An advertisement’s basic motive is to influence people in buying a product, hiring a service or supporting a cause. The whole idea of an advertisement is thus, having influence! But what if it contains gender stereotypes?
We have seen several advertisements throughout the years, being criticised for their gender stereotypical elements. The major concern is that we, as a society, are working or paying more attention towards the portrayal of women in the media and whether or not they are being uplifted. But ignoring anything happening to any other gender is nothing but serving our next generation the same problem, just with a gender switch. In the case of men there are a lot of stereotypical advertisements that portray them stereotypically as physically strong and women appeasing. They are exactly portrayed the way society sees or expects men to be.
From “Men will be men” to “Old spice” advertisements, using stereotypical approaches to attract an audience is nothing but sexism. But this is going unnoticed as they are men we are talking about. These kinds of advertisements can give a rise to stereotypes for men prevailing in our society. It can also put pressure on them, especially kids, to be a certain type or even worse, influence them to become men that we actually don’t want them to be. This is a tricky and concerning scenario where Shakespear’s famous quote “to be or not to be, that is the question” falls so very aptly. Often these advertisements look very normal as men usually don’t talk about their issues openly. And that’s how the majority of the time the effects are overlooked. BFH being a pro men’s brand strives to break down this stereotype, which will not be easy but making people conscious about it is the first step we can takes towards striving for true gender equality.
How gender stereotypical advertisements affect men
Normalising certain behaviour patterns – Any advertisement with stereotypical content, especially the one including both men and women have cross affects. For example: When we talk about advertisements of “Imperial Blue music CDs” and their tag line “Men will be men”. It doesn’t just put a false impression that men are always starving for attention from women, but also targets men for being simpleton’s who always try to do anything to impress women, as if that being the only thing that matters in life for them. Although humorous it stamps the reputation of men as being stupid and that is how men are, without any exception. There is no doubt that the intention of this ad is to bring some humour and gags for the audience but if the roles were reversed, we all know how much of a hue and cry it would’ve made all over the media !
Unrealistic beauty standard – An advertisement by “Old Spice” depicts that a man needs to have old spice talcum to look like the man in the video. Often advertisements like this set some unrealistic beauty standards. It can increase insecurity and self doubt specially for the young generation. Toned body structures and zero to little body hair, appear unnatural to the majority of the population, especially teenage boys.
Normalises the stereotypes – When people with huge budgets make advertisements, it is easy for people to be influenced by it. If such advertisements portray gender stereotypes, then it contributes in normalising it especially when it involves fan favourite celebrities.
Pressure on men – Some advertisements portray men to be a specific kind. Physically and mentally strong, handling and saving everybody, fighting goons alone, tall, not expressing much etc. This stereotypical image creates a bubble around our minds about how a man should be. Whereas, at the end of the day men are human beings too. Hence, their personality varies. As in the case of the imperial Blue ad that we had mentioned, not all men are starving for the attention of women everywhere they go and neither do they do everything in life to get the attention and appease of a woman.
Negative image – Often taglines of famous advertisements like “Men will be men” and the story line used in it puts a bad impression for men. They show how men are always after women and drooling over their charm. It also sexualises women and implies that they enjoy the stare. Any advertisement that portrays a false gender image is harmful for the ideology building of our young generation.
The turning page
When there are endless examples of how the media indirectly or directly showcase gender stereotypes, we cannot deny that the page is turning, slowly but steadily.
Famous men’s shaving brand Gillette had made an advertisement with the tagline “We Believe- The best men can be”, which not only smashes stereotypes but also encourages men to help themselves and then others. It portrays a positive role model image of ambitious and good hearted men who are out there striving to change the world.
There are many advertisements working on this stereotypical culture that has been effective in breaking gender stereotypes, especially around men.
Many advertisements are cross connected that affect not only one gender but two at the same time. For example – An advertisement by Stayfree India on the occasion of Daughter’s Day 2022 depicts that not letting our sons know about periods is troubling our daughters. These kinds of advertisements not only help in breaking stereotypes about women but also put emphasis on the importance of men knowing about it. This is what we can describe as striving for true gender equality and through an important subject.
What we feel about the impact on men of the future
Visual Media is the most powerful way of mass communication. It leaves the deepest impact on a person’s mind. It is obvious to be influenced by them. Mass media has played a massive role in changing the way people think and act. In the case of women, we have come a long way to empower them through the help of the media. But it should not make us ignorant towards other genders. In the current scenario, the portrayal of men has been sidelined to the point that we tend to perceive them the way that media displays. Along with that, men are also expected to suppress their emotions and man up. This has led them to barely acknowledge how this stereotypical advertisement culture is bad and influencing people to follow a rigid ideology. We sought to make people aware about this and hopefully this article and many others such as this would help in making a change in the future.