
“Washes Jessica’s perfume off your ear.”
The text pointing to the red part of the “Tool” says:
“Scrubs Jessica’s Mom’s perfume off your knees.”
I guess the take-home message is that you can exfoliate, but still be masculine enough to have a creepy three-way sexual relationship with women who are related to each other by blood.
By the way, what’s up with that? The heterosexual male fantasy of being sexually serviced by two women is so common as to have become a cliché, but what about the less-frequently endorsed but still prevalent fantasy about those women being sisters (or better yet, identical twins!) or a mother-daughter pair? Is it simple attraction (i.e., if you’re attracted to one woman in a family, it’s likely you’ll be attracted to other women who look/act like her)? Is it the taboo element? Or does the power to coerce women into an incestuous situation serve as its own reward?
Still, Axe got one thing right with this product. When I think about a guy who would buy this sponge in the hopes of securing sexual relations with a woman and her mother, I can’t help but think of him as a, well…tool.
NEW! (Feb. ’10): Liz B. let us know about this online commercial for the Detailer:
UPDATE! Elena solved the mystery. He is fighting his shadow because his shadow stole his cologne:
Drewlater, in the comments, had this thought:
Whatever kind of violence it is, it is violence being used to sell something…
vive le angry, aggressive, competitive man who solves problems with fighting. boy, the last 8 years sure have been a great illustration of how fabulously effective a problem solving tool violence is. 98000+ civilian and 4200+ US military dead in Iraq, and a biological weapon of mass destruction detonation expected on the globe within 5 years.
Maybe it’s time to find a new metaphor for masculine efficacy.
Breck C. sent us this link to a collection of photographs of Harajuku Girls. Harajuku is a style for teenagers in a region of Japan (here is the wikipedia entry). I can’t think of a way to describe them that does them justice, so here are some pictures (found here, here, here and here):
In 2004, Gwen Stefani began touring with four women posing as Japanese Harajuku girls. Stefani’s Harajuku Girls serve as her entourage and back-up dancers. Here she is with four (Japanese?) women that she hires to be her Harajuku Girls (found here and here):
In the comments, Inky points out that Stefani says this about them in her song, Rich Girl:
I’d get me four Harajuku girls to
Inspire me and they’d come to my rescue
I’d dress them wicked, I’d give them names
Love, Angel, Music, Baby
Hurry up and come and save me
I think that Stefani’s use of Asian women as props (they may or may not be Japanese) fetishizes Asian women and reinforces white privilege. The Harajuku Girls serve as contrast to Stefani’s performance of ideal white femininity. It makes me think of both this poster on colonial-era travel and this fashion spread.
Yet, Stefani’s been at this for four years and I can’t remember hearing any objections to her Harajuku Girls, even in feminist and anti-racist alternative media. Further, if her fashion line, perfume, and continued employment of the Harajuku Girls are any indication, people seem to think the whole thing is awesome. In the meantime, I bet she’s making bank on her clothing line and perfume. Where’s that money going?
Do you think my reading is fair?
And, if so, why do you think there’s been so little outcry?
For good measure, here she is performing with her “Girls”:
In our comments, SG asks that we include the following clarification:
This article is really misrepresenting a whole fashion scene and I would like to ask that you correct it- It is just perpetuating the idiocy and ignorance surrounding these styles. “Harajuku is a style for teenagers in a region of Japan”. “Harajuku style” Is a term coined by western media because they are too ignorant to actually research the names of these actual styles. Harajuku is not a style. It is a location. The females you have pictured are in Decora (and two in Visual Kei). The only “harajuku style” that exists is the fictional one made up by Gwen Stefani and the western media.
Marc sent in a link to some sexist vintage ads found at Blog of Hilarity [note: I had an actual link to Blog of Hilarity, but commenter LillyB pointed out that when she clicked on it, she got warnings from her AntiVirus about the site; I just had the same thing happen, so I decided for safety's sake to remove the link]. Some of them I’ll be adding to other posts, but I thought these deserved their own post.
This one, for Love’s Baby Soft, is so creepy I can hardly stand to look at it:
The shape of the bottles, the sexualization of young girls…ick. A teddy bear? Really? The text below the bottles:
Love’s Baby Soft is that irresistible, clean-baby smell, grown-up enough to be sexy. It’s soft-smelling. Pure and innocent. It may well be the sexist fragrance around.
Notice it’s not grown up…it’s grown up enough. Jean Kilbourne uses this, or a similar Love’s Baby Soft, ad in her documentary Killing Us Softly 3 when she discusses how young girls are sexualized and adult women are encouraged to infantilize themselves.
Here’s an ad for Kellogg’s PEP vitamins:
I know I always look super cute when I’m scrubbing the kitchen.
Finally, this Trix ad seems sort of creepy to me, and I’m not even sure why. Maybe it’s the way the girl is staring at the camera, or that her pupils seem fixed and dilated:
The text isn’t exceptionally interesting, but it does use the word “gay” in the original sense of “happy,” something a company would certainly not do today.