"Though both are bound in the spiral dance, I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess." – Donna Haraway

Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

Sony’s 4-breasted PSVita Ad.

It sounds like some kind of weird gamer rating system, doesn’t it? Which would also be…problematic. But in this case, Sony has released a print ad in France that compares the latest model of the PS Vita to a women with four breasts, the extra pair appearing on her back. Behold:

Double-sided playthings

C|Net’s Michelle Starr gets right to the heart of the issue with this Sony PSVita ad. She writes, “Please, stop using us as bait to dangle in front of your heterosexual male demographic in order to sell toys.”

Sony reps in various markets have responded with the defense that the ad is not running in [insert market name], which raises the issue of cultural context.

I’m not sure how well that defense works. First of all, are we certain that women in France would not also find the ad offensive? I am not suggesting that the cultural context is not different. But I think anyone would be hard-pressed to argue that this is a celebration of the female body and sexuality. The extremity of the depiction makes the woman into a headless (i.e. brainless, speechless, expressionless) plaything.

Second, it seems like a company with a global customer base should be interested in courting that customer base, no matter where they are. As we see over and over again, companies can no longer control the context in which their messages are received. There may no longer be any such thing as running an ad only in France.

(Nod to my students in “Embodied Identity in Digital Society” for bringing the ad to my attention.)

Droid’s Hypermasculine Advertising: A Whole Lot of Violence in 31 Seconds

Sexism in Tech Ads | Feminist Law Professors.
Thanks to Feminist Law Professors for blogging about this and Jessie Daniels (@JessieNYC) for tweeting about it (and introducing me to a new blog too!). Be sure to check out the link on Feminist Law Professors to their list of other sexist tech ads.

What really strikes me in this particular ad is the tension between the construction of technological hypermasculinity and the disavowal of femininity. We’ve seen a similar masculine/technological vs. feminine/decorative binary played out in multiple arenas. One of my favorite examples is a parody done by a British sketch comedy show that features a computer for women that has a lipstick holder and tissue dispenser (I can’t find the link for the life of me. Please comment if you know the video to which I’m referring! Update: the skit was from the show Look Around You, Season 2, episode 5 and introduced the world to the “Petticoat 5,” the first computer for women).

The nature of this commercial, however, seems to be particularly violent. Here’s a short list of reactions to the imagery and tone. I apologize for the bullet format but my to-do list was overflowing even before I saw this video and felt compelled to comment upon it:


Manvertisement and Femmephobia | SPARK a Movement

Manvertisement and Femmephobia | SPARK a Movement.

Bailey Shoemaker Richards puts my eyerolls into words.

TIME Magazine? Or Cosmopolitan? You make the call.

TIME Attachment Parenting Cover

TIME Attachment Parenting Cover

TIME Magazine Cover: Are You Mom Enough? – May 21, 2012 – Parenting – Mother – Babies – Children – U.S..

Lots of people are talking about the TIME Magazine cover showing a mother breastfeeding her not-quite-four year old son. From what I understand breastfeeding is just one component of Attachment Parenting. I have friends who have done Attachment Parenting and their kids are pretty awesome. I have others who didn’t and those kids are also pretty awesome. In both camps there are kids who seem to be on track for  “a highly developed capacity for empathy and connection” (Attachment Parenting International).

So it seems like there are multiple means to an end and the decision is a highly personal one that parents should be able to make without being judged.

The only reason I’m bothering to blog about the cover has nothing to do with breastfeeding. Instead, I would like to talk about the mother’s pose. She eerily echoes the poses of women as they are on countless magazine covers – as sexual objects to be gazed upon.

Check out this google search of “Cosmopolitan covers” to see multiple examples like the one below:

Katy Perry on the cover of Cosmopolitan Greece

Katy Perry on the cover of Cosmopolitan Greece

I’m unsure what to make of the parallels except that it seems to fetishize the breastfeeding mother in a way that may distract from the issue at hand. I would guess that the objectification of the mother may be the reason that news stations are blurring the barely exposed breast but…given that we see more exposed on the red carpet during awards season, I suspect it has more to do with American cultural discomfort with breastfeeding.

Again, in a possible misrepresentation of the issue, the mother and child both stare directly at the reader, signifying defiance. Rather than a representation of the stated benefits of attachment parenting, the image challenges the viewer to disapprove. It is designed for controversy.

It is not surprising that the TIME image is composed to have maximum shock value in the attempt to sell magazines. I don’t know if their sales will go up but a lot of people are certainly talking about it.

Not a joke: Tampon-shaped USB flash drives.

 FLASH.DRIVE – Meninos Store.

When the ad for this popped up on my Facebook news feed, I didn’t hesitate before clicking it. It may be the first ad I have ever followed from Facebook.  I can’t specifically remember ever doing that before. But this one caught my attention and I clicked without thinking, fully expecting it to be a joke. It seems like the kind of thing ThinkGeek would offer on April 1st. Turns out, it’s real. I seriously don’t know what to think about the Tampon-shaped USB drive (with different sizes coded according to heaviness of “flow”). I really need more time to ruminate on it but I felt it warranted immediate blogging to see what other people thought.

On one hand, based on cultural discomfort with anything related to menstruation, I’d guess that this is probably pretty secure when left unattended in one’s bag. Nobody’s going to steal what they think is a tampon. On the other hand…I’m having incoherent thoughts about cyborgs, hyper-personal data, the abject, negative associations with transvaginal ultrasounds…I’m distracted by the image of the “tampon” in the USB drive, suggesting a parallel between a USB port and a vagina…I’m imagining oppositional uses of it where its very existence causes discomfort in the people around me…I’m also wondering why an 8gb flash drive, which one can get for less than $20 at Fry’s, costs $55 when it is in encased in a “feminine hygiene product” shaped shell? Who will buy it? All of these jumbled thoughts are happening pretty much at once. If I ever get them sorted out, I’ll get back to you.

According to the product manufacturer, Meninos,

“Our design is aimed at people with modern and bold lifestyle, which enjoy innovation and cultivate the forever young spirit. Funny, geek, vintage, technological…”

So I guess this falls under the umbrella of “funny” and “technological”? I don’t know what the equivalent male product would be to turn into a flash drive, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be as “funny.”

Also, I wonder what about my Facebook profile suggested that I would be interested in this product? As I indicated above, I’m not sure I’ve ever followed an ad link from Facebook before this, which indicates they are usually pretty far from the mark.

While I don’t foresee myself buying the tampon usb drive any time soon, I have to admit that considering its existence is an interesting intellectual challenge. I don’t know whether to laugh or shake my head. Maybe both?

Gender-specific ads using facial recognition

Facial Recognition Billboard Only Lets Women See the Full Ad.

Re-post from Mashable detailing an outdoor ad that uses facial recognition technology to only allow women (or at least those with “feminine” features?) to see the ad. The idea is twofold: 1) to raise awareness of Plan-UK, a non-profit organization and 2) to make men feel what it is like to have choices taken away.

I am skeptical that something this simple will prompt people to examine male privilege “in the wild.” It may work on those already inclined to do so, but otherwise… Still, it’s a neat gimmick, assuming that it isn’t storing your facial data or anything like that.

I’d love to hear from someone who has seen it.

That’s Vaginal.

I apologize for the lapse in posting here at The Spiral Dance. My “Spring break resolution” is to get on a regular posting schedule. Really. I have a plan. 

April 1, 2011 (the irony of which is not lost on me), I posted a link to an article in which Scott Randolph, a democratic representative from FL, was chastised for using the word “uterus” on the house floor. I ended the post with the quip, “Thank goodness he didn’t say vagina.” Fast forward to February 2012 when VA delegate David Albo uses the term “trans-v” instead of “transvaginal” in discussing abortion legislation. I’d like to be able to claim prescience but let’s face it, this has been circulating in the political weather system for some time. Vaginas are the hottest topic nobody is talking about right now. In a blog post  on FeministingKatie makes the excellent point that if you can’t say the word “vagina,” perhaps you should neither be probing nor legislating them. The fact that media commentators and conservative legislators are uncomfortable with the anatomical terminology of the female reproductive system indicates a much bigger, systemic problem.

Infographic on Women's Health Issues in 2011-2012

Anyone paying attention to the recent spate of legislation attempting to restrict women’s access to birth control can tell you that the vagina, and the people who have them, are under siege. Women’s sexuality and reproductive rights are being used as a pawn in the 2012 election season. I can’t even begin to succinctly summarize the variety of moves in this game. “On International Women’s Day Congress Debates Measure to Limit Reproductive Rights” by Laura Basset of The Huffington Post does a nice job of summarizing a lot of what has happened over the last year. In addition, here is a woefully incomplete “stack” on delicious that contains links to a variety of stories. And if you don’t have time to browse any of these, Bassett’s post included the timeline based infographic, pictured above, that shows a steady stream of restrictive legislation.

Sometime between when Iowa passed their new legislation and when Planned Parenthood was defunded, Summer’s Eve launched their “That’s Vaginal” campaign. Given the political climate, I had to admire their chutzpah*  (more…)

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