Robin Edgar, responded to my previous “Cadillac & Power-Over Sexuality” post with a heads up on another ad from the Super Bowl that illustrates the whole “power-over” thing to a tee. I found the ad on YouTube…
Truly worthy of a Ms Magazine “no comment” this is illustrative of the subtle perpetuation of patriarchal principles through, in this case, (attempts at) humor. Did you ever have someone say something nasty to you, and when you call them on it, they say, “I’m only kidding”. Maybe so… but it’s a time-honored tactic to deliver a message without taking responsibility for it. And everyone knows that feminists have no sense of humor right?
Yet the ancient patriarchal wisdom propagated (like a virus) by this ad does not do men any favors either. Some might laugh at this vignette of the guy kicking his way hot babe of a wife out of his car to protect his more valued Bridgestone tires, but how does it portray him? What are we guys supposed to do if we are watching TV with our female friends or partner and this ad crosses the screen? Laugh, since they’re “only kidding” and hope our female comrade(s) do too? Pretend like we were distracted by the cat and missed it? Or maybe brave nervous titters from the female fellow viewers (or be politically correct, depending on your political orientation) and say, “That’s disgusting!”
The guy behind the wheel is a major-league sleaze-ball, by any measure, and his black-leather clad hotee wife has discovered the true reality of male/female relationships in the patriarchal hierarchy… women are expendable in men’s quest for survival in a cruel world, even if it is, of course, “all in jest”. And she is further disgraced (chuckle, chuckle) by not being of any interest to the highwaymen who just want those damn Bridgestone tires.
The joke is that we men treasure our “stuff” over the people in our life, so we men cannot therefore be trusted. If we laugh at the ad in the presence of the women in the room, or they laugh instead or in addition, then we all are acknowledging “message received”, and the wisdom of 6000-year-old dominator warlords lives another day, perpetuated like some software virus into our subconscious minds.
The only solution I can see to avoid serious diminution of your humanity as a male person is to call it out for what it is… disgusting and hateful. If your female comrades have to say that first, you have at least momentarily put the fear in them that they have been put on notice, and maybe your ascent to their revulsion is just perfunctory. And it puts you on notice that you have to risk perhaps seeming “pussy-whipped” by disavowing any connection with this ancient “wisdom” in contemporary guise.
I call these patriarchal messages “ancient wisdom” to be provocative (as you may well have figured out by now). But this idea of “superiors” over “inferiors”, including man over woman, comes to us from our earliest recorded history if not before. Maybe you buy the argument of anthropologist Marija Gimbutas (featured in Riane Eisler’s book The Chalice and the Blade) who dug up 6000-year-old evidence in Eastern Europe of patriarchal nomadic herding tribes invading the more peaceful, more egalitarian agrarian societies in the fertile basins around the Mediterranean Sea. Or maybe you are more of a traditionalist and believe that men have always been barbaric and domineering by nature and that civilization has been a gradual effort to, well, “civilize them”.
Whatever your take on ancient history, the old records show societies where there was a strict hierarchy with in-group men on top, in-group women below them, and out-group men and women (mostly slaves) at the bottom of that hierarchy. Stories from Classical Greek culture, like the Iliad and the Odyssey show women as pawns of male conflicts and power politics.
The Bible provides unparalleled documentation of rigidly male-dominant tribes, led by violent and warlike men that were extremely hierarchic, the men on top claiming authority directly from God. One of the most striking stories is in Judges 19:23-24, the story is told of a man who protects his esteemed male guest from an angry mob outside by offering the mob his virgin daughter and his guest’s concubine to be raped instead. A stark example of the subjugation and devaluing of women…
Judges 19:23 – And the man, the master of the house, went out unto them, and said unto them, Nay, my brethren, nay, I pray you, do not so wickedly; seeing that this man is come into mine house, do not this folly.
Judges 19:24 – Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you: but unto this man do not so vile a thing.
The Bridgestone commercial seems to me (an attempt at) a humorous play on this biblical vignette. The male driver jettisons in this case his wife (the hot babe in black leather) in favor of hanging on to his more valued (hah hah) tires for his hot car.
But even though you might consider the message now cast in a humorous light, this is a riff on an ancient tale that reminds women that their place is at the bottom of the pecking order. A message that has somehow passed through hundreds of generations and still has some salience today, an indication of the continued power of these patriarchal principles.
So I for one, a 54-year-old male with a female life partner and a lot of female friends, do not want or need this kind of archaic hate-thought continually repackaged as pithy commentary on what guys really care about. I don’t want any member of my gender associated with it. I don’t want women to role their eyes when they talk about “men” and then quietly growl at me when I walk in the room.
What sort of culture do we have where the supposed marketing “experts” on what is going to get a rise out of young males watching the Super Bowl on TV, dish up this sort of ad?
“Truly worthy of a Ms Magazine “no comment” this is illustrative of the subtle perpetuation of patriarchal principles through, in this case, (attempts at) humor.”
How about blatant?
“And she is further disgraced (chuckle, chuckle) by not being of any interest to the highwaymen who just want those damn Bridgestone tires.”
Presumably they were not of the heterosexuakl persuasion. . .
“Some might laugh at this vignette of the guy kicking his way hot babe of a wife out of his car to protect his more valued Bridgestone tires, but how does it portray him?”
Obviously the ad is intended to be humorous but I think that what is most important about the ad is how it portrays his wife as *property* less valuanble than his Bridgestone Tires.
First of all, thanks for your comments! I don’t get a lot on my blog here, though I get quite a bit on the DailyKOS version: http://www.dailykos.com/user/leftyparent. You might want to check that out sometime, the discussions can by interesting and provocative (sometimes).
Looked at from our more feminist POV, yes blatant. But from the more conventional view I think the humor adds the subtle disguising of the misogynist message of male power-over.
I think like the unseen husband, the highwaymen too value those tires over the woman. Maybe if they thought she was a virgin they would have had to think twice!
You highlight the idea of women as “property”. I tend to feature the idea of male “control” over women. Two ways of looking at it.
Well both of those aspects apply.
Most people exercise control over their property don’t they?
The invisible husband exercised as much control over his wife as his Bridgestone Tires equipped car. Right?
Yes… you are right on both your points! Our difference here may just be one of what is most effective semantics to describe this idealized patriarchal relationship between man and woman. Is it more effective to describe it as “person and property” or “controller and controlled”.
Just semantics I guess and maybe not worth arguing about… but I think we are both on the same wavelength.