A War We Cannot Win | Jay A. Patel

Today’s advertising is very backwards in nature. There is no dignity in the way a product or company gets portrayed in its ads. Most advertises today are risqué, often using controversial subject matter as a means of selling a product or company. This controversial means of selling a product is widely accepted by the consumers of today. We see an ad and we buy the product, that’s how it works. What gets overlooked are the images that are used to sell the product.

Apparent sexism gets pushed to the side as consumers either are afraid to say anything or view it as a joke, something that is not to be taken seriously. The above cigarette advert is shows a man blowing cigarette smoke into a woman’s face. This 1969 advert depicts a very sexist view towards woman as it attempts to send the message that men who smoke Tipalet brand cigarettes will find that their women will be more subservient to them. At the time this idea and image was accepted. Men agreed to this ad to please their masculine ego and women wouldn’t dare argue against it. Bell Hooks states in her book The Will to Change, “Most young women fear that if they call themselves feminist, they will lost male favor, they will not be loved by men. [1]

The same can be said for racism. Racism is a touchy subject in America. People are quick to using the race card to prove points and win arguments in a moments notice. This same idea works for certain advertising. This Dunkin’ Donuts ad was attacked the minute it was put up to advertise a new dark chocolate donut. This advertise goes to show the level of racism some companies will overlook and use to sell a product because of the level of racial insensitivities that exist in today’s consumer world. To some people this is offensive, while to others it’s funny.

Today it has become a social norm of sorts. Comedians, both males and females of all races, use sexism and racism as a means of telling jokes and making money. If they do it then why do we chastise advertising companies from doing it? Can people truly deny that some ads that use racism and sexism aren’t funny? Take for example an early 2000s KFC commercial aired in Australia.

This commercial is racist beyond all measure however people find it funny, they find reasons to justify it. Comments such as “It ain’t funny, it’s just stereotypical” and “it is racist…but it’s true” are on the top liked comments list that follow this video. Racism has become normal in the consumer world. It gets shrugged off as normal and something that shouldn’t be given more than a passing glance. Not only is this racism but a form of classism as well.

In Chapter 3 of his book Provocateur, Anthony Cortese mentions that “Corporations, industries, and government agencies sometimes use advertising as bureaucratic propaganda, just as national governments use psychological warfare or religious cults use proselytization.” [2] Ads today use sexism and racism blatantly as a means of forming classism within the consumer society. While one group find the ads funny, another group finds it offensive. After that a war breaks out between the two groups to preserve their individual rights and freedoms towards that one ad. This is a rising issue that has plagued American consumers for a long time now.

There is a singular solution to the racism and sexism that exists in media and advertising today. Stop it completely and just sell the product. Without all the added “pizazz” the ads would lose their sexist and racist undertones and become bland and to the point like the “Got Milk?” ad of the late 90s/early 2000s. Unfortunately this won’t work for one reason alone, because Americans live for controversy and conflict, it’s the risqué material and imagery that brings consumers to the stores to buy the products. Regardless of all the people against the images of half naked men and women advertising watched or the Black-American family used in the KFC commercial, people will still go out and buy the product and feed into the backwards, dark ages mindset of advertising. The problem exists solely with the consumers being content with the imagery being used. The consumer mindset needs to change before advertising changes, until that happens there’s very little that we can do. It is, in the end, a war that we just cannot win.


  1. Hooks, Bell. “Chapter 7 – Feminist Manhood.” The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love. New York: Atria, 2004. 107. Print.
  2. Cortese, Anthony Joseph Paul. “Chapter 3 – Constructed Bodies, Deconstructing Ads.”Provocateur. Lanham (Md.): Rowman & Littlefield, 2004. 51. Print.

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