Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Is Doctor Scholl's a Sexist Asshole?

  Gang, I have a dirty little habit.  I listen to talk-radio.  I have two stereos near my studio-space.  One stereo plays music while I have a client getting a tattoo.  As soon as that client is out the door, I shut-off that stereo and turn on the other stereo already pre-set to my favorite talk-radio channels.  I don't watch television, I don't read the newspaper... but I do listen to talk-radio. 

 It is bad.

 Of course, between segments, the shows I listen to run commercials.  Commercials were part of the reason I stopped watching television, although there was an era when the commercials were more entertaining than the television shows.  Commercials, more often than not, just make me angry.  This is because so many or them, in the process of trying to sell their product to a particular demographic, almost always do so by demeaning another demographic. 

 For years, the demographic who has taken the brunt of this abuse is the white male.  The white guy is almost always portrayed as out-of-step, moronic, stubborn, not-hip, and/or an idiot.  He is always being rescued by his wife or significant-other from his boorish foibles, or being compared to the guy who is hip-to-the-trends... usually a male who is not white.

 Remember the "Goofus and Gallant" public service messages?  Goofus represented the incorrect, even dangerous behaviors, while Gallant represented the safe, respectful, or smart behaviors.  Goofus and Gallant are drawn as the same kid, just one boy is unkempt and the other has a neat appearance. 

 In advertising, the Goofus-and-Gallant model is an excellent motivator.  Provide an example of the uniformed consumer using brand X (or nothing at all), then present the smart consumer using your brand and living happilly ever after.  The problem is that there are groups of people who have been down-trodden for so long that they are justifiably sensitive to any negative connotations, so you dare not portray them as "Goofus".  Advertisers need SOMEONE to be Goofus...  and the only "safe" option are white males.  Making the other demographics the "Gallant" also helps sell the product to those target audiences.   

 The problem is that we live in a time where gender or racial stereotypes are supposed to be passe.  Catering to or using a stereotype to judge others is an indication that you are behind-the-times, intellectually stunted, or you are border-line neurotic.  Clearly this attitude, this positive shift in our society, is for some reason not applicable to white males, who have been viewed (again, arguably justifiably) as the oppressor of the past. 

 THAT is just another stereotype! 

 So, when I hear a commercial that demeans white males for the sake of comedic effect, I find it offensive not only personally, but also in regards to the progression of our society.

 Yesterday, I heard a commercial that went something like this:

 Female Voice-Actor: "Guys, I am here to represent your wife, your girlfriend, or who ever is around when you take your shoes off.  Your feet.... they STINK!  Now, there is a solution.  Dr. Scholl's Odor-X foot powder eliminates the sweat molecules that cause stinky feet.  Guys, use Dr. Scholl's Odor-X foot powder, or risk having an ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, or ex... whatever."

 Feet stink, folks.  It doesn't matter who's feet you are talking about.  Everyones' feet sweat, and it is a point on the human body where a greater proportion of waste is exhausted.  It is a negative stereotype to attribute this simple fact of biology to men exclusively, as was implied in this ad.  Worse, to suggest that the problem is so great that it threatened to end what we can assume might be a long-term relationship... even a marriage, is either ridiculous or suggests that women are shallow little strumpets.  

 Let's say the roles were reversed.  Imagine a commercial like this:

 Male Voice-Actor:  "Ladies, I am here to represent your husband, your boyfriend, who ever is around when you take your panties off. Your vagina... it STINKS! Now, there is a solution. Massengill Douche eliminates the bacteria that causes a stinky vaginas. Ladies, use Massengill Douche, or risk having an ex-husband, ex-boyfriend, or ex... whatever."

 You KNOW that this commercial would be deemed too offensive to run... and not because it deals with female genitalia, but the stereotype of female genital odor.  So sensitive is this issue that when commercials were ran regarding this issue, it was always woman-to-woman, usually mother-to-daughter, walking along a beach or sipping coffee on a deck overlooking pristine garden... an effort to ease into what is a sensitive topic for women.   This is a long way from the Lysol ads that feature a woman being locked out of a room from her husband because she failed to address her "intimate" problem.

 It could be argued that this is the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction.  That, however, is not social progression, it is instead intellectual dishonesty.  If a stereotype is inappropriate for one demographic, then it is inappropriate for all.  Advertisers like Dr. Scholl's, if allowed to demean a group of people in order to market their products, commit a crime against society and the strides we have made in equality between the genders and ethnic groups.  If we, as a people, do not stand opposed to this kind of intolerance, it will only continue to escalate.

 As always, I have contacted Dr. Scholl's with just these sentiments.  I will keep you posted as to what response, if any, I receive.

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