Saturday, December 16, 2006

Holiday consumer marketing--sexism at its finest

Ken has a good post at Coffee Spoons about how pervasive gender stereotypes are during the holidays. I agree. Last year, I wrote about Barnes and Noble's offering of "Grandma's Purse" and "Grandpa's Briefcase" as toys. And while I do not blame marketing people for doing everything possible to appeal to women during the holidays--many women have a pathological need to decorate, shop, wrap, cook, bake, sew, and organize until they are near-crazy--the assumption that men do not ever shop, cook, attend Christmas concerts, listen to Christmas music, and decorate their houses is absurd. (Where I live, in fact, men probably do as much holiday cooking as women.)

But that isn't even the issue. The issue is that during the holidays, very rigid gender stereotypes--always present in our culture--are drawn out to ridiculous extremes. The jewelry store ads probably bother me the most: The assumption is that no woman ever bought a piece of jewelry for a man; rather, jewelry is something that must be given by a man to a woman. And that only by buying a woman jewelry will she "know" that you love her.

I am also sickened by ads that tell women to stop buying men clothes and buy them tools. The last time I checked, the men in my life still liked nice shirts, pants, jackets, and yes--ties. It goes without saying you have to know a man's (or a woman's) taste in clothing before you buy him something to wear, but wouldn't the women being appealed to in these ads have that kind of knowledge?

Of course, there is an unspoken, but always-present, message in these types of ads--that clothes are "feminine" and tools are "masculine." Men have to wear clothes, yes, but they are not supposed to think about clothes or enjoy clothes. That is for the gay men and the metrosexuals (god, how I loathe that word). But real men (even the ones who say their wives dress them), in real life, do talk about clothes, and they enjoy being complimented on their clothes. They may not be as interested in clothes as many women are, but the interest they do have is not "feminine."

Of course, the reverse is true, too, but it is so under the radar, no one even thinks about it: A lot of women would like to have new tools and electronic gadgets, but apart from the notebook computer and the ubiquitous ipod, they are probably out of luck.

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