Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Media Midterm Project: More Than A Bank Account

More Than A Bank Account
IndentAccording to Western society, women today have everything they want; they can vote, have any job, and marry whom they please. Sexism no longer exists…right? Many people would like to think this, but in today’s society there are many implicit and explicit examples of sexism. As Susan Douglas explains in her novel Enlightened Sexism, sexism today says that women are equal to men in every way, as well as telling women that the route to power is though their bodies, sexuality, and attire. Enlightened sexism reveals how sexism is still rampant, but no longer considered a serious issue. The media has fully adopted enlightened sexism. An example of this is the ad by Natan Jewelers . The ad has a man kneeling to a woman with a closed ring box; the woman’s legs are closed. In the next picture, the man opens the box to reveal a diamond ring; the woman’s legs are now spread open. This ad by Natan Jewelers demonstrates the sexism that still exists in today’s society and that blatant sexism sells. Women are still seen as inferior in terms of gender, race and power.
IndentGender is very important in this ad. The man in the ad is barely seen. The woman is the focus as, “girls and women are three times as likely as men to be sexually objectified to sell products in ads” (Douglass 182). The woman’s legs are thin and shapely, which is seen as attractive in Western culture. The ad does not just demonstrate how appearance is central in a woman, but also how apparently driven women are to get married. Before the woman in the ad sees the ring, she is not interested in sex. Now that she is going to be married, however, she is open to having sex. The ad, like many other media images, shows the “hailing of the pitiable helpless, self-absorbed, marriage-obsessed Bridget Jones as the epitome of millennial womanhood” (Douglas 115). This ad relays the sexist message that marriage is essential to women- so important that they will even have sex for it. As Paula Ettelbrick points out, “marriage defines certain relationships as more valid than others” (306). Being committed in a relationship does not equal marriage. Thus every woman must strive to find a man to marry her so her life can now be complete. Enlightened sexism sells the idea that marriage is the end goal for every woman. So Natan Jewelers uses this message and translate it into how vital it is to get that diamond ring. Natan Jewelers has a theme with its advertising. An engagement ring instantly changes how a woman sees the male. In each ad, the man is instantly more attractive (attractive enough to have sex with now!). Some more examples of their ads:
IndentYet, there is also another theme: race. The people displayed in Natan Jewelers ads are all white. In the ad with the man asking the woman to marry him, their faces are hidden, but their race is apparent. In fact, race is one of the few intelligible things about the people in the ad. So why are the people in this ad only white? Well according to enlightened sexism, African American women do not care about their marriages as much as white women do (Douglass 151). This ad is catered to wealthy, white people. If other races are less likely to be able to afford a Natan Jewelers’ engagement ring or less likely to get married, why have ads displaying their marriages? This is just one of the media’s messages to society regarding women. Douglas jokes about what the media now tells society as fact: “African American women are lazy, threatening, have a chip on their should, are not marriage material…” (208). Race along with sexism, is seen as unimportant today. Race and sex should not matter, so they do not. If only it were that easy.
IndentThe power that marriage gives is considerable. Ettelbrick writes, “marriage provides the ultimate form of acceptance for personal intimate relationships in our society, and gives those who marry an insider status of the most powerful kind” (306). Being married has many benefits, such as tax breaks. Who gets to decide when to marry? Why the man of course! A woman asking a man to marry her? Hilarious! Or even more shocking same-sex marriage! Natan Jewelers has a man proposing because this is what American culture says is correct. This ad is representing the double standard for men and women. The man has the power in the ad’s relationship because he is the only one who can pop that all-important question. What is made worse in this ad is that the man seems to only be proposing to the woman so that he can have sex with her. According to Natan Jewelers, people do not get married because they are in love. Instead, men propose to women because they want sex. Natan Jewelers exemplifies Douglas’s point when writing about advertising in the 21st century, “the rampant return to the often degrading sexual objectification of women” (155). The power play displayed in Natan Jewelers’ ad is said to be a joke, but the fact is that it is the truth.
IndentThe media sells the message that sexism is over. Feminism should be dead because women are equal to men. Yet if sexism does not matter, then why can the white woman only give sex in return for the favor of proposing to her? It is ironic that sexism is supposed to be dead when society is full of it. Women are told that they are equal to men, but at the same time degrading ads such as Natan Jewelers’ one profess the actual view of the media. The media professes an idea of gender equality while also printing ads, such as Natan Jeweler’s. When speaking of trying to find appropriate ads for the Ms. Magazine, Gloria Steinem writes, “that our main problem would be the imagery in the ads themselves” because, as she points out, sex sells (2). Natan Jewelers printed this ad because they believed it would be successful. So Natan Jewelers tells men that after giving an engagement ring, they get to open more than just a joint banking account. The ad is made out to be a joke, but in reality, only reveals how far women still have to go before they can really be considered equal to men.

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