Men fight back as battle of the sexes hits adland

Tired of being portrayed as incompetent idiots in ads, men have launched a campaign against this sexual stereotyping.

Right lads, this is it, we’re going over the top. And remember, don’t shoot until you see the mascara in their eyes.

Yes, the counter-revolution has begun. After years under the jackboot of the feminist fascist junta, American men are fighting back. And where the Land of the Free leads, there shall we surely follow.

The American male has had it up to here. He’s sick to death of working all day, arriving home at night, putting up his weary feet in front of the telly, a beer at his elbow, and peering over the rising half-moon of his belly at ad after ad depicting men as a lazy, good-for-nothing slobs worthy of no better than ridicule, scorn and, worse, pity.

It’s the same in this country. Men are depicted in ads as backward dolts who need to have things explained to them by smart and plainly superior women.

It all began as a kind of amusing corrective to the portrayal of women in advertising as simple housewives in need of advice on what products to buy. But creativity in advertising has a tiny horizon (just think of FCUK) and it was not long before almost every ad fell into step behind the new convention that men were bumbling idiots and women sharp and savvy. In the cock-eyed world of adland, to replace one stereotype with another is seen as redressing the balance. And it saves having to think of something original.

Well, an increasingly vocal group of American men say enough is enough, and they are taking action. No more tree-hugging for them, no more male bonding, no more of this New Man stuff, trudging shopping malls, a baby in a pouch slung around their necks, while the significant other strides on ahead.

No sir, it’s time to draw a line in the sand and reassert the old masculine values – to see man restored to his true self: a noble, compassionate, brave and resourceful hero, a chivalrous protector of the weak and, it goes without saying, supremely intelligent and aware.

First, however, what to do about those ads? The answer is simple, hit the perpetrators where it hurts – in the wallet. An organisation called the Society for the Prevention of Misandry in the Media (misandry being the opposite of misogyny) is encouraging a boycott of products that use male-bashing advertising.

Reebok, for example, is on the list for commercials that use the song “This is a Man’s World” against images of men acting like fools. In one of these ads a man walks into a gym full of fit females, trips and stumbles over the exercise equipment and has to be rescued by a strong woman.

Hefty trash bags comes in for criticism for suggesting that men are garbage that women can toss out and trample on without a second thought.

Post-it Notes uses captions such as “The more I know about men, the more I like my dog.”

In a Bud Light ad a woman in a bar who doesn’t like the demeanour of the man seated next to her kills him and tells the bartender to “keep the chains” – a punning reference to the gold neckwear worn by the deceased.

Progressive Insurance runs an ad in which an angry girlfriend creates a voodoo doll of her former lover and uses pliers on his genitals.

Factory Mattress shows a woman lying awake in bed unable to sleep because her husband is tossing and turning beside her. She takes a frying pan and knocks him unconscious.

Confronted by the anti-misandry lobby, American marketers tell the critics to lighten up. The ads, they insist, are nothing more than harmless comic insights into male behaviour and weakness and anyway, women like them.

They have a point. It is interesting how many of the advertisements have as their visual punchline men doubled up in pain after suffering damage to their testicles. Like it or not, a blow to the balls is a timeless comedic trope. I have no doubt that when a hunter-gatherer was butted in the groin by a mastodon all the other hunter-gatherers fell about helpless in the tundra, their eyes streaming with laughter as were his with pain. Today there is no moment in a cricket Test match enjoyed with greater relish than the spectacle of a player collecting a fast one in the box.

But testicles aside, the anti-men ads have gone too far and there are simply too many of them. No one is suggesting that men should mimic the fearsome feminist pioneers and insist that heroism should become himoism and heritage hisitage or that we should indulge in symbolic gestures such as burning our jockey pants, wearing boiler suits and shaving our heads (many men do these things as a matter of routine), but good-humoured, tolerant creatures that we are, we think it is time not so much to redress the balance as to create a balance. Not all men are idiots and not all women are clever.

In any case I’d like to get back a little equality. I could start by recruiting a yoga teacher, a fitness instructor, an acupuncturist, a hair colourist, an events organiser, a reflexologist, a cleaning lady, a life coach, a health and beauty consultant and oh yes, a personal shopper. Why? Because I’m worth it.

Latest from Marketing Week

PLEASE SIGN IN OR REGISTER. IT'S FREE, QUICK AND EASY!

Access Marketing Week’s wealth of insight, analysis and inspiration that will help you develop as a marketer and leader.

Register and receive the best content from the only title 100% dedicated to serving marketers' needs.

We’ll ask you just a few questions about what you do and where you work, so we can make Marketing Week more relevant to you.

Register now

THE BEST CONTENT

Our award winning editorial team and columnists will ask the biggest questions about the biggest issues on everything from strategy through to execution to help you navigate the fast moving modern marketing landscape.

THE BIGGEST ISSUES

From the opportunities and challenges of emerging technology to the need for greater effectiveness, from the challenge of measurement to building a marketing team fit for the future, we will be your guide.

PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Information, inspiration and advice from the marketing world and beyond that will help you develop as a marketer and as a leader.

Dedicated to developing your skills and helping you achieve marketing excellence. Find guidance on leadership, professional development and the latest industry jobs.

Having problems?

Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3711 or email subscriptions@marketingweek.com

If you are looking for our Jobs site, please click here