Sexist Double-Standard Made Funny

March 5, 2010

Have you seen the latest TV spots for Old Spice? They’re the ones featuring a shirtless man barking commands at women to “look at your man – now look at me” while pointing out that their boyfriends/husbands simply don’t smell like real men (and therefore maybe aren’t real men).

I stop to watch these commercials every time I catch them because they crack me up. The guy delivers his lines in a come-hither tone to the ladies whose eyes are glued to their sets (or his abs?). You can almost smell the masculinity oozing out of the screen as he speaks.

And the spots are catching on … Brandweek reports that they’re a bona fide web sensation. One of them has been viewed on YouTube more than three million times since it debuted the day after the Super Bowl.

Although I find these ads really, really funny, I can’t help but wonder a few things:

If this man walked into a bar and commenced his order barking on an ordinary Friday night, would women respond favorably?

Does Gloria Steinem approve? Because there was a time when women objected to being talked to like this. I have to now assume that if the ad is funny and kind of degrades men, it’s okay in a post-feminism world.

What if this man wasn’t a man, but instead a chick with the qualities of a Gisele Bundchen or Brooklyn Decker? And what is the reaction as she tells men to look at their gals and see the disappointing lack of femininity they possess? Would the spot get the same laughs? Maybe some uncomfortable chuckles from guys. Would it increase sales? I doubt it – if women are the ones buying the Secret or the Old Spice or whatever, they’re certainly not going to buy something from a girl who’s hotter than them who puts them down in front of their men. Not gonna work.

So why does this kind of tactic work on guys? Are we stupid? Or are we just accepting defeat from a dude who is clearly more macho than the vast majority of us as we sit on our couches watching football or NASCAR?

I’m not sure the answer really matters. What I do know is that the ad brilliantly works both ways: at the end of the spots, when the guy says something akin to “I’m on a horse,” I’m ROTFL. Well, not actually rolling – but I do LOL.

Note: I asked my friend Alli to pre-read this post before submitting it, and she strongly objected to the inclusion of the image of Gisele on a horse. This after she just watched a half-naked man on a horse. Double standard? You decide.