product: jewelry

Bern K. and Megan P. sent us another example of androcentrism (see herehere, here, and here), one that is nicely combined with the representation of women as annoying naggers, and the social construction of diamonds as men’s best friend.  Bern writes:

It starts off with promise, showing that it’s ridiculous for a man to buy his wife a vacuum cleaner for their anniversary. It finishes, unfortunately, by suggesting that the only way to get out of the doghouse is to buy his wife diamonds.

In the 5-minute commercial, men are punished by their wives for being insensitive or insulting by being sent to the “doghouse.”  In this five minute advertisement for JC Penney, men who have been sent to the doghouse are punished by being forced to do feminine tasks: fold laundry, eat quiche, and drink chai lattes.  There is some irony in that the main dude was sent to the doghouse for buying his wife a vacuum for their anniversary.  Apparently he wouldn’t want to be caught dead vacuuming… which is exactly why the gift might be considered insulting.  After all, when you give a woman a cleaning product for a gift, it means you think it’s HER JOB.

The video:

The website include the sound of a woman nagging and giving inconsistent orders (“speak less,” “talk more”).

How to get out of the doghouse? Buy your wife diamonds (at JC Penney):

I like how it says that she’ll be “screaming and jumping for joy.”  Gah, women are so shallow and annoying.

There’s more!  The website is interactive.  You can actually put people in the doghouse.  If you are on Facebook, you can upload someone’s profile picture and have it show up on the website.  A fascinating new way to merge advertising and social networking sites.

NEW (Jan. ’10)!  JC Penney apparently thought this campaign was so delightful that they updated it for 2009. Joel P. sent us the link. It’s really quite obnoxious (for all the reasons discussed above):

Jezebel also has a nice analysis.

I found this ad for the De Beers diamond company in the New Yorker:

It uses the fascinating strategy of selling diamonds, an unnecessary luxury item made very expensive because the De Beers company has a monopoly on diamond mines and makes sure to keep supply artificially low, by criticizing consumerism based on buying unnecessary items. The message here is that we should stop buying so much unnecessary stuff…but that diamonds don’t fall into the category of unnecessary. Rather, diamonds are “better” things you should cherish “forever.” Of course, this anti-consumerist, buy-less-stuff message is also useful for De Beers because buying fewer things might be the only way, in a struggling economy, for people to save up to buy one or two more expensive items that can become family heirlooms to be “passed down for generations”…such as, say, diamonds.

Honestly, this is one of the most interesting ads I’ve seen in a while. I mean, it takes some nerve to sell luxury jewelry by telling people to stop wasting money on unimportant things.

UPDATE: Commenter Barbar pointed me to this interesting article in The Atlantic about the history of the diamond market.

I recently came upon these two ads in magazines and noticed how they both evoke old-money wealth and luxury.

I found this Rolex ad in The New Yorker. Notice the ivy-colored background and the connection to Wimbledon, an event (for a sport) often associated with the upper class.

The text says,

Defined by unparalleled grace, manicured courts, pressed tennis whites and achievement that’s second to none, Wimbledon stands alone. Timeless in its tradition, endless in its list of legends, history is no stranger to Wimbledon. Nor is the world’s appreciation of it. Rolex proudly celebrates its 30th anniversary as official timekeeper.

“Manicured courts” and “pressed tennis whites” bring up images of aristocratic lifestyles, and the ad connects Wimbledon (and, therefore, Rolex) to “tradition” and “history.”

I can’t remember for sure where I found this ad for the Toyota Corolla, but I think in Glamour (don’t ask).

The text, which is clearly to be taken less seriously than the Rolex ad:

Ascots, tiaras, and sway bars, oh my! Once you purchase the 2009 Corolla, you’ll start living the dream. To ensure a smooth transition into high society, we’ve equipped the Corolla with revised suspension, springs, and sway bars, which will keep any recently acquired tiara firm upon your brow. If you’re more of the fetching ascot type, consider the comfortable ride an accessory to your necktie. Whatever flourishes you fancy, the Electronically Controlled Transmission and Vehicle Stability Control will distinguish your dominion over the road. Live the dream for less coin.

I thought it was interesting that the second ad (for a car not generally associated with the upper class) is trying to evoke the idea of luxury, but in a joking wink-wink way, whereas the Rolex ad clearly has no element of parody about it–the connection to “tradition” and “pressed tennis whites” is completely serious.

I found these Ray Ban ads at Copyranter,

I also found this cassette tape belt buckle (here), cassette tape bag (here), and boom box pendant (here).

These remind me of this T-shirt with pictures of safety pins on it.  When you’re so old school that you, um, buy a t-shirt with… well I guess you’re just buying a t-shirt.

Soon after reading my post on “ethnic” fashion, Robin noticed an article in the New York Times about “tribal” elements in fashion. According to the article, “The tribal trend, seen on spring runways awash with ikat, batik, and African wax prints, is hot this summer.” We helpfully learn, “The specimens are rarely authentic, mind you. Rather, designers have appropriated ethnic elements and given them a modern spin.” According to one designer,

“It’s a dialogue between what’s traditional and new, and between East and West,” she said. “Our weavers in Uzbekistan find it really surprising and a real struggle to begin with. At first they don’t like the reworked designs, but over time they acquire appreciation.”

A quote from another designer:

“The enticement of ethnic dress in modern culture is like going on a guided safari,” he said. “We can enjoy the element we are familiar with and attracted to, while not giving up our daily comforts. We can wave to the lion from the safety of our S.U.V.”

So wearing “ethnic” clothing is like going on a sightseeing trip where you can look at savage animals but in a safe way that doesn’t actually bring you in contact with them…interesting. “We” (non-ethnic) people can pick and choose a few things from other cultures but without giving up “daily comforts,” or, like, knowing anything about other people or thinking through thorny issues like who that “we” encompasses and who is doing the defining of “we” and the ethnic “them.” I have to say, the “We can enjoy the element we are…attracted to…” made me think of sex tourism.

Notice here that, first, “ethnic” or “tribal” is applied to an enormous range of cultures spanning the globe that have little in common except not being from Western Europe or the U.S. Also, we see that “ethnic” fashion = traditional = non-modern = wild/animalistic = Eastern, whereas “modern” fashion = Western = non-ethnic. Because there is no ethnicity in the “West.” Except when designers use “traditional” Aztec or Mayan or Mexican or Laplander or etc. etc. prints in their “ethnic” designs.

Here are some pictures from the accompanying slide show:

This purse is $565. The weaving is what the quote from the first designer above was saying she struggled with Uzbeki producers about, since they didn’t like her reworked versions of their “traditional” patterns. I wonder how much of that $565 goes to those weavers?

The caption to the photo of these boots is “cultural gumbo.” They are $350.

These bangles come in cashmere, tweed, and cotton and are $45-125. The article does not tell me if I am being “ethnic” and going on a fashion safari every time I wear my black cashmere cardigan. Maybe it has to be brightly-colored cashmere to be “tribal.”

These shoes are $715. They are ethnic because they are silk and I guess maybe that’s supposed to be a vaguely Asian-y print on the black ones. My years of training in a rigorous sociology Ph.D. program also give me the critical thinking and analytical skills to tell you with certainty that they are hideously ugly.

These clutches are $450. They are ethnic because they use a style of dying called ikat, and also probably because they have a vaguely animal-print design.

Great find, Robin!

NEW: Katie J. sent in a link to Pepperlime (part of the Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy empire), which features shoes that let the wearer “go tribal”:


A while ago I posted a set of ads for engagement rings, asking what those ads had to sell you in order to also sell you a diamond ring (see the post here).  Then Miguel sent us the ad below, writing: “This ad is almost too honest.”  Indeed.  Notice that it also supposes that it is the quality of the ring, and not the quality of the groom, that makes a woman happy on the day she says “yes” to marriage.


I use this set of engagement ring ads, though any set would do, to illustrate the way in which ads have to sell much more than just the product. To sell an engagement ring, these ads also are selling: monogamy and the pair bond; marriage as the proper way to cement that bond; love, and love as a basis for marriage; the need for a symbol of commitment and a ring (a diamond ring specifically, apparently platinum preferably) as that symbol; men’s role as financial provider and decider (in that he buys the ring and proposes); the importance of the proposal (it needs to be a surprise and an event in itself); the importance of an expensive ring (i.e., “Does he know how much I really love him?”); and… what else?


Text: “When you can truly be yourselves. Your love has just gone Platinum.”


Text: “Tacori: A symbol of unending love”


Text: “Never compromise… when asking someone to spend the rest of their life with you.”


Text: “Platinum. For a lifetime of love. Platinum’s purity endows it with a natural white luster which allows the true radiance of your diamond to shine. As uncommon as true love, platinum is 35 times rarer than gold. Like the bond between you, platinum will hold your diamond securely now and for always.”


She asks: “Does he know how much I really love him?”

Under the image: “With love comes questions. The right diamond shouldn’t be one of them.”


Text: “For one moment the world is spinning around her.”

Here’s an ad for earrings that has the same message about love:


The smaller text says,

Every hearts on fire diamond is cut and polished at 100% magnification to guarantee a life of intensity.

I honestly don’t know what we’re supposed to get out of this–that buying this ring will bring so much passion and “intensity” to your relationship (by setting your “hearts on fire”) that there will be no reason to stray? That buying her a ring will turn her on so much that the sex will be fantastic enough to satisfy him? I really don’t know.

From Metropolitan Home.