In past blogs I have responded to what I perceived as obvious man shaming in television advertisements. Lately, I have not been paying much attention to these ads but the other day one just got to me. The scene opened with a man cleaning up a spill on the kitchen counter and while using a paper towel to clean it up the towel fell apart. His female partner/spouse walks behind him and smirks and tells him that he got what he deserved -the mess – for buying a discount brand of paper towel instead of the premium Bounty paper towels.
It was so blatant in portraying a man as inept needing the correction of a women to set him straight through shame that I had to exert considerable self-restraint to keep from throwing the remote at the television screen. I understand that the commercial was an attempt at humor and in the great scheme of things not that big a deal. However, since masculinity is currently under such scrutiny and attack, a message that reinforces how men are inept in dealing with everyday tasks becomes significant.
– Why is it considered normative for modern men to need a female intervention to make sure they are acting appropriately?
– What would be the reaction if the commercial had been opposite in roles where the man was shaming the women and showing her how to do something right?
– How do younger men who are increasingly unsure of what it means to be a man receive the message of a man shaming commercial?
– Does the notion that men are fundamentally inept reinforce the idea that young men should remain as boys until they meet up with a women who will get them focused and shame them when they get out of line?
– Does man shaming in the media reinforce the false message of the hyper-masculine movement that women are attempting to neutralize masculinity?
My sense is that we need to pay more attention to this type of commercial and remind advertisers that a seemingly benign attempt to be humorous might be sending – I’ll give the copy writer the benefit of the doubt – an unintended message.