Branding the People

Let me first state that I come from a matriarchal family. Women were viewed as the leaders and heads of the family. I learned this through my mom and also through my great aunt and grandmother. Being from this background, my experience through patriarchal society is limited. Patriarchs to me are being phased out.


However, where the standards for this idea don’t apply is the mainstream media or popular culture. The images that are distributed through this medium employ both sexist and racist underlying themes. Like in the commercial for, “Summer’s Eve” that was shown during class, sexist.

I found an interesting conversation in the comments bellow:

Liz Thompson said, “If Summer’s Eve is trying to sell their product to women, why bother to piss most of them off with a dumb commercial like this? Also, it’s not even healthy. Don’t bother buying this shit.”

Three replies followed:

Zaya2 said, “It’s called a joke that most people get and laugh at. I’m sorry you didn’t get it and completely ostracize a product and/or group of people based on your own personal opinion on a singular video that was made for 33 seconds.”

Dorian Stark said, “SOmebody has sand in their vagina today….Maybe you need…summers eve.”

ProudAmericanLady said, “I love this commercial. No I LOVE this commercial. One of the best out there. If any one gets pissed off by it they need to grow up. Good job guys makes me never want to buy any other brand but yours.”

The first girl makes the connection of a woman’s product advertisement is basically all about the guy and the responses to her criticism of the commercial receive blow back.  An insult from one person and then two others that completely miss the connection she was making.

In Cutting Girls Down to Size, Jean Kilbourne states, “Advertisers are aware of their role and do not hesitate to take advantage of the insecurities and anxieties of young people, usually in the guise of solutions.”

This is a perfect example of those insecurities that she was talking about. In the commercial the woman couldn’t even say the word vagina, she referred to it as, “a woman’s v.” The commercial also attacked the insecurities of a man who after using a woman’s product had to establish that he wasn’t a woman through a decathlon of manliness.

The purpose of images is to capture the attention of the viewer, drawing them in and holding their gaze to create a memory and an experience. Advertising doesn’t necessarily sell you a product as much as it sells the sensory emotions that come equipped with the advertisement, not even the product.

But there are many ways to advertise and reach consumers take for example, what happened with the airline Song.

Can you tell this was an airline from the brand logo?

Delta created this separate airline to engage customers away from using JetBlue; specifically, the market for northeastern flights to Florida. What did the Song experience teach us about branding? It taught us that no amount of branding can help sell a product – though branding an airline Song, a word which makes little to no connection to airplanes and flying – started off in a downward spiral. As we saw when a random customer engaged with an employee, asking “So wait, are you an airline or a travel agency?”

Like you said in class, popular culture is created through the people in culture and regurgitated. The people demand and then the advertisers make it so.

Sex always sells, with the basic nature of humans being driven by the need to reproduce it’s an essential and easy target for advertisements. Like you showed in class through the high end fashion advertisements. Pictures of murdered woman and gang bangs with homosexual tendencies being displayed openly through magazines and billboards in urban arenas. Men always seemed the focal point of them, the advertisements that you showed had a male presence even if only in shadow.

Anthony J. Cortese said in “Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads: Sexism in Advertising” that, “The perfect provocateur is not human; rather, she is a form or hollow shell representing a female figure. Accepted attractiveness is her only attribute. She is slender, typically tall and long-legged. Women are constantly held to this unrealistic standard of beauty. If they fail to attain it, they are led to feel guilty and ashamed” (Page 54).

The industry of advertising cannot change by it’s nature, it’s been created to sell through whatever means is necessary and the tragedy of the commons tell us that – people will act according to their own best interests even if those interests hurt the society on the whole.

Matthew Cole

Professor Meredith Goncalves

Imagery & Culture

March 11, 2014


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