The dominant narrative surrounding the pieces that I am analyzing, which are fast food commercials meant to appeal to a gendered target audience, re-inscribes and reinforces dominant gendered narrative ideology. Certain aspects of these commercials might instead suggest that they challenge this dominant gendered narrative, although by examining the advertiser’s reasons for doing this, it becomes clear that this is not the case.
One of my texts, the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. commercial featuring two country girls in a barbecue cook-off with strong sexual undertones, reinforces the concept of a dominant gender because their purpose in the video is to be displayed as sexual symbols, rather than individuals simply participating in a good-natured cooking contest. This is intentionally done to appeal to the male viewers, who would therefore be considered the “dominant” gender in this situation. One might argue instead that the commercial actually challenges this dominant gendered narrative, however, because of the unconventional aesthetics of the females in the video: they are tough, stubborn, and the sweat on their bodies is emphasized multiple times. These things imply a more dominant portrayal of women, rather than their stereotypical submissive portrayal. Despite this, though, the women in the advertisement are still present simply for the indulgence of men, which is even more explicitly clarified by the ending, which features two men, also attending the cook-off, watching the women lustfully and taking photos with their phones.
“When Do Opposites Attract?”
This study doesn’t involve food, but can be easily tied into my topic. This study uses the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability scale to determine the traits that a person is most attracted to, which revealed that most people are attracted to people who exhibit gender-specific traits that are opposite of theirs or that complement theirs, i.e., a man is more attracted to a woman who exhibits more stereotypically feminine traits, and vice versa, or that a person with a dominant personality is more attracted to a person with a submissive personality.
“Gender Representation in Television Commercials”
This study examines the way in which gender is utilized in general advertising, and includes studies focused on voiceover gender as well as the gender represented for domestic vs. non-domestic products.
“Gender Specific Preferences and Attitudes Toward Meat”
My topic focuses on the portrayal of gender in food advertising, or more particularly, in the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. commercial linked here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIsfwztXIb0
This commercial is interesting when compared to other examples of gendered food advertising that we’ve studied in class, because the two women that the video focuses on are strongly associated with meat, rather than with salads or raw vegetables. However, despite this, gender roles are very clearly prominent; both of the women are thin and represent the stereotypical ideal of “beauty.” The meat that they are grilling is intended to appeal to male viewers, rather than female ones, just as the female actors are meant to appeal to them in a similar way. This shows how the idea of “femininity” or “masculinity” can be shaped to be whatever somebody intends them to be, which is what Emma White describes in her article, “Starved by Society,” explaining that gender is simply imitation.
“When we perform our genders we do so by strictly adhering to our society’s idealizations of what it means to fully embody femininity (and masculinity) at any given time” (White 319).
“For Butler, drag illuminates the fictitious nature of gender performativity and it is from this revealing that the subversive repetition of acts can take its form. A repetition can be subversive if it exposes what is taken to be natural or authentic to a particular sex, when it compels us to question what is real. In so doing, these norms cannot only be resisted but also re-worked” (White 320).
“Alongside these pressures we are bombarded with images in the media of computer enhanced size 0 models who are airbrushed to perfection, as it seems to have become an unspoken rule that you must adhere to these standards of beauty if you are to be classified as beautiful, successful and desired” (White 320).
I plan for my area of focus to be gender and food advertising. The artifact that I chose was the video compilation of gender stereotypes in various fast-food commercials, which is linked in my group blog.
Carolee Schneemann’s performance art piece, “Meat Joy,” features three women and three men, joyously moshing together along with various meats, such as chicken and fish. While I would not consider feminism to be the main point of this performance, an underlying statement with regard to gender can be noted.
Among other things, it seems that the performance is a representation of the beauty of life and death, as shown by the very organic movements of the participants and the parts of the performance when the movement seems to halt. The meat represents death, but not in a dark manner; rather, it shows that death is a natural part of life, which is why the participants react to it with joy. Viewing this piece through a feminist lens, however, reveals a completely different meaning to the piece. In an interview, Heide Hatry described how women can often be complacent in the reality of their oppression, in which the lifeless meat would be a symbolic metaphor for the way they have been “processed” by society, and the blissful reactions on the women’s faces implies that they have been trained to ignore this fact. Hatry also alludes to the commonly-held idea that women are treated “like meat,” meaning they are treated as nothing more than a product made for male consumption. Despite there being an equal number of women as compared to men in this performance piece, the movements present give off a very sexual vibe which might correlate with this.
My first and final impression of this piece was that it was a representation of nature and human life; however, if being analyzed through a feminist lens, distinctions and symbols that correlate with this can be observed as well. Art, especially art in this form, is very subjective, and often does not have a specific singular meaning.
Of the four excerpts that were provided for this assignment, the part that stood out to me the most was when the author was describing how meat and animals are often used as symbols for the rape and abuse of women. Everybody has heard of rape or abuse victims describing their experiences as causing them to feel “like a piece of meat,” but the author of this book offers a fresh perspective on this saying that gives it an entirely new meaning.
Before I read these passages, I always thought of the common phrase as meaning that the victim felt dehumanized, as if they were nothing but a toy or a punching bag – flesh and bones, but no soul, no identity. This is likely what is meant, although the text reveals a hidden meaning to the otherwise straightforward metaphor. It compares the abused women to slaughtered animals, because “specifically in regard to rape victims and battered women, the death experience of animals acts to illustrate the lived experience of women” (53). When an animal is slaughtered for consumption, it goes from being a sentient, soulful creature to a lifeless product meant solely for consumption, and there becomes an intentional disconnect between what it once was and what it became, which the author of the text brings up repeatedly. Likewise, women who were victims of rape and abuse undergo a sort of transformation in the way they view themselves, from liveliness to feeling as if they exist solely for the consumption of men. The Vegetarian bares some similarities to this subject, although the metaphor of the woman feeling like a piece of meat is not explicitly used. While rape or abuse is not necessarily a central topic in the novel, the reader can clearly see a shift in Yeong-hye’s personality from stubbornness to passiveness, quickly losing her agency and doing whatever the male characters command of her, so long as it does not involve her consumption of meat.