Monthly Archives: February 2014
We’ve come a long way, maybe. The portrayal of women in advertisements is one indicator of the progression of gender equality. Sociological and communication theories dictate that Social Constructionism is the human understanding of how social functions operate in the world; and, how we, as humans, construct that rationalization into verbal and non-verbal messaging (i.e. ads).
In the Virginia Slims ad above, the caption reads: You’ve come a long way, baby. Today, they use: Find Your Voice. Essentially, they’ve gone from “Hey, you’re getting there,” to “Speak up.” In a declining industry where nicotine addiction is dying, due to the social construct no longer considering smoking to be sexy, provocative, and progressive; but, rather, dirty, smelly, and downright unhealthy, the image that “Find Your Voice” conjures up is this one:
Below are some other photos to examine the development of the general public perception of women. Businesses work off of perception in order to strategize how to best market their product and drive sales. Provided are ads from 40-55 years ago and current day ads, in order to qualitatively assess how far we’ve progressed in gender equality, and also to consider how susceptible we are to the power of suggestion in media.
Granted, housecleaning burns calories; however, this ad signals that a woman’s top two priorities are a clean home and keeping her weight down – which, they may very well be! What about making the focus more on improving health than on decreasing weight? The messaging is: An attractive woman is one who cleans and is slim.
NOW Here we have women who do exhibit healthy weight, and they are proportional. How about beautiful, healthy women (e.g. Olympians) who are not so proportional? If we are told, “Beauty is as beauty does,” how about ads which focus more on the beautiful deeds that a woman accomplishes? I’d love to see women leaders with beautiful skin who use Dove. The messaging here is: Women are allowed to be heavier, as long as they’re proportional.
THEN Does this mean that women who are bad cooks make for bad wives? Or, does this imply women who can not cook should resign themselves wistfully to (God forbid!) never marrying? The messaging suggests: Husbands are not to cook; wives are.
NOW While Chef Gordon Ramsay is not a woman, it is interesting how an excellent male chef is tolerated for his nightmarish kitchen antics. The amusement is so high, his infamy has spawned a TV show. How is it, then, that women – who are, according to social construct, supposed to be the cooks – are not viewed with such amusement for behaving similarly in the kitchen? The messaging suggests: It’s okay for men to behave badly; women not so much.
THEN Perhaps this ad of treating the woman as a misbehaving girl is more tongue-in-cheek. However, domestic violence (not to mention other forms of abuse, general harassment and disparagement of the era) is a real issue; one not to be (pardon the pun) cheeky with. The messaging suggests: Wives dare not make the foolish mistake of purchasing for your husband other brands, otherwise you have been warned and thereby merit the punishment that will ensue.
NOW This ad for young women to attend this all-girls’ school ruptures the fairy tale notion that women have to rely on men to have a fulfilled life. One of the best lines in the movie Pretty Woman is at the end, when Richard Gere asks Julia Roberts, “What happens after the princess gets rescued by the prince?”and she responds, “She rescues him right back.” The messaging is: Be financially and emotionally self-sufficient. You can achieve this through education.
THEN This ad has the word “woman” underscored to emphasize how difficult it is for a woman to open a bottle of ketchup. The messaging is: Women are the “weaker sex.” How will she eat if a man is not around??
NOW This ad for make-up demonstrates how a woman can be feminine, beautiful, AND strong. This works. A thematic representation of strength could include other ways women demonstrate strength and femininity. For example, a woman wearing MAC make-up giving birth in her home with her doula. What better example of womanhood, beauty, strength, and power is that? Another idea is to show women in formerly male dominated industries and professions, e.g. commercial airline pilots, police, etc. The messaging here is: Women can be strong and beautiful; one does not preclude the other.
THEN Who came up with the idea that smoke in a woman’s face is an aphrodisiac? Perhaps this is why this brand is no longer in existence. The messaging here is: Women are such simpletons, they will follow you home after you exhale onto them like a VW Bug exhaust pipe.
NOW This current ad for athletic wear signals practicality by calling the clothing “training,” not “trendy.” However, the colors and the jog bra scream “Look at me!” The last thing a female jogger needs is to be harassed during a run when she’s in her zone. This is not advisable for street running in a city (unless you wish to avoid being hit by an oncoming vehicle), it works for maybe a gym or the countryside. Is it possible to have muted colors; not neon? How frustrating it is to be relegated to just neon and pastels for women’s athletic wear! The messaging here is: Stand out from a crowd (in your stereotypical female colors).
THEN Ads like these wreak havoc on marriages. Home & kitchen appliances are NOT, generally speaking, what women want for Mother’s Day, birthdays, Christmas &/or any other major holiday. The messaging here is: Your wife will love you for allowing her to keep the house clean.
NOW As part of “walking advertising,” this tank top asserts how women are intelligent creatures whose talent must be recognized by serving as our country’s leaders. It is wasteful for them to be stuck in a kitchen &/or home. The messaging suggests: Hey, Haters…If women were equal already, I wouldn’t be wearing this shirt.
THEN This tiresome ad for vitamins associates women with cleaning (again!), and attempts to connect how a man’s wife would look better if she could only work harder. The messaging is: A woman will become even more attractive when she works hard cleaning her home. Start pill pushing to satisfy your needs.
This Pantene commercial (click on image) drives home the poignant truth about how women are not only judged negatively, they are judged in stark contrast to the men who exhibit the exact same behaviors. Why? Because it is not in alignment with the social construct. I personally love the truth of this ad, and, I love how they also show a woman with a pixie haircut, as well; not just caveman-pulling length hair. The messaging suggests: Confidence makes women immune to the labels and they will continue to feel and look fabulous, which only perpetuates their success. You can get there with great hair.
THEN This ad for neckties shows a man in bed. Logic dictates: Why would a man wear a tie to bed? The wife is literally kneeling, and the husband is in a power posture with his hands behind his head and his chest puffed out. The messaging is clear: Dominance and subservience.
NOW Memac Ogilvy & Mather Dubai (i.e. NOT the USA) created a series of ads for UN Women (an entity under the United Nations) to demonstrate how actual Google searches (See Blog on Top 10 Websites of the World to know that Google is #1) reveal the continued widespread prevalence of sexism and discrimination against women. These ads expose stereotypes as well as outright denial of women’s rights. The searches are placed over the mouths of the women, clearly signaling the opposite of Virginia Slim’s “Find Your Silence” with the message that the woman’s voice has been silenced all over the world. The searches bear lines such as: Women should…stay at home, be slaves, be in the kitchen, not speak in church; and, Women cannot…drive, be bishops, be trusted. The messaging here is: We need to continue making the case for women’s rights, empowerment and equality.
We’ve come a long way, maybe. Together, we can get there.
Yentl…er, um…Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com
©Rossina Gil, 2014
In an era where longevity is extending and an economy where postponement of retirement may be a financial necessity, many Baby Boomers elect to continue to work. However, at some organizations, it is expected, as an unwritten rule, that personnel “opt out” at age 58.* Many Gen Y/Millennials (Gen Y/M) believe that Baby Boomers are outdated, using approaches that were effective 20-30 years ago.
How do other organizations strategize to retain its most experienced talent? What practices are put into place to integrate the cultural merger of the stark generation gap that exists between Baby Boomers and Gen Y/M’s? Some organizations are actively working on bridging the gap by raising awareness through 360-degree evaluations, Diversity & Inclusion programs, online cultural tools, and Leadership Development workshops. However, change agents can only introduce awareness opportunities, they cannot force change. A personal epiphany as to how to operate more effectively with others must come from within. One Gen Y/M executive complained, “What kind of strategy is that?! Wait ‘til they die?!”
Dystopia is an imaginary place where people lead dehumanized and often fearful lives. In the 1976 film “Logan’s Run” (based on a 1967 Sci-Fi novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson), the world is strictly regulated by executing its citizens at age 30. In today’s workplace, one Gen Y/M executive frustratedly asked why his 55-yr old colleague does not retire. Are we living the real-life version of Logan’s Run at cut-off age 55?
What is the benefit of retaining seasoned, senior executives? One main benefit is people with a lot of experience tend to not panic in times of crisis. They understand how situations are interrelated. When seasoned professionals experience stress, it may result in some suppressed short-term memory; however, they still have recessive learning, muscle memory, from which to draw and execute wise decision-making. Stability in large corporations is key for the economy. Those executives who do not have substantial experience, are more likely to choke and fail.
Identity is Destiny
Cross-Cultural experts and sociologists have found that national societies unconsciously desire to see a reflection of their country’s identification in the workplace. If the country (e.g. the USA) is relatively young, dynamic, quick growth, and innovative, it expects and recruits talent to be the same. In other, more ancient civilizations, there is a high degree of reverence. In Japan, for example, there is a national holiday, Toshiyori no Hi on September 15; which is a day to practice Respect for the Aged. Japan places a strong value on tradition, honor, quality, and age. So, while an American may call an edifice “old, built in 1900,” a European may reference the same edifice as being “new.”
Lessons through the Ages
So, would you rather have the young surgeon, who has learned the latest medical practices? Or, would you rather have the seasoned surgeon, who knows what to do when the emergency generator kicks in and you are suddenly losing blood unexpectedly? How about both? This goes back to how the much longer-history civilizations develop talent and practice succession planning through Master/Student apprenticeship, also known as mentoring. Mature organizations, i.e. those wise in comprehending its role, do not allow seasoned talent to resign, self-demote, and be made redundant in the next round of lay-offs.
How “mature” is your organization’s view on Talent Development, Recruitment, and Succession Planning? Know this before it’s your turn to take Logan’s Run.
(USA) Age ID Quiz
Select ONE answer from each of the 10 questions below that best identifies you.
1. Which of the following meant the most to you?
A) Elvis joins the Army.
B) Jimi Hendrix dies.
C) MTV debuts.
D) Kurt Cobain dies.
2. cu l8tr is:
B) A typo.
C) What the “kids” use to text.
D) An invitation to see a friend.
3. I plan to stay in a company_______:
A) …until the day I die.
B) …until (hopefully early) retirement.
C) …depending on my boss/work environment.
D) …until something else opens up.
4. On average my money currently goes towards:
5. I mostly make decisions based on:
A) Authority figures.
B) Data and facts.
C) My peers.
D) Reaching a consensus.
6. I obtain my local information by means of…
A) My neighbors.
B) The newspaper.
C) The 6 o’clock news.
D) The internet.
7. When it comes to technology I…
A) Don’t like it/am confused by it.
B) Ask someone to help me with it, occasionally.
C) Am adequate at it (but secretly need help on certain things).
D) Don’t know life without it.
8. How often do you buy the newspaper?
A) Every day and all prints.
B) I have a subscription.
C) Sundays for the coupons.
9. The war I mainly remember as a child is
B) Cold War.
10. The president I will most likely remember is…
C) Ronald Reagan.
D) Bill Clinton.
Mostly A’s = Silent Generation (1901-1945)
Mostly B’s = Baby Boomer (1946-1964)
Mostly C’s = Generation X (1965-1980)
Mostly D’s = Generation Y/Millennials (1981-1999)
Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Gen X’er, wanna-be Centenarian, Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.
Malcom Gladwell, What the Dog Saw, 2009.
My CSUN students, Spring 2011.
* The Global Chairman/CEO of a Fortune 500 company stated in Fall 2012, “We have a norm where retirement age, mandatory, if you will, is 60. And, so the norm is 58. I’ve encouraged so many of our (senior executives) to start their ‘second chapter’ at age 58.”
©Rossina Gil, 2014