Friday, April 20, 2012

Feminist Friday - Not For Women

I'm trying out this new weekly or bi-weekly (or monthly, depending on whether or not something has irritated me) feature on the blog called "Feminist Fridays".  I was raised in a very liberal home, with very feminist values and it's a big part of who I am.  This is my blog, and sometimes I want to rant about sexism and misogyny and homophobia.

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(As a disclaimer, nothing about my use of the worse "men" and "women", or anything similar, in this article imply any kind of gender binary conformation.  I'm trying to use simple words that are easily understood and related to.)

I think I'm a little late jumping aboard this train, but I blame my lack of television for the past 5 months.  If you have yet to see the new Dr. Pepper ad campaign, click here and watch it right now.  I will wait.  Ready?  Let's continue.

Let me just say that this absurdity is not only offensive to women (wait?  I'm not allowed to drink this?  I should just stick to rom coms and leave the action movies for the guys?) but it's also offensive to men, just like most male-targeted ads.  My friend Tim made a good point saying that Dr. Pepper is offensively stereotyping their prime target market.  What good is that going to do them?  Dr. Pepper has established (rightly or wrongly) what makes a person a "man". (I could go into a whole discussion about gender identity and such, but that's another topic.)  This soda company feels that they have the right to not only tell women what beverages they are and aren't allowed to drink, but also to tell men how they should present themselves in order to be seen as "real men".  Who says all "real men" drink beer, play pool, watch action movies, and have throngs of similar beer-drinking, pool-playing, action-movie-watching friends?  What about the men that drink water, are terrible at pool, prefer foreign films, and mostly hang out with women?  Are they not allowed to drink Dr. Pepper 10 because they aren't "manly" enough?  This ad severely implies that appearing "girly" is the worst possible thing and something that every guy out there should worry about and shame other men about.

One of my other huge problems with this, is the serious enforcement of the gender binary.  "Men" have to be macho, strong, super men (no crying, fellas) and "women" cannot be any of those things.  There's no room in between for macho ladies or sensitive men, or those folks who don't fit in to any of these categories.  I realize that it's just a soda company, but Dr. Pepper is reinforcing everything that LGBT+ groups have been trying to move past for years.  

I've had a lot of people tell me that "it's just a joke" and I "don't get what Dr. Pepper is trying to say."  I assure you, I get it.  Dr. Pepper is trying to tell men that their new low-cal soda is more manly (and therefore more appealing) than traditional diet sodas.  I definitely get it.  But I definitely don't think it's funny.  I think it amplifies the fact that for decades women haven't been able to make their own decisions and do the same things that men can do.  Now we're not allowed to drink the same soda?  We've gone leaps and bounds since the days before women's suffrage, but we still have quite a ways to go until women are really treated equally in society.  Even as a joke, Dr. Pepper telling women that they aren't allowed to do something just emphasizes this fact.

There are loads of products out there that successfully target to only men, or only women.  The difference is, none of these companies are telling anyone they aren't allowed to buy products aimed at the opposite gender.  There are numerous commercials for "women's" products (I use quotations because none of these products, in fact, can determine what a "woman" is) - perfume, makeup, tampons - but NONE of these advertisements tell men that they aren't allowed to purchase these products, with the exception of feminine hygiene products, which require certain anatomy that most men don't have.  (Notice - some men do in fact have this anatomy, and do purchase these products.)  

Similarly, there are plenty of products that are targeted strictly toward men - cologne, Viagra, beer - But, again, I haven't seen one Axe or Old Spice commercial (as misogynistic as they might be) telling me that I'm not allowed to buy their product because I'm a woman.  Hell, I could even use Viagra if I really wanted to, but it wouldn't have the same effect (and is actually harmful if you're pregnant, just so you know!) 

Really, the biggest problem I see with the Dr. Pepper campaign, aside from the absolutely terrible stereotyping of men, is that they are literally telling women what they are and aren't allowed to do.  Just for that, I'm going to go out and NOT buy a Dr. Pepper 10, not because they told me I can't, but because I don't really want to give this terrible company more money, and because I don't really like Dr. Pepper anyway.

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Feel free to leave opinions below - I'd love to read them!  But please, keep comments respectful and constructive.


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