I think one of the biggest reasons many women and parents are displeased with the media today is that there is a harsh imbalance of male-female fantasies portrayed in the media. In this essay I will discuss the reasons this imbalance prevents gender equality and creates a malevolent, one-dimensional view of young women in America.
First and foremost, it is important to recognize that all visual media has been edited. It is the art of editing–of selecting specific close-up, medium, and long shots in a particular order–that tells a story. Each shot is chosen specifically and delicately in this order, as to perfectly illustrate the story being told. Each cut simulates a blink of the eye, and with each blink we are concentrating on a new facet of the portrayed experience.
In real life, this is not so. When we blink, our eyes show us the same scene, the same environment. We cannot skip over the boring, monotonous, or irrelevant moments like in film. Life is one long, uncut scene. By editing these moments together with a specific intent (the intent to create a story), we are creating pure fantasy. Every piece of edited media you see is fantasy. Commercials, tv, film, video games, and the horribly misnamed “reality” tv.
The problem is, if you look at the people directing and editing these commercials, they are almost all male. The director of photography (person behind the camera), the director itself, and the editors tend to be male. When you get a combination like this, even if the script’s writer is female, the story being told is influenced by the desires of these men in the same way that any film or piece of media is influenced by each hand that touches it. I want to reiterate that there is nothing wrong with male fantasies, something that vocal people posing as feminists will contest. The problem occurs when our society is dominated only by these fantasies, and there is a lack of female representation.
And here is another one, also by GoDaddy (are you noticing a trend here?):
By the way: every single crew member, ad executive, and pre-production member for the GoDaddy commercial above is male. The only exceptions? The actresses.
Now that you’re hopefully starting to feel enlightened, let’s move on to the next part of this essay. The “equality part.”
To illustrate my point, I would like to use the Old Spice campaign as an example. Note that this campaign differs only from the Axe campaign in that it switches the stereotyped gender roles.
Well what do we have here? From the advertising agency we have a female Executive Creative Director, a female Producer, a female Producer Interactive, and another female Producer Interactive. And in the crew, there is a a female Executive Producer, and a female Line Producer.
Solving the Problem
I love Old Spice commercials. First and foremost, they are hilarious. You have a good-looking guy fulfilling every female fantasy in one long take. One reason this works so well is because of the editing reasons I mentioned before–there is no cut. It is one long take, and this lack of editing simulates real life. However, its motion graphics and special effects make it very clear that it is still only a fantasy.
However, if you are to look at this commercial in the manner that sexualized female characters are looked at by other women, you will see that not everything is so fine and dandy after all. The Old Spice guy is being objectified and sexualized. His character’s only mission is to satisfy women.
Is that sort of male objectification ethical? No. Objectification of either gender causes people’s personalities and souls to be disregarded as we cast them off as objects for looking at, or, as we commonly call it, “pieces of meat.” So how do we combat this? There is clearly objectification coming from both sides of the gender pool, with one side greatly outweighing the other…
The answer: balance it out! There is no way you can ask a male artist not to paint his fantasy, whether on a canvas or on camera. That’s not fair nor ethical, as we should all have the freedoms to write, film, or paint our fantasies. But what you can do is balance out those male fantasies with female fantasies. And this is important for empowering young women and helping them understand they do not need to be sexual or beautiful to be successful people.
A lot of things have changed for women’s status since our parents time, our grandparents time, and the generation before them, but that doesn’t mean the struggle is over yet. More women than ever are attending college (and out-attending men even), working, and running for office. Men don’t offer women seats on the train anymore, and they won’t pay for your dinner every time you go on a date. We are living under the pretense that both genders are equal, and yet we are lacking a HUGE female influence in the media and political arenas. This is not right, it has to change. Too many women and men live in ignorance of our world’s domination by male fantasies and the insecurities it creates for both men and women (but especially women).
Equality can only be achieved by equal representation. Ever heard the saying, “99% of life is just showing up?” Well women, you (we) need to start showing up and getting out there. In film, in tv, in advertising, and in politics. Don’t be intimidated by male dominance in the industry. What’s the worst that can happen by trying? In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of equality, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”