I don’t get it. What was I missing?
I stared at the ad in front of me on the computer screen. In my mind I knew that it was trying to tell me (or sell me) something—isn’t that the purpose of advertising?—but what I could not understand was how or why it was connecting to some part of me.
A little while ago my editor, Julie, mentioned something about subliminal advertising and I found myself intrigued by the notion. Although not a marketing/advertising major in college, I’ve always been interested by both the design aspects of ads and the psychology of how they compel the target audience to do something. In America, I’ve realized that the messages we see in media often play into our consumer culture (and, truth be told, this phenomenon probably exists worldwide). You’d like to think that everybody plays fair and that companies are on the side of the buyer, informing him or her of all of the relevant details so that he or she can make a smart choice.
I think that we all know that this is very rarely the case.
I have grown up in a world where I have constantly been bombarded with commercials on television, flyers in the mail, jingles on the radio, etc. The result of all of this is that consumer culture just seems so natural to me and I buy things to get a sense of feeling back after being desensitized from all of the information assaulting me. No matter how I want to feel—I want to feel sexy, I want to feel good, I want to feel powerful, I want to be somebody—I can find something to buy that promises to make that dream a reality.
So why is all of this important?
For me, advertisements not only reflect the way that we see the world but also help to shape the way that we relate to it. Subliminal advertisements are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, but what they often do is to help people to formulate assumptions.
We’ve all heard of the objectification of women throughout human history, and while I don’t want to belittle that, I also think that it’s important to see where all of this is going. In the coming weeks, be on the lookout for the various ways in which we combine the ideas of females (and/or female sexuality) with meat and consumption. From “chick” to “prime cut of beef” to “lamb,” we have various associations engrained in our heads from the time that we are children.
The danger in all of this lies in our tendency, then, to view women as consumable objects. While most people would be hard-pressed to support the idea that women are nothing more than a piece of meat out loud, might there be some hidden aspect to our relationship that informs our lives? If we are already a consumer culture and we then come to see women as consumable items, how does this affect the way that we relate to (other) females? How does this affect the way that women see themselves? We rarely think about the animal from whence a piece of meat came—the slab of meat on our plate becomes familiar and we are desensitized—and so why should it be any different with women? If we, on some level, see women as meat, then do we care where those pieces came from?
I don’t think that all men are bad or that all women are so horribly oppressed in our country (and I am certainly not trying to say that you are wrong for the way that you see things), but I am trying to say that you should think about how you think about things.
Finally, to drive it home fromAmerica’s Next Top Model:
Yeah. She’s wearing meat.