Selective Sexist Outrage

Recently, TV viewers might have run across the comedic JC Penney commercial advertising men’s clothes. The commercial begins with JC Penney pitchman Kenny Mayne addressing men, stating that JC Penney is aware men don’t like men’s clothing advertisements. He then promises that if they pay attention to the ensuing advertisement, he would essentially make it worth their while. Viewers are then treated to a split-screen commercial with varying business casual Van Heusen ensembles offered by JC Penney, next to a sexy scene from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High in which Phoebe Cates’ character is seen emerging from a swimming pool in a red bikini.” Mayne casually states, “That way, everybody wins.”

But this funny advertisement has created uproar among traditionally conservative groups, and JC Penney has since pulled the advertisement. an online group of mothers dedicated to “stop[ping] the exploitation of our children,” has decried the advertisement as “offensive” and “blatantly disrespectful to all women, especially mothers and wives.”

Is the ad sexist? Absolutely. Is it sexist on purpose? In the words of Sarah Palin, “You betcha.”

Celebrity website admits the advertisement confused them, saying, “It might – might – be excusable to use a bikini-clad Phoebe Cates … to sell your men’s dress shirts if it made ANY SENSE WHATSOEVER. But it doesn’t!” They then echo the sentiments of One Million Moms, saying, “This ad isn’t offensive because it’s sexist (though it is), it’s offensive because it’s stupid.”

It’s no secret that men like to look at attractive women. That fact has been established since David lusted after Bathsheba in the Old Testament (see 2nd Samuel 11). And let’s be honest, Adam probably thought Eve looked pretty damn good.  So JC Penney has tapped into what they know about men, in order to get their attention, and hopefully sell some clothes in the process.

However, One Million Moms, Jezebel and others who took issue with this ad need to be careful of exercising selective sexist outrage. There are PLENTY of commercials currently airing that make men out to be completely useless idiots. In fact, I highlighted this phenomenon 15 months ago on this very blog. It sickens me to see men so degraded. And yet, it continues.

Recall the recent Fiber One commercial with the wife tricking her husband into eating a tasty candy bar that he doesn’t know contains healthy fiber? Or how about the Windows 7 “Cloud” commercial with the dopey father who can’t discipline his own son? In that commercial, the mother completes the photo editing task and says, “Windows give me the family nature never could.” Then there’s the Yoplait commercial in which the husband goes rifling through the fridge to find the “key lime pie” and “Boston cream pie” his wife claims to have eaten, but misses the clearly labeled yogurt containers.

All of the above ads can be found at

The JC Penney ad objectifies women, no question about it, however, every person, organization, company, etc. is entitled to their opinion, JC Penney included. But it is the hypocrisy and inconsistency that bothers me, and I hope in the future, these outlets will point out sexism that occurs in stereotyping and objectifying women as well as men.

Frankly, one could argue the constant dumbing down of men in commercial advertisement is doing more harm than a 30 second advertisement simply pointing out a fact everyone knows.

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09 2011

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  1. Gina #

    Both of these things you say are sexist. It’s not a battle of ‘this happens more often, so you are stupid and wrong wah wah’. Those ads that portray men as stupid are terrible too, for men and for women. Because women are always portrayed in a way that makes them look like they’re only there to serve their husbands and children and be a cooking and cleaning goddess. People are allowed to be outraged over stupid, sexist ads like that one and you’re allowed to be outraged by the ads you described. We should be working together. Not bitching at each other.

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