Ray Rice’s violent assault of Janay Palmer has placed a spotlight on the criminal records of professional football players more generally. It is tempting to presume that men who spend their lives perfecting the use of violence are more violent in their day-to-day lives, but we don’t have to speculate. We have some data.
USA Today maintains a database of charges, citations, and arrests of NFL players since 2000 (ones they found out about, in any case). According to their records, 2.53% of players are arrested in any given year. This is lower than the national average for men of the same age. And, despite the publicity, this year looks like it will be the least criminal on record.
Domestic violence is the third most common charge or cite, following closely behind another violent crime, assault and battery. But by far the most common trouble NFL players face is being charged with a DUI.
Interestingly, not all teams have similar rates of arrests, charges, or cites. These data below reflect 15 years of data, showing the wide disparity among teams. The number of run-ins with police tend to correlate well year-to-year, so this chart represents a stable trend.
Neil Irwin, writing at the New York Times, says that varying levels of criminal activity may be related to club culture (that is, some franchise’s may be better at suppressing or inciting criminal activity than others) or it may be influenced by the cities they play for (e.g., there won’t be as many DUIs in cities like New York City where there’s substantially less driving). Both are great sociological explanations for the variation between teams and consistency across seasons.
In Hearts of Men, Barbara Ehrenreich talks about the launching of Playboy in 1953 and how it forever changed how we thought about single men.
At that time, a man who stayed single was suspected of homosexuality. The idea of being an unmarried heterosexual adult of sound mind and body was totally foreign. Hugh Hefner changed all of that by inventing a whole new kind of man, the playboy. The playboy stayed single (so as to have lots of ladies), kept his money for himself and his indulgences (booze and ladies), and re-purposed the domestic sphere (enter the snazzy bachelor pad full of booze and ladies).
With this in mind, check out this attempt to attract advertising dollars from a 1969 issue (found at Vintage Ads). It nicely demonstrates Playboy‘s marketing of a new kind of man, one who lives a free and adventurous life that is unburdened by a boring, dead-end job needed to support a wife and kids.
What sort of man reads Playboy? He’s an entertaining young guy happily living the good life. And loving every adventurous minute of it. One recipe for his upbeat life style? Fun friends and fine potables. Facts. PLAYBOY is read by one of out every three men under 50 who drink alcoholic beverages. Small wonder beverage advertisers invest more dollars in PLAYBOY issue per issue than they do in any other magazine. Need your spirit lifted? This must be the place.
Today, we commonly come across the idea that men are naturally averse to being tied down, but Hefner’s project reveals that this was an idea that was invented quite recently and promulgated for profit.
Non-white people are increasingly being featured in advertisements and a principled interest in “diversity” is not the only, or likely even the main motivation.
In this series, I share some ideas about why and how people of color are included in advertising aimed primarily at whites. This post is about the inclusion of people of color in ads to invoke the idea of “color,” “flavor,” or “personality.”
Consider, this ad for Absolute Vodka Peach (“Find Your Flavor”) includes two white and two brown people, plus a set of silhouettes.
Holly F. and Lafin T.J. sent in three Life cereal box covers. Notice that “regular” Life has white people on the cover, while cinnamon and maple and brown sugar flavors have people of color on their covers:
In this pro-diversity ad, spice is literally used to represent diversity (via MultiCultClassics). (Just a bit misguided too: Just a teaspoon or less of color, please.)
This ad for Samba Colore by Swatch also uses a model of color:
“Welcome to the Color Factory.” These two ads for a color photo printer and a color printer cartridge both use models of color alongside white models in order to express how “colorful” their product is.
Bri sent in these four images (three from Gap and one from United Colors of Benneton). Each Gap ad is advertising a different product, with an emphasis on how many colors they come in (bottom right corner). They all, also, feature models of color. Here’s just one of them:
And, of course, the United Colors of Benneton is famous for its use of models of color in its ads, blending quite purposefully the idea of clothing colors and skin colors:
Finally Joshua B. sent in this photo of two french fry holders, one with a black and one with a white woman, reading “never a dull moment, only tasty,” and “Is it wrong to think Arby’s all the time.” The black woman, then, is presented alongside the ideas of excitement and flavor:
In New Orleans there is this magical thing where you can put your alcoholic drink in a plastic cup of any kind and leave the establishment you are patronizing — or even your own very house — and go outside!
It’s called a “go-cup” and, in its simplest form, it looks like this:
The bars and restaurants have them for your convenience and many residents keep a supply on hand too.
I still remember the first time I went to New Orleans, about five years ago, and realized that I could do this. It was… okay “liberating” might be a strong word… but it did bring into sharp relief the lack of freedom that I experience in other parts of the U.S. that do not allow public consumption of alcohol. Moreover, it revealed to me how deeply I had internalized the idea that (1) you can’t drink alcohol in public, (2) if you want to drink alcohol and you’re not at home, you have to purchase it from a vendor and, (3) if you purchase a drink, you must finish drinking it or abandon the remains if you want to go somewhere else.
None of these rules apply in New Orleans.
I had the pleasure of showing my friend Dolores around the city last month and chuckled as she kept forgetting that we could leave a bar or restaurant with a drink in hand. I’d suggest we go and she’d remember, suddenly, that we could. We didn’t have to sit around and finish our drinks. Or, even crazier, we could pop into a bar as we walked by, order a drink, and keep going our merry way. Her realization that these were possibilities happened over and over again, as she kept reverting to her non-conscious habits.
Dolores’ experience is a great example of how we internalize rules invented by humans to the point where they feel like laws of nature. In our daily lives in Los Angeles, where we both live, we hang out together and drink alcohol under the local regulations. We rarely feel constrained by these because we forget that it could be another way. This is the power of culture to make alternative ways of life invisible and, as a result, gain massive public conformity to arbitrary norms and laws.
At the New Statesman, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter skewer the common media hand-wringing over women who get drunk in public. Above and beyond the victim-blaming “don’t make yourself so rape-able” message, Cosslett and Baxter point out that the tsk-tsking is deeply laden with the idea that women should behave like “ladies.” This, of course, is an old-fashioned notion suggesting that women are or should be the moral superiors of men (invented during the Victorian era).
Using a Daily Mail article as an example, they criticize the typical language and imagery that accompanies these stories:
Platell’s piece manages to feature almost every aspect of drunken female behaviour that tabloids simultaneously loathe and desire. Yes, this article has the whole shebang: long lens photos of young women with their fishnets torn up to the bum at a fancy dress party in freshers’ week; phrases like “barely leaving anything to the imagination” and “neo-feminists behaving like men” and creepily voyeuristic descriptions of “pretty young girls lying comatose on the pavement.”
From another point of view, Cosslett and Baxter argue, this looks like “a pretty cracking night out,” stumbles and all.
They point out, smartly, that many of these stories frame women’s interest in alcohol as an effort to hang with the boys. The message, they explain, is that “‘young ladies’ are being warped by the hard-drinking university culture… going along with men’s behaviour because they’re weak-willed and they think it will make them look cool.”
Because men invent things, and then women jump on board because they feel like they have to — that’s the way of the world, isn’t it? It’s not like those of the female variety enjoy a pint, after all, or even — God forbid — enjoy the sensation of drunkenness once in a blue moon. It’s not as though our decision whether or not to drink has anything to do with us or our own lives… modern female binge drinking is still all about the men.
This is not to defend drinking per se, or binge drinking or public drunkeness, but to point out the gendered coverage of the phenomenon, which still portrays women’s drinking as somehow less natural, more worrisome, and more dangerous than men’s.
A recent Guinness ad has been getting a lot of kudos and I want to join in the praise. It involves a set of guys who get together to play a pick-up game of wheelchair basketball and then join each other at a bar to celebrate the game. Lots of people have mentioned that it’s nice to see (1) a lack of objectification of women as a form of male bonding and (2) a nice representation of people with disabilities. Both of those things are great in my book.
But here’s another thing I really liked: their retreat to the bar and their formation once they got there. They sat in a circle.
Why is this neat? Because scholars have found that male and female friendships tendto bedifferent. Male friendships tend to be more “shoulder-to-shoulder” than “face-to-face.” Men are more likely to get together and do stuff: they watch football together, go out and play pool, have poker nights, etc. Women are more likely to spend time just talking, confessing, disclosing, and being supportive of each other’s feelings.
The benefits of friendship are strongly related to self-disclosure. And so men’s friendships — if they don’t involve actual intimacy — often don’t offer the same boost to physical and well-being as women’s friendships. The fact that these guys sit down together at a bar, in a circle, in order to engage in some face-to-face time after their shoulder-to-shoulder time… well, that’s really nice to me.
Thanks to Rebecca H. for submitting the commercial!
In the Pittsburgh of my youth many decades ago, Rolling Rock was an ordinary, low-priced local beer – like Duquesne (“Duke”) or Iron City. (“Gimme a bottle of Iron,” was what you’d say to the bartender. And if you were a true Pittsburgher, you pronounced it “Ahrn.”). The Rolling Rock brewery was in Latrobe, PA, a town about forty miles east whose other claim to fame was Arnold Palmer. The print ads showed the pure sparking mountain stream flowing over rocks.
That was then. In the late 1980s, Rolling Rock started expanding – geographically outward and socially upward. Typically, when ideas and fashions diffuse through the social class structure they flow downward. Less frequently, the educated classes embrace an artifact of working-class culture. But why? Their conspicuous consumption (or “signalling,” as we now say) is saying something, but what ideas about themselves and the social landscape are they expressing with their choice of beer?
I had an e-mail exchange about that question with Keith Humphreys, who blogs at The Reality-Based Community. He too grew up in western Pennsylvania, and we both recalled being surprised years later to see Rolling Rock as a beer of choice among young stock traders and other decidedly non-working-class people. But we had different ideas as to what these cosmopolitans thought they were doing. Keith saw it as their way of identifying with the working class.
Those of us who grew up near Latrobe, Pennsylvania are agog when upscale hipsters who could afford something better drink Rolling Rock beer as a sign of their solidarity with us.*
I was more skeptical. I saw it as the hipsters (or before them, the yuppies) trying to be even more hip – so discerning that they could discover an excellent product in places everyone else had overlooked. Rolling Rock was a diamond in the rough, a Jackson Pollock for $5 at a yard sale. The cognoscenti were not identifying with the working-class. They were magnifying the distance. They were saying in effect, “Those people don’t know what a prize they have. But I do.”
I had no real data to support that idea, so I asked Gerry Khermouch, who knows more about beverage marketing than do most people. His Beverage Business Insights puts out industry newsletters, and he writes for Adweek and Brandweek. He’s also beverage buddies with the guys who changed Rolling Rock marketing. Here’s what he said,
[F]ar from expressing solidarity with the working class, urban drinkers far afield regarded it as an upscale icon in much the way that Stella Artois has claimed today — a triumph of pure marketing.
One ad campaign in the 90s, “Subtle Differences,” aimed directly at the drinker’s connoisseur fantasies. Here are two examples:
Words like nuance were hardly an appeal to solidarity with the working-class. Neither was the strategy of raising the price rather than lowering it.
To the marketers, the nuance, the malt, bite, and body didn’t count for much. Their big investment was in packaging. Instead of stubby bottles with paper labels, they returned to the long-necked, painted-label bottles with the mysterious “33” on the back. Apparently, the original packaging, the “Old Latrobe” reference, and the rest added notes of working-class authenticity.
As for the actual beer inside those bottles, it may have once been what the ad copy said. The brewers had tried to overcome the “watery” image from the beer’s early water-over-the-rocks imagery. But when Anheuser-Busch bought the company in 2006, they closed the Latrobe brewery, and Rolling Rock became a watery, biteless product indistinguishable from the other innocuous lagers that dominate the US market.
Rape reporting, prosecution, and conviction rates across the country are appallingly low, but it’s easier to get away with sexual assault in some places compared to others. Pennsylvania is one of those places. In Pennsylvania, expert testimony isn’t allowed in the courtroom. Instead, jurors frequently rely on abundant, harmful rape myths.
We shouldn’t be that surprised, then, that earlier this week the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) aired an ad plainly promoting the idea that women are to blame for being raped.
The ad shows a young woman sprawled on what appears to be a bathroom floor, underwear down at her ankles, with the caption, “She didn’t want to do it, but she couldn’t say no.” The victim blaming here couldn’t be any clearer, right down to the illogical language suggesting that the victim both had agency (she is to blame) and lacked agency (because she couldn’t say “no”).
Crafted by the Neiman Group, this ad was part of a larger $600,00 campaign — two years in the making — to raise awareness of the ill effects of drinking. Several different themes were proposed, but this was the “winner.” Another ad in the same campaign holds a rape victim’s friend responsible for her rape.
The PLCB pulled the ad campaign in response to hundreds of messages from concerned citizens, some of whom claimed they were traumatized by the image/message. However, a statement from the PLCB shows that those in charge still don’t comprehend the problem:
“We feel very strong, and still do, that when we entered the initial discussion about doing a campaign like this it was important to bring the most difficult conversations about over-consumption of alcohol to the forefront and all of the dangers associated with it—date rape being one of these things.”
The PLCB is right that alcohol and “date” rape (a term that trivializes rape) go hand in hand, but not because women are responsible for the criminal actions of the approximate 6% of men who perpetrate this crime. Instead, perpetrators exploit cultural narratives — like the idea that intoxication = miscommunication and that “date rape” isn’t “real” rape — to repeatedly commit this crime. In a recent study of college students, 4% of men were found to be serial rapists; they committed an average of 5.8 rapes each.
In short, sexual assault is committed by (often serial) perpetrators. Yet ad campaigns like this will continue to ensure that sexual assault will continue to be the only crime in which society treats the victim like a perpetrator.