Last week I was starving. Hungry in the way every college student is always absolutely starving all of the time and was itching for a good, greasy burger. After running some errands, my boyfriend and I hightailed it to Hardee’s (because it really is so much edgier than McDonalds or Wendy’s. Right? Wrong.) After we ordered our quarter pounders we sat down and began discussing the usual- our upcoming trip to Bonnaroo, how his family’s move was going and such.
After a pause in conversation I mindlessly took in the metallic and neon décor. After a passing glance at the bland-looking Red Burrito posters and the majesty of the Coke machine, I turned my attentions to the front door. There I was confronted with what I’ve come to realize is ‘Everyday Sexism.’ Hanging proudly by the entrance was a sun-streaked poster of a beautiful, tan, mascaraed woman’s face, her manicured fingers gracefully dangling a chicken finger from her puckered lips. My jaw dropped. With the recent controversies over the Beats Pill commercials and the endless stream of aggravating American Apparel ads, I knew exactly what I was looking at.
“That’s disgusting,” I said a little too loudy. “What, the burger?” my confused boyfriend asked.
I pointed to the poster and explained how degrading it was, directing him to the same version of the campaign in the male version, which was crammed onto a far corner wall of the restaurant. That poster showed the man taking a humorous, exaggeratedly large bite out of an egg sandwich. His eyes are covered by text. There’s nothing even remotely suggestive about his face. All his poster does is showcase the sandwich. Of course, in the end that’s all they’re trying to do, right? Why the advertisers need a sexualized woman and a comical man to sell cheap food is any stereotypical person’s guess.
What angers me the most about these types of campaigns is not just the frequency of them, but the way society has internalized their normality. And how this normality somehow justifies the injustice. After angrily describing the differences in the two ads, my boyfriend stared at me blankly and said, “but they’re just marketing to gender roles.” Annoyed, I retorted, “They’re perpetuating stereotypes!” (Albeit with many not-so-classy expletives).
And what frustrates me to no end is just how these companies get away with it. Despite a few, blessed watchdog groups like Miss Representation and The Everyday Sexism Project, most people and organization simply assume these biases are a part of everyday life. But they shouldn’t.
Women make up 50.8% of the U.S. population. With influencers such as Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer there are more and more powerful, intelligent role models for young girls than ever before. So how do these national corporations get away with such blatant sexism? Better question, how do we let them get away with such ignorant portrayals?
I don’t want to live in a world where burgers are served with a side of chauvinism, where headphones are not meant for my female ears, where flannel shirts are only to be worn without a bra. And right now, speaking out is the only method of change. So that’s what must be done.
You can read more from Ariella Phillips here.
Featured image via.