My Three Major Problems With The Sexist Snickers Commercial

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I’m sure most of us have already seen this Snickers commercial, and shared it on our social networks. When I first started watching it I had a visceral reaction because I thought “wow, good on whoever made this for showing a different perspective on construction workers!” I honestly thought it was about breaking down gender stereotypes, and didn’t think for a second it was about selling a product. Not that selling a product tied to an emotional message is wrong, but it’s the whole picture in this ad.

I am Australian, and I am also a firm believer in the empowerment of women and extinguishing inequality on all fronts, but especially in the media as that is my bread and butter. Plus, as we can see from this video, it is one of the most powerful and talked about industries and mediums in the world. When I watched to the end and saw it was an advertisement for Snickers, and that all those empowering cat-call messages were said in an “altered state of being” because the men were just hungry and “not themselves”, I immediately felt deflated and a little angry.

Haven’t we come further than this in 2014? The first problem I have with the video lies with the advertising industry. I know it is their job to create clever, talked-about, highly-shared campaigns that will elevate visibility of a brand. I get it. But why are they still using archaic and sexist themes to achieve this? The fact that someone at an ad agency, or a group of people, decided this was the best and funniest way to go about promoting Snickers is frankly pathetic. Do I even need to speculate whether it was a dude?

Advertising is also a very powerful industry, but has a long history of using and portraying women as oppressed, sexual objects in order to amplify the power of men. It’s really really sad. Dumbo Feather, a quarterly publication from Australia, started an online campaign to make legislation for the advertising industry a lot stricter in order to stop them from creating campaigns where women are regularly shown in less than empowering portrayals. It was led by their general manager Vicki Likoudis in 2013.

More recently, Buzzfeed created a parody supercut video where they put men in place of women in some very well-known sexist and overly sexualized (for no good reason) commercials to show the public these images should not be accepted and we should be speaking out about them more. Is it the sole responsibility of the advertising agency to change the way we think? No. Is it their responsibility to listen to consumers just as much as their clients? I believe so.

In my humble opinion, all their hard work became undone when they parodied what it would be like for men not to objectify women in public. Well done guys! Not… This brings me to my second point: that I desperately wanted this to be real. To show big tough tradesmen and construction workers being polite and supportive of women on the street was a bit of a “wow” moment. But the fact that it was all fake made me angry, and not just for women’s sake. I happen to personally know quite a few “tradies” and I can tell you now they are some of the kindest, most generous and caring people I know.

I do know a few who are the stereotypical rough-around-the-edges type, but I refuse to categorize a whole group of people simply by a negative connotation. (It’s a good practice to have, you should try it!) Why is it cooler to show men objectifying women? Why is it considered weak to portray men who respect women as equal human beings?

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One of my male cousins shared this on facebook, and my dad “liked” it, and thought he would re-share it. Urgh! Why is this funny and easily shareable, and not men who value women? Are men so threatened by strong women, or so scared of losing some of their masculinity if they show respect to us? Perhaps the male gender is more insecure than we think.

Women are emotional beings and can process any form of insecurity in a way that is “acceptable” by social norms. But perhaps for men there is no social construct that will validate any emotional part of them? I mean, doesn’t this snickers ad just confirm this? My final problem with this video, is that it was built on the whole premise that men are not naturally respecters of women, and that it is crazy to ever think that.

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“You wanna hear a filthy word?” yells one of the construction workers to an unsuspecting woman down below on the street. “Gender Bias!” Here’s some insight guys, gender bias as a whole may be “filthy” but let’s break it down a little. The word gender is not filthy, nor is it bad. Bias, however, is. So when you attach the two together, we immediately think negative of both terms.

In essence, this whole commercial thinks a certain gender (female, in case that wasn’t obvious) is not worth much in the grand scheme of things, and that gender bias is something totally normal, acceptable and we just laugh at it and move on with our snickers bar. Wrong! It’s really pathetic and immature to turn pro feminist comments into a blatant joke. I love that Cadbury Australia came back with this reply in response to Snickers’ video:

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Men of this world who are outraged by this video and portrayal of yourselves, please speak up! What do you think? Sure it’s easy to be one of those people who say “get over it” or “it’s meant to be tongue in cheek” but you are missing the point. That you have been successfully brainwashed by an industry to think that you shouldn’t look to deeply into messages like this and accept what they tell you is funny, bad, good, acceptable, sexual, filthy etc. Congratulations, you are part of the unthinking majority.

The same goes for women. While I am not expecting you to quit your day job and start protesting outside the offices of every advertising agency in town (but hey maybe that might send a loud and clear message to some!) I am saying take notice and take a stand. Mothers who have daughters, do you want them to grow up in a world where their dreams are dashed because of gender bias in the world? Or do you want them to live life to the fullest knowing it is their ability as a human being taking them forward, as opposed to their gender holding them back?

The power is in our hands. It’s time we remember that as consumers, WE have the voice, and WE have the power to dictate what we want to see in TV, in magazines, on runways, on cinema screens, online etc. There is no reason we can’t speak up and show outrage and disgust over something as sexist as this. If an 18 year old psychology student from the UK can start a worldwide #nomakeupselfie phenomenon from a facebook page, then imagine the power we could all harness if we decided to use our voices for positive change.

Sexism is not ok. Gender bias IS filthy, and Snickers, you should be ashamed of yourselves. Do better next time! Let’s be honest, your chocolate bars aren’t really worth writing home about anymore…

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