For the past several Mad World discussions, we've looked at ad campaigns that are somewhat lacking when it comes to progressive gender politics. It seems high time, then, that we highlight advertising that gets it right where gender is concerned. The only problem is, where the hell can we find it? Does mainstream, sexism-free advertising even exist?
We've been brainstorming possible examples of nonsexist ad campaigns around the office all morning, and we're having a tough time coming up with anything. Could this be simply because most of us get our television and reading materials from the Internet, which means we aren't seeing all of the awesome, progressive ads that are out there? Or are we as hurting for these advertisements as I think we might be?
To clarify, a nonsexist ad (for these purposes) still has to deal with gender politics, it just needs to do it in a non-stereotypical way. That means that a completely gender-neutral ad (say, an advertisement for a subscription to The New York Times) doesn't count. Not to say that those ads are or aren't offensive, just that they don't work for this particular discussion. Examples of what we are looking for here might include a commercial for something that is typically marketed to women (say, detergent) that flips the script in some way (say, by showing an interracial homosexual couple using the product). Is this too much to ask for?
The only example I could easily find (though I am vaguely remembering a few others that I couldn't easily find) is the new-ish campaign from Google, Search Stories. Yes, the "Parisian Love" spot from this series that aired during the Super Bowl was pretty heteronormative, but a few others manage to avoid gender stereotypes pretty well. Behold:
The description from Google here is, "A girl works to fit in." But this particular girl eschews the cheerleading team and the prom committee to be true to herself by starting a robotics club. Fun! Google could have easily followed traditional gendered high school tropes here and shown this girl searching for boyfriend advice or prom dresses, but instead she likes robot dinosaurs (which look awesome, btw).
Other ideas thrown around this morning have been that Swiffer commercial where the husband calls his wife at work to brag about his new Swiffer (we decided that one was a little degrading to the man in the relationship – who gets that psyched about a Swiffer?) and that Progressive Insurance ad that shows the gay couple shopping for insurance together (that one might work, but those Progressive ads bug me). Now we need your help: What nonsexist ad campaigns can you think of? Tell us in the comments section!
This project was made possible in part by a grant from Oregon Humanities (OH), a statewide nonprofit organization and an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, which funds OH's grant program. Any views, findings, and conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Oregon Humanities or the National Endowment for the Humanities.