Protein Bars and Gender Roles

Every day, we are bombarded with advertisements.  It is difficult to pay attention to every detail of an advertisement – that would be a full-time job in itself.  Whether you are riding a bus, riding in a car listening to a radio station, sitting at home watching TV or cable TV, surfing on the internet on our computers or on your mobile phone, flipping through a magazine, advertisements are everywhere trying to sell us something.  I tend to tune advertisements out, if nothing else, just to stay sane. Many advertisements are disturbing because of the raunchiness or possible suggestion of violence.  Some advertisements do not seem very genuine – in some ads, the model’s expression seem odd; in other ads, the message of the picture seems to conflict with the wording of the product they are selling.  If the ad features a feminine seeming person, they are usually super thin, if the ad features a masculine person, they are usually muscular and dominant (usually over someone feminine if they are featured in the same ad). Many companies have armies of people in their marketing department trying to sell more of their products.  Many advertisements in a “women’s” magazine tend to promise beauty, sexiness, and toned body; usually by easy methods without having to put in much effort.  The ads promise result by just eating or drinking their products, or even just popping a pill.  In “men’s” magazines, the advertisers’ window effect is if you use their product, you will be powerful and make lots of money and be dominant.  I found couple of protein bar advertisements that propagate the myth of gender.  It is yet another message that the role of feminine folks is to look impossibly thin and beautiful so they can be objectified.  And for masculine folks, the expectations are to be strong, be the bread winner and be in a high powered, high paying position.  Both advertisements are from Experience Life magazine.  One ad is from 2008 and the other from 2011.












The message in the Supreme Protein bar advertisement with the feminine model implies that if you eat the protein bars, you can have a fabulously thin and toned body.  The ad implies that the protein bar has the “body-toning” properties and if you choose their protein bar, you are also making a smart choice.  Although the model’s body seems to be ready for a Namaste pose, her expression on her face is somewhat puzzling and out of place.  She does not look very happy, nor does she look sultry.  The model looks dazed and it’s almost like she is saying, “now what do you want me to do?”

The masculine model’s expression in the Protein Plus is also curious.  If you have his super muscular body and you are tremendously successful as this ad implies, one would think he would have happier expression.  Perhaps they were going for “focus” but the longer I look at his expression, he looks more upset or irritated more than focused.  The message for this ad is not as obvious as the Supreme Protein bar ad because this advertisement’s words are dedicated for their sweepstakes; however, the ad seems to imply that their protein bar gives you not only buff muscles, but apparently it makes the man smart and successful so he can dominate in a business world and in the gym.  Even in this ad, feminine folks are depicted as having less power. Their status seems to be lost in the masculine roles of “thinkers” as they look on while more masculine people perform and engage in tasks.  This scene reaffirms the statement from True Women and Real Men, “When women enter jobs traditionally held by men they often encounter discrimination harassment, or ‘glass ceiling’ that limit their advancement.”

These are disturbing because the standards set in most advertisements seem almost impossible to achieve.  A passage from True Women and Real Men states, “Moreover, studies of men’s mental and physical health suggest that social pressure to ‘be a man’ (that is, to be emotionally controlled, powerful, successful) can contribute to isolation, anxiety, stress, and illness, and may be partially responsible for men’s life spans.”  In recent years there seems to be a proliferation of anti-depressants and other “feel good” drugs including anti-anxiety pills developed by many different biopharmaceutical companies to be consumed by both adults and children alike – there are endless choices in which one can medicate yourself.  Perhaps, there are lots of people out there depressed because they are bombarded every day with advertisements touting the unrealistic expectations of being someone that they are not.