Friday, May 16, 2008

DQ Me Something Different... b/c your commercial is pretty darn sexist

Each time i see this Dairy Queen commercial it bothers me more and more. I couldn't figure out why it irked me so much, until now...

There are lots of things going on here:
1. Stereotype of women as gold diggers
2. Stereotype of women as manipulative
3. Benevolent sexism

The women = gold diggers stereotype is based on women using their sexuality to get stuff. In the DQ commercial, the girl is flirting with the boy, using her body language and smile to make him think she's interested in him. In exchange, he buys her an ice cream. Translation: women use their only asset (sex and appearance) and men use theirs (resources, esp money).

The women = manipulative stereotype comes into play mostly at the end when the girl arrogantly and with sass says, "It's like shootin' fish in a barrel." Even at age 9 (estimation) she knows what she can get by using her looks.

Now, let's talk about benevolent sexism: "Characterizing women as pure creatures who ought to be protected, supported, and adored and whose love is necessary to make a man complete. This idealization of women simultaneously implies that they are weak and best suited for conventional gender roles; being put on a pedestal is confining, yet the man who places a woman there is likely to interpret this as cherishing, rather than restricting, her (and many women may agree). Despite the greater social acceptability of benevolent sexism, our research suggests that it serves as a crucial complement to hostile sexism that helps to pacify women’s resistance to societal gender inequality."

The problem is that benevolent sexism is often unrecognized and when challenged, called "chivalry." It's seen as men just being gentlemen and women should be grateful for men being nice. Also, it isn't seen as sexism because women often benefit from it. Even if women benefit, it can still be sexist. Although on the outside benevolent sexism seems advantageous for women, it actually keep women from equality. Since benevolent sexism values women on the basis of their gender, men and women remain unequal. Some see this as "female privilege" but when looking at it that way, we ignore the actual problem: benevolent sexism. Roy says it well: "I think that some of the problems that men face now...are a direct result of the flaws a patriarchical system. It’s not that women have more power than men, it’s that patriarchy is an inherently flawed system that sets standards that are harmful to everyone. It’s a double edged sword."

This might be a bit outdated but it's a questionnaire that assesses your level of sexism, hostile and benevolent (via). Here for a breakdown of scores. And here for the PDF of the paper for you academic type ;)

Also Here

Obviously DQ knew what they were doing. Why else did they put the little boy in a "donkey sweatshirt" (aka jackass)? Lots of money, time, and thought goes into developing these commercials to send a particular message, don't let them fool you :)


phd in yogurtry said...

I saw this a few nights ago and I found it unsettling. Thanks for spelling it out. Benevolent sexism - new term for me.

Sage said...

I was pleased that my 14-year-old daughter also immediately found it offensive. Her take: a glorification of girl as manipulative little bitch and guy as dipshit.

Anonymous said...

If you want to stop the occurance of numbers 1 and 2, well, start making blog entries convincing women to stop being gold-diggers and manipulators.

Or, don't complain about those stereotypes when you're equally willing to stereotype men with various negative traits.

Or perhaps, men will stop stereotyping women as gold digging manipulators, when women stop BEING gold digging manipulators.

I've yet to meet/date one that didn't meet one or the other (or both) definitions.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you, Anonymous.

I have yet to date or meet a woman who offered to pay for the date, even though in some instances the woman made more money than I did.

Oh a side note, we need equality. We need to send more women into combat in Iraq.

Last year we passed the milestone of 3,000 deaths in Iraq, and of those, 2,938 were men, 62 were women.

Women are not being killed in equal numbers in Iraq. So we should petition the army to send more women into dangerous combat situations.

Kyle Payne said...

Thanks for providing a thoughtful response to this commercial. I suspect that many folks who took issue with it were bothered by the "gold-digging" performance by the girl, paired of course with her arrogant comment, "It's like shooting fish in a barrel." After all, that's the punch line. The girl uses her looks to get what she wants from the boy.

But what people are apt to miss is that, as you pointed out, benevolent sexism is not good for anyone. It turns what might otherwise be meaningful human relationships into caricatures, role-plays. And in the context of gender inequality, it sets women and girls up against potentially dangerous expectations (e.g. accepting a gift solidifies her place as a love interest and invites further (potentially unwanted) attention.

Now let me be clear. The problem, as I hope is implied above, is not a one-way street - clearly in DQ example, the girl manipulated the boy to get what she wanted. But regardless of who we might say instigated or maintained sexist attitudes or behaviors in a particular interaction, it needs to stop. And we can hope, of course, that the rest of the DQ commercial script included a serious conversation between parent and child (boy and girl) about what healthy relationships are about.


Nice post!


anonymoushottie said...

Thanks for this post. I can never quite properly explain what I find so unsettling about "chivalry."
And to anonymous, maybe more women would offer to pay for dates if both genders were taught that the socially acceptable norm was for people to share costs and enjoy experiences together.
Anyway, great post.

~JennaBella~ said...

Since my bf and I just had a small scrape about behavior in the name of 'chivalry'(see honey- it's benevolent sexism!!), I decided that I would gander at the quiz to check it out. I didn't take it, but I feel that I do not believe in 100% equality for men and women on every playing field out there. I could tell by reading the quiz and the wording, how answers would reflect one way or the other. The one that got me the most was:
'In a disaster, women ought not necessarily to be rescued before men.' We are always taught women and children before men. I never internalized that information just because the world outside told me to, I belive it because it makes sense to me. The same way that sending men to war makes sense. It's scientifically a better idea. That thought process that men are more expendable then women arose out of the fact that you need more women then men to support a population. It's just a fact of life. When biologists try to save species, they are always hoping for more females than males in order to have more babies. So while I am not saying that men are less than or less valuable then women and that they deserve to be left behind, I am saying that that particular 'benevolent-sexism' has a purpose and a reason behind it that is generally good for the population as a whole. It is not because women are weak or need rescuing, it's because we make babies. My apologies for a fragmented discussion - this is a tiny box to write big thoughts in : )

~JennaBella~ said...

Oh! I forgot to comment on the commercial! Which completely blows! I hate sexualizing young children and I find the whole concept the commercial is based around revolting. Her attitude and ego centric arrogance is particularly grating...

Mark said...

jennabella, I'm afraid I couldn't disagree more with your statements that "it's scientifically a better idea" or "generally good for the population as a whole" to preserve women over men. If our population, was around 2000, I would agree, but at 6.6 billion, we are disastrously overpopulated. The effects of this growth has been harmful for feeding the majority, contributed to massive amounts of pollution, and caused a great loss to biodiversity, which will harm both food and medicine production as well as contribute to increased fighting over increasingly scarce resources. I can agree benevolent sexism may have been adapted to promote neotony and thus helped humans evolve in important ways, but if anything, we should be attempting to decrease our population. Ethically, I think all humans are equal and no one should get "priority" status if all equally need saving. If benevolent sexism does promote population growth (a fascinating thought I've never considered - thank you greatly for the food for thought!), it should be all the more imperative to rid ourselves of it, scientifically.

~JennaBella~ said...

Mark, first -thank you for your nice rebuttal : ) I, too, deeply belive we (the entire world) are completely over-populated. And I think applying the 'it's better for the species' doesn't really apply when there is really so many of us. My point was that it had a reason. That it came from somewhere that was more understandable then 'women are less than' or 'men are less than' was more of the point.
However, let me try and rebuke for the sake of argument-

#1) you are right, increased populations and decreasing resources WILL encourage more and more fighting. Isn't that a great way to decrease population in itself? So then maybe all of the countries at war should agree to send women only to war only for awhile... With a considerable reduction in reproduction, that would be the shortest way to peace, would it not?

#2) If no one should should get priority saving - are children not at the front of the list for you?

#3) While it is easy to feel the overpopulation in bigger cities and recognize the effects as a whole for some people (educated, aware, involved), if you were to imagine you live in a small, small rural town or a village, you would probably not see first hand the effects of over population that we face today. And if 'people' (men and women) wanted to go to fight for their country, village, beliefs, etc... it would still be in the best interest of your town to send more women then men, in order to save your town, village, cultures... And chances are, even if you believed in equality - you would love your community too and if the situation didn't change your mind, I imagine it would still be a slightly difficult situation to deal with. It's not good for the world's population, but it would best for the world you live in...

Mark said...

I can't "argue" ethics as ethics and reason are in different. However, to the points you mentioned-

1. Aside of full nuclear destruction, the Earth, and life on it, will survive in some form no matter what humans do to it; so the goal is to promote the greatest quality of life for those on Earth and to try to eliminate what we perceive as suffering. War and killing in any form clearly defeat these goals and peace. Lowering the population can come simply and painlessly through having less children and using the resources we have to provide for everyone.

2. In practice, they absolutely would. Should they existentially? Well, no more or less than anyone else. As part of what we are attempting to preserve is some sense of "humanity," I think prioritizing kids could be scientifically justified as well and help continue a "nurturing" aspect to humanity which would in turn promote increase benefits to all.

3. I'm not sure how sending more women than men helps in the town example you gave, but indeed the local vs. world is exactly what occurs in impoverished areas. Having many kids is the only way to increase the odds of security and access to resources, even if the more mouths make it harder to feed. By spreading more resources globally, we could lessen that trend. And by free birth control, including vasectomies but that's a topic for another time. :)

Anonymous said...

"And to anonymous, maybe more women would offer to pay for dates if both genders were taught that the socially acceptable norm was for people to share costs and enjoy experiences together."

so feminists espouse teaching someone that something is a "socially acceptable norm" when it in fact isn't?

if it was a "socially acceptable norm", we wouldn't have to teach women about the concept in the first place, now we would we?

your comment unravels itself.

Cathleen said...

I find it disgusting that people are being fed this bullshit. It's horrible to see that the media in fact tries to subminally brainwash us into thinking that these gender roles are okay. Great post.

Jeff said...

I honestly believe it is gentlemen like, but that is sexist right there, I guess... Either way, no matter what anyone tells me, I would still open/hold the door for women and pay the tab.