Another example of an ad trying to tell you that being a ‘Real Man’ is a cost paid by Women and felt by Men. As International Anti-Street Harassment Week approaches, Jeff Perera explores how these streets intersect.
Fiat is an Italian automobile manufacturer that has struggled to make it in the North American car market. A Fiat car is a vehicle with self-esteem issues. It isn’t awe-inspiring, intimidating or ‘manly enough’ for Western car standards. With a geeky name like ‘Abarth’, you could only image the snickering and teasing the poor Fiat 500 Abarth would get in a North American parking lot from all the manly Ford-tough trucks, macho Mustangs and rich Cadillac’s. When it came time for a game plan to tackle the hyper-masculine and super-macho world of the Superbowl commercial field, Fiat used the standard stepping stool for ‘weak & pathetic’ males to try and be more like the All-American Male.
This plain, nerdy man walks down the street with a ‘girly’ beverage in hand, and comes to a full stop to openly stare at this Fiat 500 Abarth on two legs…bent over. She turns around and steers directly into the oncoming traffic of the man’s stare, slapping him and then raining down upon him a sensual onslaught bathed in exotified Italian dressing. What did she say exactly? The translation is: What are you looking at? Uh?!? What are you looking at?! *slap* Are you undressing me with your eyes? Poor guy…you can’t help it… Is your heart beating? Is your head spinning? Do you feel lost thinking that I could be yours forever?? The male character is portrayed as weak, helpless and less than a man. The message is clearly directed to the ordinary, run-of-the-mill male to realize they too can have this power… Faster than a speeding bullet..More Powerful than…Able to… How to upgrade from ‘man’ to Man? For this feature, the cost is at the expense of what it means to be a woman. The woman in this commercial is not even a someone or somebody, she is a car. She is a tool. She an object of status to get from where you are to where you are told to be. It’s not about getting a vehicle to get you to around town, it’s about a vehicle to get you to where you ‘need to be’ as a man. Men can change the messaging they are bombarded with like a diaper…literally. Huggies ran a series of ads which demonstrated that their diapers can handle any ‘real life’ scenarios, including extreme neglect caused by fathers consumed with sports on television. Images of Fathers as babysitters or inactive partners in raising a child, have impact on both men and women in numerous ways. Folks didn’t stand for that and got the ads pulled.
Which was great, but as Huffington Post columnist and Educational psychologist and consultant Lori Day said “I loved that men were able to make noise and get this offensive ad pulled. I am genuinely happy about that. I only wish that the millions of ads that sexualize and objectify women could be pulled.”
Women are left to either submit and embrace, or struggle to reject and resist narrow media representations of the feminine. Men need to support the rejection of these images as well as reject narrow ideas of manhood. These binary Gender roles are joined at the hip, painted with the same brush. A women being passed off as an object to enforce a warped idea of being a Man, is at the direct cost of women’s worth and value and limits men from embracing their full humanity. So who is the nameless Anthropomorphismodel woman that we discover on the street in this commercial? Catrinel Menghia was born in Romania in 1985 and discovered on the street at the age of 16, on the street, by an agent. Was that moment of her discovery a moment similar to this classic image, “American Girl in Italy” by Ruth Orkin of men staring at a woman?
Consider how many women experience street harassment in Romania, Italy or any country worldwide on a daily, hourly basis?
We need to engage men in working to stop Street Harassment. Meet Us On the Street: International Anti-Street Harassment Week is a program of Stop Street Harassment who are seeking to start conversations and dialogue with men around being a part of change.
This video is a great example of how men can do their part.
We need to encourage men to reflect on everyday experiences for women, then reflect on whether they add, contribute, are complicit or are they helping to shift that reality. This video does a great job helping to ‘normalize’ speaking out and calling friends out on harassing behaviour. We also need to talk about the pressure heterosexual men feel to ‘have game’ and ‘just know’ how to talk to women. We all need to work on engaging young men and men in conversations like this.
You are more of a man cause you roll with respect and honour for yourself and the sisters in your life and in our world.
End Street Harassment. Check out these links