Sure, sex sells, but does sexism have to? / Provided
This year’s Super Bowl ads were nothing over-the-top, but the ad for Summer’s Eve, the brand that makes douche products, used a marketing technique that is, uh, kind of douchey. In the ad, a guy mistakenly uses his girlfriend’s special soap, flips his s—, then goes on a rampage: chopping wood, chugging raw eggs and performing other acts of strength and supposed “manliness.” The idea is that he needs to “cancel out” whatever girl cooties he may have absorbed by using a pH-balanced, feminine hygiene soap.
The offensive thing about this commercial is that it would never work if the genders were reversed. Culturally it’s okay (even cool) for girl to be like a “guy,” but for guys, being like a “girl” isn’t.
This is a problem. Pretty obviously it’s demeaning to women. But aside from that, this kind of gender essentialism undermines our relationships. Given that sensitivity and emotion are things we are told are “girly,” telling men not to be “girly” boils it all down too much. And it’s not just Summer’s Eve that is telling guys to “man up” — the reality is, this message is all over, in subtle and obvious ways.
Man or woman, we’re all human, and we should be able to be in touch with all parts of ourselves — strong, aggressive, sensitive, caring, etc. These are all human traits, not traits attached to one sex or the other — though we may have learned to see them that way. People who are in touch with all aspects of their personalities are not only more interesting, they make better partners.
Ladies often say they want to date sweet, sensitive, guys — but do we actually reward this type of behavior? Or are we betting on the “alpha male” stereotype, as Summer’s Eve did? We want to be emotionally supported in relationships, but when a guy opens up about his vulnerabilities, it’s important that we see him as a sexy, complete person and not a “weak” guy. So many men around the country that I interviewed for “Are All Guys Assholes?” said they acted like assholes because they believed it was what girls wanted and if they were too nice or too sensitive, girls would be turned off.
They always say the most important thing in a relationship is to just be yourself. So let’s stop telling men to wash off their feelings. While we’re at it, maybe we can raise our standards for ads and they can get better, too.
— Amber Madison is a nationally noted relationship expert and practicing therapist who lives in Manhattan. She is also the author of "Are All Guys Assholes?" for which she interviewed over 1,000 guys and found the answer to this question is "no." Follow her on Twitter @ambermadi to get her latest advice.