When I first saw this I was so mad I was basically foaming at the mouth. Though I understand that advertisements lie at the root of all gender-stereotyping evils, this campaign doesn’t even pretend to be subtle. To anyone who might think that we are in a post-feminist society, that feminist ideals are now superfluous and that the (two) genders are now equal, read this and weep. In fact, I might be so angry that I have to revert to bullet points:
- Is that what men did in pants? Wore them?
- Street corners are now overflowing with old women unable to step off the curbs, hoping for a knight in shining khaki to come save them. Similarly, all women are stuck indoors.
- Disco and lattes make men gay.
- “Genderless society”, my sweet arse! And what kinds of questions would that society have? Perhaps, ‘why have we been able to eliminate gender but cannot avoid ending sentences with prepositions?’
- Eliminating gender is equivalent to an apocalypse. And those old ladies are still there! Probably getting crushed by crumbling buildings.
- Salads, plastic utensils and complacency make men gay.
- Wearing pants and not practicing good hygiene (it’s flu season!) are the only ways to not be gay. Women and androgynous people do not wear pants. Wearing pants means one must eat meat with metal utensils and drink lattes with foam.
All joking aside, this advertisement, and the whole campaign, really, is a disgusting example of how far we have not come. In what sick and twisted meeting room was this campaign approved? Oh, good idea guys, let’s reverse decades of effort made by women’s and gay movements to attempt to make the world a safe place for everyone. Clearly, masculinity can mean only one thing and is availiable only to a certain kind of person who does certain kinds of things. Being masculine, and thus a man, means not being at all effeminate or androgynous, meaning not being a woman or being gay. Moreover, it’s really a message of what NOT to be, rather than how to be a man, other than to wear khaki pants and be dirty. This is a message of hate and of power, justifying patriarchy, misogyny and violence. The world is owned rightfully by men, it says, and this is a call-to-arms to reclaim society in the name of putting other people down in order to maintain a system of oppression. Clearly this is an assault to the threat that, perhaps, steps are being made to uncover the ways in which the ‘natural’ order of gender and sexual hierarchies are flawed and politicized.
In a time when people are fighting to prove that non-normative sexualities and gender expressions are not going to destroy the world, and in the face of unending violence against them, it is in very poor taste to promote gender stereotyping and an inherent manliness that seeks to annihilate non-trad peoples to put them back in their place as second-class citizens. There is a bill in Uganda that threatens to kill people who engage in homosexual behavior, and Dockers thinks it’s OK to assert manliness against them for the sake of khakis?? Where are our priorities?? We by no means live in a genderless society. On the contrary, people courageous enough to defy normative gender roles are beaten and killed, and gender assertions are pushed at us from all sides, all the time. Someone in one of my classes today said that one is no longer as aware of one’s gender as in centuries past. And though that may be true for her, I am aware every day, every hour, of how I perform my gender and how to cater it to my environment so that I may be comfortable and safe. And then Dockers has to come in and, in the name of the reclamation of masculinity, show me how rigid and powerful gender roles and regulations still are.
This ad is sick. It is repulsive and nauseous and I cannot even begin to wrap my head around the societal implications this has or can have. Luckily, I’m not alone, as left and right protests and boycotts and epistolary outrage are cropping up. I encourage everyone to write in to Dockers and tell them that this campaign is utterly unacceptable. Levi Strauss & Co. cannot state its commitment to integrity, equal opportunity and diversity with ads like this under its name. It’s mind-boggling, because Levi Strauss & Co. is, historically, very LGBTQ friendly. So what’s this all about??
Also, I’m pretty sure disco is dead.