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We all know advertising preys on the worst gender stereotypes: Only men drink beer, of course, and women dominate the laundry detergent and household cleaner demographic. Feminists have been pointing this out for years, but now men’s-rights advocates are declaring their disgust with the advertising industry. In an article called “Top 10: Worst Male-Bashing Ads,” Ask Men’s Marc Voyer ranks the most egregious offenders of 2008.
A few of Voyer’s picks are spot-on. An ad for 1st for Women, a South African insurance company, shows a guy running after a car full of his friends, playing a sophomoric joke by not stopping to let him in. They get so caught up in their game that they drive off a cliff. The punch line? “Why we insure women only.” You can watch the commercial here:
Many of the ads are just as insulting to women as they are to men. A Roomba spot (below) features a mother complaining that her kids are pigs and her husband is a donkey (or, as Voyer suggests, a jackass). Since she can’t handle cleaning up after a stable of barnyard animals all by herself, she enlists the help of a robotic vacuum. “Forget men sharing baby duties, knowing how to vacuum, doing dishes, and picking up after themselves and others. Instead, the cliched message is that women are the civilized voice burdened with managing men and their ingrained frat-boy mindset,” writes Voyer. But ingrained in the idea that men are constitutionally incapable of cooking a meal is the equally pernicious assumption that women should take full responsibility for all household chores.
Since feminists have acquired the reputation of being utterly humorless, I’d also like to note that Voyer may also take himself a little too seriously at times. He rages against a Polysporin spot that shows a father careening down a Slip-N-Slide and into a bunch of garbage cans. “The moral of this story: Dads are even dumber and more childlike than their own offspring,” Voyer seethes. Yeah, it’s also called slapstick. The clip reminded me of the Thanksgiving when my own father accidentally landed in my aunt’s swimming pool. His clothes were soaked, I was in hysterics and the story remains a family favorite. It’s a gaffe anyone could have made, and no one thought less of his intelligence — much less questioned the competence of his entire gender — because of it.
Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.More Judy Berman.