Lizl Morden
CULTURE

Dear Advertising Agencies – part two

Lizl Morden
Lizl Morden

By Lizl Morden

Hello, advertisers. Me again. It has been almost a year since I wrote voicing my opinion of your opinion of gender and its stereotypes. I thought it would be fun to have a look at your work since then. Well I was wrong; it was not fun at all. It was rather disheartening.  Since this is an article and not a book I’ll just go over the highlights.

I’m just going to point out that these are ads I did not mention last time , so this excludes sexists ads from last year that are still airing. All-new sexism in your lounge. And these are only TV ads, not including print and radio. (Any takers to cover sexism in those media?) Let’s get straight into it:

• Vodacom – Errol. The nagging wife and hen-pecked husband. Does this poor woman not know how to use a lawn mower? I don’t, but if I were married to man who was as reluctant to mow the lawn as Errol is you bet your sweet ass I’d learn. Ain’t nobody got time for ticks. Does Errol not know where the off button on his phone is? (Google it brah. Or ask Siri.) Do the people at this agency have a creative bone in their bodies?

• KFC (you again, hi!) – double down (aside from a heart attack in foil and tasting like a bad 80s action movie from what the ad tells me). Men, real men, eat manly food. Yes, there is such a thing is manly food. #sarcasm. And real men cannot verbally express themselves. They are basically cavemen with bad hairstyles.

• and then we have Spur – Daddy bear. A hungry man is literally an animal! I think I see a trend…

• Lays – Brazilian police officer in a traffic jam. This is plainly sexual harassment! “Aw c’mon”, I hear you protest, “it’s just a little bit of fun”. Try this: if the sexes of the parties involved were switched, I’m pretty sure there would be many complaints. While I do agree that the man is way hot, I do not think that is any reason to feel him up (without his permission and as a person in a position of authority) and steal his chips.

• Paco Rabanne – Lady million. Gender stereotyping. Of course, all woman only want tons of shoes and big diamonds.  Another ad is objectification pure and simple. When the man clicks his fingers the woman does something (strips), plus she ends up as literal golden object.

• Handy Andy – cleaning knight. It’s a cleaning knight! Smile face …. and the knight is a woman. Frowny face. It’s great that the knight is a woman but a male knight doing domestic chores would be even better.

•Vanish – embarrassing for my husband. I did mention this ad last time but now I have video evidence. You know what is embarrassing? This ad. For all humans everywhere.

• CTM – cheapskate husband , easily offended wife, man is offended when he is told his womanly side is coming out. As if only (and all) women have an eye for tiles.

• Shield – Do more. The men do physical things like playing table tennis while the women do physical things like walking down a catwalk. The passivity of women and some male gaze, anyone? Or, at the very least, different levels of physical activity.

But it’s not all bad! Shout out to:
• Toyota for having a woman driving a bakkie in their ad
• Omo for having a girl kick a muddy soccer ball
• Sunfoil: A man is cooking! And he’s not braaing.
• Dettol cream cleaner: Usually in ads for domestic products (omo, knorrox and ariel spring to mind) women are the consumers and men are the scientists. But this dettol ad shows a woman (who is also the consumer) in a lab coat. Progress. I like it.

I included links where I could find them so you could see the sexism I speak of with your own eyes. And I really did not go looking to find ads that offend me. They just appeared on my screen with their offensiveness.

As a somewhat related aside, I would like to challenge beer companies and their advertisers to produce an advert that features women actually enjoying beer. Actually enjoying it of their own volition, not as a guilty pleasure or as a guy thing. Do this and I will figuratively do a song and a dance about it (and maybe even support that brand and its gender-neutral beverage…).

As ever, yours sincerely
Lizl

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GENDER POLITICS, JOBS

Do we deserve the way we are treated in the workplace

jahni cowley
Jahni Cowley

By Jahni Cowley

I’m a trade unionist and a single mother. As part of my job, I am confronted by people with problems in their workplace, on a daily basis. It continues to strike me how easily women accept the way they are treated at work: It seems we believe we deserve to be second class citizens.

I don’t mean to perpetuate the stereotype of nurturing woman versus hunter man. I accept that this isn’t always the case, but the difference between masculinity and femininity reaches a climax in the workplace. It’s almost like we retreat to our primal brain. Maybe it’s the desk, I don’t know.

Why is it that we are so apologetic about ourselves? I do believe in differences between people related to gender, we can probably argue whether this is nature or nurture, innate or learned behaviour, but the fact is we have certain qualities that make us women. Different from men. I do not have a problem with the fact that I am softer than my male colleagues, because different does not mean weak.

I have deep empathy with other people, and it’s a trait more naturally associated with women than men. It’s also a trait that will garner you ridicule, if you allow it. It’s seen as an undesirable, negative thing to develop an emotional bond with your colleagues or clients or people you are helping, because it makes you less productive, a little slower, a little more human, and we don’t do human anymore. We are here to do a job and to get out, that’s it.

Our reaction is often immediately apologetic.We change our ways, we surpress our caring. We will become artificially business-like.

Why do we believe that we are wrong? Why do we subscribe to the belief that there is only one right way, which is the way we perceive a male colleague would handle a situation?

We tolerate cultural differences in the workplace, but we do not tolerate gender differences. We do not accept the fact that a mother with a sick child cannot possibly concentrate fully on her work, no matter how good her childcare options are. We see her as weak. We would regard a father in the same situation as weak too, because caring and showing emotion are regarded as weak, feminine traits.

None of this is news, we know it. It’s ingrained. What bothers me is how women react to it: We accept the status quo, we don’t rock the boat. We try to change ourselves, creating so much inner conflict that we end up unable to do our work anyway, end up in trouble. In that case, I would argue that we deserve the treatment we get, we deserve to be less than, because we don’t stand up!

Wouldn’t it be revolutionary if we said no? Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if we used our voices instead of meekly accepting? We have come so far, we choose to have careers AND children AND love, but we are still so far behind in terms of acceptance of ourselves as equal.

I have stood up and rebelled. I am no longer apologising for the softer parts of me, I do have empathy, I do get involved, so be it. I challenge every working woman to do the same. Life is not about competition, it’s about balance: To balance the male and female, the hard and the soft, the masculine and the feminine, in order to reach a goal.

We are different, but we are not less than.

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Jahni Cowley is an LLB graduate from NMMU, who fell in love with labour law and labour relations. She’s a trade unionist, single mom, social media addict and blogs in the little bit of spare time she has left (www.jahnicowley.co.za)

GENDER POLITICS, SEX AND SEXUALITY

The masculine mystique

Kyla Maimon Edinburg
Kyla Maimon Edinburg

By Kyla Maimon Edinburg

The main belief underlying feminism is that women are treated unequally in society. One particular idea is that much of the work that women do is domestic labour and this is neither recognised nor paid.  However, financial freedom leads to more choices and when ‘women’s work’ is not paid they are left with fewer choices in life.

A large part of the feminist movement has been a move towards giving women greater access to education and work – moving them out of the domestic domain – and encouraging women to be more in control of their lives. As feminists we have made great progress but we still have far to go and feminists everywhere continue to fight for this. Men, who generally have unrestricted access to the things women fight for, seem to have limitless choice and their freedom appears guaranteed.

However, there is a hidden aspect to unequal gender relations that is not easily acknowledged for men. This is the disadvantages men experience in the current gender relations. While this thought may seem shocking, they do not have as many choices as it first appears.

Men are encumbered with the responsibility of providing financially for their families. Many men feel trapped in a cycle of work that they do not enjoy, because it provides them with money and status. It seems like many men are afraid to give this up even though they may wish for a different kind of work, perhaps one that pays less, or not at all, such as being a stay-at–home father. However, some men are able to (in whispered tones) share their wish to be more involved in the lives of their partners and children, and also to have less financial pressure. Many men are not able to admit this, but live with a deep sense of dissatisfaction that they cannot name.

Women may also find this hard to acknowledge. We have fought so hard for many of the opportunities that men so easily have access to and perhaps we overlook the benefits that our position can offer us. Despite the struggles of being a stay-at-home mom (lack of financial freedom, the guilt) or being a working mother (double the work, the guilt) women are often able to be very involved in their children’s lives. Meanwhile this is very difficult, even impossible, for most men.

However, it is important to note that these preferences are dependent on the person and not the gender. Many men love working, as do many women. There are also a great number of happy women who stay at home or juggle work and family. However, for those that want something outside of their gender roles this can be hard to achieve. Lots of men would be afraid to not work because of the societal expectation that they do. Men who are able to break the mould and stay at home may have to face feeling emasculated in a society that does not give enough value to the work a parent does.

Therefore, this becomes a societal problem, and not just a gender problem. As long as domestic work, and parenting, is not recognised for the value it holds and therefore it is not financially reimbursed, many people (men and women) who would love to stay at home are forced to work. As a society we all lose out.

Women are, happily or unhappily, doing jobs that continue to be underpaid, or they stay at home and their financial freedom is limited. Meanwhile, men are away from their families for the majority of the time in order to support them. Most importantly, children are being raised by one parent, who may be unhappy with this role, or being raised by a stranger and being deprived of the nurturance and care of the people who love them the most.

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Kyla Maimon Edinburg is a clinical psychologist working in the community clinics. She has a special interest in gender relations.

GENDER POLITICS, SEX AND SEXUALITY

The Royal Arse

Tammy Sutherns
Tammy Sutherns

By Tammy Sutherns

I’m not one to comment much on the rich, famous or royal. But I did a double take when I saw a story on News 24 this morning that read, “Kate Middleton apologises to William”.

Firstly let’s just dismantle the headline. Why do readers need to know that it is Kate “Middleton” that we are referring to, but we don’t need to know that we are talking about William Mountbatten-Windsor or Prince William? It implies that we will all know who William is, but may need a refresher on who Kate is. My argument is that surely you should either have the headline, “Kate apologises to William,” as those interested will know who they are referring to, or have the headline, “Kate Middleton apologises to Prince William.” Equal ne?

The opening line of the story reads, “Duchess Catherine is said to begging Prince William for forgiveness.”

Erm … I’m pretty sure William was right there next to her when those photographs were taken. While I have not seen the pictures myself, I’m pretty sure he didn’t look like he was complaining at the time either.

The story goes on to say, “The 30-year-old future queen is devastated at the thought of upsetting him and the rest of the royal family and can’t stop apologising since the photos of her sunbathing topless hit newsstands earlier this month.”

This brings me to my next point. She wasn’t involved in anything illegal, she wasn’t smoking a joint or hiring a prostitute. The poor girl was just sun tanning. As far as publishing the pictures goes, it wasn’t in the public’s interest and so it was the newspapers that are in the wrong and by all means, are legally liable. Everyone simply needs to Let. It. Go.

But my real concern is that the way that the media portrays women is still very distorted. What this story depicts is an ashamed woman who needs to beg forgiveness from her husband for something he was very much a part of. If you are married to a prince, you shouldn’t dare show your royal arse to anyone as you might upset his entire family, causing shame and embarrassment. Is this the message we are portraying to all of the little girls who want to grow up to be princesses? Harry’s little naked mistake a few weeks earlier, on the other hand, was forgotten within in minutes.

I know that we are dealing with the gossip sector of media, a sector that thrives off other people’s misdemeanors, unhappiness and embarrassing moments. We can’t hold their moral compass too high. However the embedded messages that it is sending its consumers is rather frightening for the year 2012. From the subtle ways that headlines are worded to the more obvious stories coming across, it seems to me that women in the public eye are expected to be perfect trophies that dare not misbehave.

Kate, you flaunt that body and flaunt it proud.

GENDER POLITICS

Equality – a feminist dream

Nobantu Shabangu
Nobantu Shabangu

By Nobantu Shabangu

Equality in both private and public areas of life is my ideal dream and that of many feminists. What that means is that since we ask for equality in the boardroom we also ask for equality in our homes. The notion that women must bear fifty percent labour at their jobs but more than seventy percent in the homes is absurd. It is not to say that women can’t handle this amount of work; they can and they have for many years.

Typically the working heterosexual woman works twice as hard to get noticed in the workforce, she then gets home and often has to cook, help the children with their homework, and tend to her husband or boyfriend. Men get to work and their opinion and influence in the workplace is rarely questioned. In many homes men do not take on any additional housework.

I am not blind to modernisation. I know that modern couples outsource their work to alleviate their labour: women get domestic workers and tutors, men get gardeners and mechanics. But there are still men who believe that women need to be more active in their homes. A powerful successful woman in the office who does not cook or clean or iron when she gets home is considered a failure of woman to some men.

What pricked my attention to this issue is the trend of men on social networks who constantly state that they need a cultured woman, cultured in their context did not mean having a heritage or tradition; it referred to the traditional role of women. That is, women cooking, cleaning, ironing and basically being homemakers. Most of these men have demanding jobs; one of them was a popular DJ. The message this sends is that women have to be CEOs, mothers and wives but men can be CEOs, part-time fathers and part-time husbands. It is unfair.

If men want cultured women then they themselves need to be cultured. Men must not forget that modernisation happened to them only, it happened to women too. My dream as a little girl was to have a husband who would build our house from the bottom up. He would have to plan it, finance it and physically build it, lay the foundations and lay bricks one on top of the other. My dreams quickly diminished when I realised that gender roles can change. We could both plan it, we could both finance it, and since we would both be busy making money we would find somebody else to build it for us. Why is it that men can’t amend their dream of the ultimate women to suit modern times?

Women aren’t ox built only to pull the weight men delegate to them. Women are beings with aspirations and dreams: being a mother and wife should not be a stumbling block to those dreams. A wife and children to men aren’t stumbling blocks to their dreams and success and it should be the same for women.

It is men who make being a mother and wife a stumbling block; it is the heavy unforgiving expectations that make us reconsider being either. It is society built on patriarchal foundations that forces women to continually bear the brunt of an unequal share of labour.

I am not asking for a switch of gender roles. I’m asking for a non-gender based filling of those roles.