Part wev in an ongoing series…
Last summer, I wrote about a couple of commercials—one from TGI Friday’s and one from Burger King—that associated eating shitty food with manliness. In the TGI Friday’s advert, a guy excited about his broccoli gets the “What are you—some kind of fag?!” look from his three dining companions, compelling him to stab a sausage and lifting it to his pals’ triumphant cheers that he’s a fag no more. You know, because he’s about to eat some sausage. The Burger King advert was the now-famous “I Am Man” commercial, in which a guy dining with his girlfriend throws down his fork and jumps up into a song-and-dance routine, braying about how he’s not going to eat “chick food” anymore, then joins a chorus of men rioting in the streets, unfurling banners declaring their manliness, and eating ginormous burgers.
I said at the time: “I love the message here. It’s manly to eat meat—but not just any old meat; specifically the heart-stopping, artery-clogging beef served up by fast food and chain restaurants. It’s girly to eat vegetables and be healthy. Trying to save men from heart disease is just another part of the radical feminist agenda to ‘feminize’ society. Damn women—if it weren’t for the mothers, girlfriends, and wives who try to get them to eat healthy, men would never have to subjected to the horror of broccoli! Damn henpecked hubbies and faggots—real men stuff their faces full of shit to prove how manly they are!”
This year, we’re getting a variation on that theme, as burgers are shown to be so manly that they’re turning women into men!
The first example of this trend I saw a few months ago was a Dairy Queen advert for their “Chili Meltdown,” in which a couple is sitting on the couch watching TV and the girl requests a bite of the guy’s sandwich. (First bit of interesting commentary on what is “male” and “female” food here, as the guy’s full-mouthed response is “Really?” and the girl has to assure him she actually wants a bite.) Immediately after taking a bite, the girl slouches back on the couch, sticks her hand down her pants Al Bundy-style, and offers her index finger to her beau: “Dude, pull my finger.” Then comes the voiceover: “It’ll make a man out of you.”
At Shakes Manor, the resident man is none too pleased with that commercial, either. “What?” I asked him. “You don’t consider the ol’ pull-my-finger gag a defining tenet of manhood?” He muttered something that contained “fooking” and “wankers.” I took that as a “no.”
Burger King, apparently determined to be always on the cutting edge of fucking aggravating me, has followed suit with their own line of adverts for their “Western Whopper,” which is meant to “Bring out your inner cowboy, Cowboy.” Proof of its efficacy in inducing said inner cowboy is the outer moustache that appears on the face of everyone who eats it. Including women. And dogs.
Much like the Hyundai ad, this advert’s sin is in making the male universal. If the commercial had only dudes in it, and their “inner cowboys” came out, with a companion piece of gals whose “inner cowgirls” came out, that would be fine. Or, they could have used the word which specifically means either a cowboy or cowgirl: cowpoke. But…nope.
In fact, Burger King has an advert for the “Western Whopper” that does feature exclusively women—sorority girls, to be exact—and the tagline is still “Bring out your inner cowboy, Cowboy.”
(Don’t even get me started on the rest of the content in that piece of shit ad.)
This issue is one of those that tends to get a lot of eye-rolling, a lot of WTF is the BFD? (Especially from men, no discourtesy meant to the men who don’t roll their eyes and tell me to “get over it.”) Well, let me explain WTF the BFD is about making the male universal: Being male isn’t universal.
Treating maleness as universal makes “male” the default, the norm, which makes femaleness the other, and the othering of femaleness is the very foundation upon which the patriarchy is built. He and him and his being default language for humanity, or mankind being an acceptable substitute for humankind—these are the symptoms of a culture which treats male as the standard and female as a lesser variation. This cultural phenomenon quite obviously has far-reaching implications for anyone who does not meet the preferred standard—less freedom, less respect, less opportunity, fewer rights, lower pay, more hurdles, less power. And every single time “men” is used to mean “people,” it reinforces the notion that women are a deviation from the norm. So it needs to be called out every single time, even when it’s a stupid Burger King advert—because that advert’s going to run thousands of times, and each time it’s going to transmit to every person who views it the basic framework of the patriarchy.
I can “get over” the ad. What I can’t get over is the next generation of little girls being slowly but steadily indoctrinated to the concept that they are less than by insidious shit just like this, stuff at which we’re meant to laugh. What I can’t get over is the question: How many things have we laughed at in our lives that in some way conveyed the message men are the norm; women are a lesser deviation?
Because, really—there’s nothing funny about that.
Which is why, once again, I’m not particularly bothered by the thought of being called a humorless feminist for taking issue with these ads. Being Othered isn’t funny. Being Othered can, in fact, feel shitty. That’s probably not particularly compelling to someone whose solution is “get over it,” but that doesn’t especially strike me as a problem with me, if you know what I mean.
One last thing: Often those who exhort me to “get over” one thing or another also assert that the problem is because women like me (i.e. feminists) search out offense, that we deliberately look for things about which to be offended. This contention is patently foolish, and I can think of few things said in dissention to posts like these that more readily make me feel they are being said by a Very Stupid Person. You see, to make that claim, one must also be simultaneously asserting that misogyny is so rare that one is forced to seek out examples. If only. This shit is so fucking pervasive, I have to turn off my brain most of the time and tune out these messages, lest I go mad. If I actually spent my days actively paying attention to every example of misogyny around me, I would be a profoundly unhappy woman. Like, not just bitchy or grumpy, but paralyzingly depressed. I would guess that most women, even feminists, maybe especially feminists, have to go out of their ways to avoid consciously reacting to every bit of misogyny, or they would go quite insane.
I write about the things I can’t not write about. If I wrote about all the things that bothered me, I’d never sleep.