Fiats of Strength?

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.

 Meet Abarth…

  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.   483877_593261184037010_735435731_n   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

Stop Street Harassment 

It Starts With You.

Meet Us On the Street: International Anti-Street Harassment Week

SlutWalk Toronto


  1. LOVE THIS! ALL of it.

    I am not someone who gets offended very easily, and frankly, it bothers me how EASILY people get offended these days and sometimes in an effort to avoid offending some, people end up offending MANY..That said, it is TRULY important that we don’t become lazy when it comes to standing up for what’s right and doing our part to at least TRY and make our world safer and more supportive for our kids.

    It’s as if it’s become Okay to put men and women in boxes, tell them who they are and what they think and feel and reject them when they choose to walk their own paths. That’s not Okay. Enough with the “men are strong are women are pretty ” attitudes and try to remember that we are ALL pretty damned strong in our own ways.

    I’m working my Ass off to change the way people (especially) kids treat and feel about themselves and am grateful to not be alone in this fight!


  2. Are we – parents and society – unconsciously raising our sons to be useful pawns for war?
    In his fascinating, well documented book, “War and Gender”, Joshua S. Goldstein, Professor of International Relations at American University, DC, puts forward the theory that parents and society, unconsciously and unintentionally, train boys to be ready, when they are men, to fight in war. We train boys to be able to kill. Goldstein’s research finds that all men are groomed to kill even though most men will never be needed for war and will never actually kill.
    Killing doesn’t come naturally to a man, Goldstein says. A man has to be taught – and the training is difficult. Preparation has to start as young as possible. Here Goldstein is not talking about army or weapons training, but about the conditioning necessary to overcome a man’s natural reluctance to kill another person. To be effective, this psychological preparation has to start early – in fact, soon after birth.
    So, we come to my question – are parents unknowingly priming their sons for war?
    To start the debate on this question, I’ve listed some of the qualities I think would make a soldier useful in a war situation and then those that make him risky in the eyes of the military authority.
    It seems to me that the military would want a man to be:
    Stoic – to endure pain without complaint
    Communicative mainly about actions
    Unemotional – except for anger
    Physically tough, strong and active
    Heroic, adventurous and courageous
    Attracted to the risky, the macho and the dangerous
    A leader, but one who follows orders
    Able to accept hierarchical, authoritarian systems that demand discipline
    Keen to accept institutional male bonding that re-enforces an ideology of a superiority that excludes others
    Determined to win at all costs
    Capable of violence
    Willing to cause pain
    Always supportive of his troop – despite any unethical behaviour.
    Risky in a war situation and in the eyes of a military authority would be a man who:
    Is compassionate
    Is caring – and unwilling to hurt or kill another
    Questions illogical and automatic hierarchies
    Questions authority
    Is not automatically patriotic if he thinks the war is unjust or illogical
    Does not support unethical behaviour
    Does not see ‘others’ as inferior human beings
    Is able to express emotions, even those of fear, insecurity or vulnerability
    Is not afraid to express pain
    Is not afraid to admit to feelings of inadequacy or show fear of failure.
    Communicates and listens on a personal level
    Depending on your point of view, the ‘soldierly’ attributes in the first list, or ‘non-soldierly’ ones in the second list, could be seen as negative or positive. What I’m interested in, is whether the first list of qualities – those useful for fighting in wars – are the same qualities we want or expect in our sons? Want and expect may be different, but often have the same result. We may not want our son to take risks, but we could still expect him to do so. The result – that he takes risks – can be the same.
    In contrast, do we try to discourage in our boys the qualities in the second list, the ones that seemingly are negative in the war environment? For instance, do we want to deny that young boys are often sensitive, questioning, caring, afraid and vulnerable?
    Most boys have marvellous, natural qualities such as high energy, curiosity, active minds and bodies, the desire to explore and experience. And there are obvious differences between boys and girls (both genetic and temperament). These are NOT what this blog is about. I am interested in our actions, our beliefs, and our ideologies – those of parents and societies – and how these may be coded and formulated – even without our realising it – to encourage the characteristics necessary for one thing – to make a useful tool for war.
    If we read the first list, some of us will say, ‘No, I don’t agree with that particular characteristic. It’s not something I would encourage in my son.’ But let’s admit it – the influences on any boy are many. Influence comes from his peers, the media, the clubs he belongs to, the sport he plays, the culture surrounding him. And in one way or another, we allow these influences – through acceptance, lack of interest, or group pressure. We don’t take too much time – or any time at all – to question whether the characteristics suitable to be able to fight in wars are also the most positive ones for a man living a daily life of work, social interaction, partnerships, relationships, family and children.
    Many of the quotes and statistics I use may refer to the USA (because of that country’s current and recent war history), but my overall argument concerns all boys, no matter where they are. The argument does not distinguish between boys who may one day fight in a traditional war, a civilian war, or as groups of individuals fighting against a traditional military operation. I believe, besides obvious cultural differences, that most societies instil the same characteristics into their boys – those characteristics necessary for fighting and killing.


    • Totally. My hormones make me want to beat up and assault women all the time.
      Because science.

      What an awful excuse to use.


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