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The Binary Police

Enforcing binaries through advertising

on 6 December 2013

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Transcript of The Binary Police

Intentional use of the gender binary to change behaviors
Presented By:
Carl Vander Hoek
Baby Daddies
This ad is an example of a disciplinary technique to raise the standard of responsibility among males for unexpected teen pregnancy. The underlying message is that seeing a pregnant male teen should be no less disturbing than seeing a pregnant female. Although this ad would appear on the surface to be "progressive" in its handling of the traditional binary roles it is actually reinforcing the binary in its use of figuring or personifying teen pregnancy as deviant. This is displayed by the use of dark colors the sad looks and dilapidated inner-city surroundings.
An Efficient Machine
Combating the Princess Machine
Goldieblox is a lego-like company targeted towards a pre-teen female demographic in hopes of promoting interest and equal access to engineering among girls. Currently only 11% of engineers in the U.S. are women. The heteronormative gender binary advances the notion that boys are biologically better at math and sciences than girls. A recent study across 65 countries where they tested girls and boys on the same science test, showed that around the world girls outperformed the boys, but not in the U.S. This study suggests that this is not a biological difference but rather caused by a cultural construction of gender. Girls did not score as high as boys because of the social body not the physical. This company is working to erode the distinction that girls should be "pretty" and not "smart" by changing cultural practices. This type of discourse empowers women and helps to break the gender binary.
Racing Nascar or Racy Avatar?
Danica Patrick, the first female Nascar driver, a symbol of women's liberation in the notoriously male dominated sport of car racing has made strides in transforming power relations with her performance on the track. However these ads (and others!) reassert existing gender configurations in that she is portrayed in a normative sexualized feminine role. Here both sex and gender are commoditized as she is very marketable towards both women who identify with her as a feminine icon as well as those who see her as a masculine threat. She rides the fence between two worlds which is very appealing to marketers trying to reach a broad consumer base. For all the power she gained for women's liberation she loses by submitting to the gender binary role of a sexualized female.
Enforcing binaries through advertising
"Superman and Everyman, however, don't live together in real life...Superman haunts Everyman, threatens his undoing... a perfect metaphor for masculinity that demands constant performance from men." pgs. 33, 34
Masculine Ideal
These familiar Milk advertisements depict an unattainable ideal for male consumers. Setting up a goal that can never be attained, the strength of Superman. The ad enforces the gender binary setting up Superman as a model of an ideal man. The blue and red tones, crossed arms, and inexpressive stare depict a masculine ideal. This cultural metaphor for strength is used to sell their product "bones of steel". To try to attain this ideal "haunts everyman" and all one can do to achieve this is buy more milk.
Breaking Binary
Binary Blurring
Baking Binary - Gender roles in the Kitchen
The Binary Police

History of Sexuality: An Introduction - Foucault
Know your role
This advertisement utilizes the male gaze by suggesting that the role of a wife is to serve their husband. It also enforces the binary that a man's place is to "provide for" or buy gifts for his wife. The heteronormative gender roles at play here are very clear. The submissive wife is clinging to her husband. The husband has his back to her and hardly acknowledges her presence other than to say that the purpose she serves is to cook for him. This type of ad further diminishes respect for women and constrains her to obedience in knowing her gender role as constructed by media.
Dismantling Oppression - Gruen
"The traditionally constructed role of woman as cleaner and the sight/site of male pleasure allows for the diminishment of women... At least since the rise of industrial culture, women have been confined to the domestic sphere, where one of their primary roles is to provide food." pg. 71
Cheering to Queering
This PSA from London intends to inform female readers of the health impacts of heavy drinking or drinking "like a man." Although its intentions are well meaning it falls on its back by reinforcing cultural ideals of feminine attractiveness and behaviors in its presumption that no woman should look like a man or drink like one. It reinforces the binary that men drink heavily and women should be concerned with their outward appearance. These categorizations should not be restricted to biological "men" or "women" but rather as cultural understandings of gender. The stereotypes portrayed here are mere cultural readings of biological sex.
Travesti - Kulick
All Dolled Up
In Brazil these ads garnered much praise for their depiction of kids breaking cultural expectations to follow constraining heteronormative gender roles. The message here is that it is OK for boys to play with dolls and is actually "healthy". This type of message begins to break the negative feedback loop set by such cultural expectations. Kellogg's has challenged the antiquated hegemonic discourse. This attempt to interrupt the constructed gender binary unfortunately is atypical of a major corporation. Corporations are usually more concerned with profitability and tailoring messages that will be accepted by a broad consumer base rather than a sophisticated one interested in challenging the gender binary.
Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality - Fausto-Sterling
"As we grow and develop, we literally, not just "discursively" (that is, through language and cultural practices), construct our bodies, incorporating experience into our very flesh. To understand this claim, we must erode the distinctions between the physical and the social body." pg. 20
Respectably Queer - Ward
"Emphasizing diversity has, in many cases, been reframed as a necessary path to corporate profits. Understanding and representing racial, gender, and sexual diversity has helped corporations expand their consumer base, enhance consumer and employee loyalty, and demonstrate to investors that they are keeping up with emergent business trends." pg. 132
History of Sexuality: An Introduction - Foucault
"The insight that anything we say about sex must always already be implicated in and interpreted through understandings of gender has pushed theoretical discussions away from the idea that gender is the cultural reading of biological sex. In doing so, it has highlighted the possibility of analyzing gender as sets of understandings and categorizations that need not be restricted to the biologically based categories of "man" and 'woman.'" pg. 11
Bordo - Body and Reproduction of Femininity
"Career woman became a dirty word, much more so than it had been during the war, when the economy depended on women's willingness to do "men's work." The reigning ideology of femininity, so well described by Betty Friedan and perfectly captured in the movies and television shows of the era, was childlike, nonassertive, helpless without a man, content in a world of bedroom and kitchen, sex, babies and home." The housebound agoraphobic lives this construction of femininity literally. 'You want me in this home? You'll have me in this home - with a vengeance!'" pg. 2365
Rosie the Swifferer
This ad for a Swiffer sparked backlash at the company who immediately pulled it. It turns out that the woman depicted too closely resembles Rosie the Riveter a poster from the WWII era that came to symbolize the women's movement in the 1980's. Ironically and unthinkingly enough the image was used here to depict a strong, assertive, empowered woman doing non-assertive household work with a Swiffer rather than a Riveter. This attempt to use a symbol of women's empowerment failed for lack of consideration for the gender roles it helps to enforce.
Bordo - Body and Reproduction of Femininity
"It is difficult to avoid the recognition that the contemporary preoccupation with appearance, which still affects women far more powerfully than men, even in our narcissistic and visually oriented culture, may function as a backlash phenomenon, reasserting existing gender configurations against any attempts to shift or transform power relations. pg." 2363
Bordo - Body and Reproduction of Femininity
"Femininity itself has come to be largely a matter of constructing, in the manner described by Erving Goffman, the appropriate surface presentation of self. We no longer given verbal descriptions or exemplars of what a lady is or of what femininity consists. Rather, we learn the rules directly through bodily discourse: through images that tell us what clothes, body shape, facial expression, movement and behavior are required." pg. 2366
Feminine Ideal
This Milk advertisement enforces the hegemonic discourse of the feminine ideal. A clean white kitchen, pink clothing, graceful form, curvy figure, juggling tasks, and hair styling. This fulfillment of a stereotypical "perfect" gender role is seemingly easy to attain by simply drinking protein. However, I don't think a lot of women intend to grow a mustache to increase their femininity.
Kellogg's Sucrilhos - Brazil
Chicago Dept. of Health
Drug and Alcohol Service London
Electrolux Appliances
Kenwood Appliances
Secret Deodorant
Bordo - In Hiding and On Display
This discourse analysis shows how advertisements construct the gender binary and enforce the dichotomy between what it is to be male or female and masculine or feminine. There is a line of dualism that should not be enforced when it comes to gender binary depictions in the advertising. There is also recognition and utilization of this line by many corporations and institutions to maximize their profitability or change behavior. Certain examples show how misguided attempts to commoditize gender can backfire sending the wrong message to consumers and ultimately undermine the brand message. Companies that break the binary lines previously established with the correct intentions behind them should be praised. However, the only true form of praise that will support these representations in advertising is increases in consumer spending to support and encourage their message. This is why next time you are shopping for kitchen appliances of childrens toys it is important to remember the message behind the product and support binary breakers.
"One also sees [sex] becoming the theme of political operations, economic interventions (through incitement to or curbs on procreation), and ideological campaigns for raising standards of morality and responsibility: it was put forward as the index of a society's strength, revealing of both its political energy and its biological vigor. Spread out from one pole to the other of this technology of sex was a whole series of different tactics that combined in varying proportions the objective of disciplining the body and that of regulating populations." pg. 146
"This power over life evolved in two basic forms... they constituted rather two poles of development linked together by a whole intermediary cluster of relations. One of these poles - the first to be formed it seems - centered on the body as a machine: its disciplining, the optimization of its capabilities, the extortion of its forces, the parallel increase of its usefulness and its docility, its integration into systems of efficient and economic controls, all this was ensured by the procedures of power characterized the
: an
anatomo-politics of the human body
." pg. 139
This commercial depicts a celebrity wife and mother completing impossible tasks literally juggling her life. This too enforces the gender binary trope that a woman's place is in the kitchen. Additionally it perpetuates the myth that success or "usefulness" for a woman is achieved by becoming machine-like and increasing her docility in the home. As this ad phrases it "become more amazing." This form of power and control over the female body characterizes the "anatomo-politics of the human body" that Foucault refers.
Superman Milk Magazine Ad - http://www.supermanhomepage.com/images/superman-returns6/gotmilk-large.jpg

Salma Hayek Milk Magazine Ad - http://www.bohomoth.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/article-2292937-18A2A853000005DC-297_634x848.jpg

Electrolux TV Commercial - youtu.be/TaQOrHWn8gs

Kenwood Appliances Magazine Ad, circa 1961 - http://img.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2007/11_04/chefDM2711_468x463.jpg

Chicago Dept. of Health Transit Ad, 2013 - http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/files/authors/1311/chicago.JPG

Drug and Alcohol Service London Transit Ad, 2008 - http://www.newfreepress.co.uk/_assets/images/content/dasl-if-you-drink-like-a-man.jpg

Secret Deodorant Danica Patrick Magazine Ad, 2005 - http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_RaOrchOImw8/Ss5TviOo0OI/AAAAAAAAZUM/nj-ZKIS9shk/s400/Danica+Patrick-1.jpg

Swiffer Rosie the Riveter Ad, 2013 - http://static01.mediaite.com/med/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/collage.jpg

Goldieblox TV Commercial - youtu.be/RmeuhPNojTA

Kellogg's Sucrilhos Cereal Magazine As, Brazil 2009 - http://files.coloribus.com/files/adsarchive/part_1352/13520605/file/sucrilhos-kelloggs-dolls-small-14021.jpg
Bed Bath and Beyond
Lego - 1981
Full transcript