The Situationist

Archive for March 11th, 2011

Selling Products With Sexism

Posted by Adam Benforado on March 11, 2011

Sexist products and advertising were once right out in the open.

Take this old advertisement from Honor House Products Corp. for “Stuffed” Girl’s Heads (highlighted this week over at Dangerous Minds).

A 1970 advertisement for Mr. Leggs slacks (shown below) played into the same notions of women as passive “conquests” and men as active “conquerors.”  As the copy explains,

Though she was a tiger lady, our hero didn’t have to fire a shot to floor her. After one look at his Mr. Leggs slacks, she was ready to have him walk all over her. That noble styling sure soothes the savage heart! If you’d like your own doll-to-doll carpeting, hunt up a pair of these he-man Mr. Leggs slacks. Such as our new automatic wash wear blend of 65% “Dacron®” and 35% rayon–incomparably wrinkle-resistant. About $12.95 at plush-carpeted stores.

While, in general, the sexism in advertising and marketing campaigns is less explicit today, it has in no way disappeared.

A recent example comes from an unexpected source: Jenny Craig.  One might think that the weight-loss company with its traditionally strongly-female consumer pool would be the last place to see sexism of any kind, but JC is looking for new customers: men.

I suspect that the controversial campaign was spurred by a worry that the gendered associations for the company would doom its efforts to make inroads with the male demographic unless they took bold action.  What type of man would turn to Jenny Craig for help?  That would imply his femininity — and, indeed, his weakness.

So what did the company come up with as a message?

“Jen Works For Men!”

In other words, it’s okay fellas: think about Jenny Craig as your secretary or maid.  As Mr. Leggs would have pointed out, “It’s nice to have a girl around the house.”

Check out one of the television ads below:

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