Monday, March 21, 2011

Femme Up

You've seen those Bud Miller Light "man up" ads, right? Possibly the most misogynist (and annoying) ads on television now (and that's saying something), they feature a man declaring to a hot female bartender that he doesn't care what his beer tastes like, at which the bartender derides him for undertaking some stereotypically female activity (wearing skinny jeans, wearing a thong, excessive texting). The early versions were even worse, amazingly -- they had the bartender tell the guy to take off his girlfriend's skirt (and showed him actually wearing a skirt) -- I guess the literal statement by women that being a bad drinker = being a women (horrors) was a little too obvious.

Anyway, I was thinking -- wouldn't it be an awesome-yet-revealing parody to create a serious of "femme up" ads for, I don't know, sparkling wine? The women could ask for a glass of wine, the hunky male bartender could ask "sparkling or not", and the women could declare her indifference. At which point the man could mock her for being like a man: "Kinda like how your boyfriend doesn't mind you're borrowing his football jersey?" "But I actually like the Jets!" "Whatever -- femme up."

The point being that it's pretty difficult to imagine a female equivalent of the Bud Miller Light campaign, because we don't view stereotypically manly acts as humiliating, even (normally) when women do them. I guess you could pull it off if you had the women being staggeringly incompetent in their attempts at being masculine, but that's not the point of the Bud Miller Light commercials -- it's not that the dude looks bad in skinny jeans, it's that he deigns wear them in the first place. By contrast, it is difficult to think of a situation where a woman "performing" masculinity is considered inherently absurd or worthy of scorn, without regard to whether she's able to perform.


Andrew said...

I agree that they're horrible ads for all the reasons you say, and that the "Femme Up" parody would be ineffective. Though I think there's a larger theme as shown by the "sunglasses at night" spot. They were indeed feminine sunglasses, but the ad focused on the sunglasses, and the embarrassment of wearing them at night indoors. I think the ads focus on the embarrassing activity generally, and the misogynism comes in just when they equate that with feminine stereotypes.

I also think the expectation that doing something out of the ordinary will cause your group of guy friends to laugh at you mercilessly is kind of a tired masculine trope as well: that guys are assholes to each other and reinforce "normal" (in this case often defined as "masculine." So the ads manage to be degrading to men and women. It's really a win-win.

And to be fair to Bud, I feel compelled to point out that these are Miller Lite ads.

David Schraub said...

Ouch, that's embarrassing. Sorry, Bud.

I actually think the parody would be effective in the sense that it'd highlight the gender double-standard which enables the Miller ad to be effective whereas the Sparkling Wine one would just seem ridiculous. I see it as an SNL skit or Sarah Haskins routine, not an actual real commercial.

I think you're right that the ads do sometimes stretch beyond "feminine" activity to just stupid activity in general, though the overlap is noticeable and meaningful. And of course, I totally agree that misogyny in the form of rigid gender roles sucks for men too.

Andrew said...

Oh, yeah, I just meant that the parody wouldn't be funny because it'd be absurd. I suppose "ineffective" is the wrong word there - it would get the point across.

Esquiver said...

I'm torn. I do think the driver here is the inherent horror of all things that've been constructed as feminine, but I'm not sure it's strictly necessary for the ad -- mindless enforcement of gender roles would seem to suffice. Take the whole hairy 'pits on women scenario (or the sole running Simpsons gag I detest, the "isn't Selma/Patty's leg hair in se risible" thing). Or the entire Coach Bieste characterization on Glee (not that I fault Glee...much...on this one, but the reaction 'round the net is horrific). There are definite limits to the acceptable co-option of male behavior/attributes by women, for which "femme up" would be the appropriate gender policing response (without implying that the attribute is ridiculous for the normative gender). I mention this only because one possible (erroneous) implication of your line of thought is something I've heard more than one person blithely assert: that only masculinity is performed/achieved. I'm certainly not saying *you'd* put forward something any drag queen could refute, but just throwing this out lest anyone else be confused.