Milk's sexist new anti-PMS campaign

Got ridiculous stereotypes? The beverage's latest marketing strategy involves rampaging dairy-deprived ladies

By Mary Elizabeth Williams
Published July 12, 2011 3:37PM (EDT)
Detail from Milk's new advertising campaign
Detail from Milk's new advertising campaign

Advertising without sexist stereotypes would be like "The Jersey Shore" without bronzer, like Katy Perry without cleavage. But even in a field dominated by talking boobs,  obsessive yogurt eating and vegetable licking, the new California Milk Processor Board goes that extra offensive mile.

In a new twist on the classic "Got Milk?" campaign, the dairy world is reaching out to a struggling class of individuals – men suffering from PMS. Not their own, of course. The "Everything I do is wrong" campaign goes out to all you, fellas, the poor, beleaguered gents who have to deal with your lady's monthly case of the crazies. Solidarity!

A new series of ads features cowering come-ons from men defensively brandishing half-gallons and sniveling mea culpas like "I'm sorry you listened to what I said and not what you meant" and the grammatically noxious "We can both blame myself." At the Web "home for your PMS management," there's a warning to be alert to "verbal traps and questions about her weight," and a "sensitivity vocabulator" that suggests menfolk call her "passionate" instead of "irrational."

I can buy the research that supports that increasing your intake of calcium and vitamin D can alleviate the legitimately crappy physical and emotional  rigors of the monthly cycle. And hey, somebody earned himself a few brownie points just last night when he brought me a carton of Ciao Bella Dulce de Leche. But one might wonder if all the synthetic hormones pumped into factory-farmed dairy cows, the kind used by Häagen-Dazs, Breyer's, and other brands, are the best thing for either women and men. And if you really want to get some sexism-free calcium, you could load up on dark leafy greens, tofu, oranges and almonds.

As the New York Times points out, this isn't the first time milk's touted its alleged bitch-defusing properties, including a 2005 ad featuring desperate males snapping up milk and red roses like it's the end of days. But the sheer breadth of this new campaign, its lame laff riot over female "irrationality," really takes the milkshake. It speaks directly to that tired old idea that a woman's problem is a man's inconvenience. It paints her as just an out-of-control hysteria monster, a slave to her mysterious blood cycle, and the best anybody can do when she's about to go on the rag is humor her. And that's playing into the worst, most belittling stereotypes of the female condition.

The executive director of the milk board, Steve James, told the Times on Monday that the campaign's "humor will allow people to laugh at themselves." And Jeff Goodby, of the milk board's creative agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, acknowledges, "I wish I could say everybody's got a sense of humor" since their 2005 PMS campaign. Don't you just love when men tell you how to laugh at yourselves and your wild mood swings, ladies? A healthy, balanced diet is a thing of beauty. But with its ugly new campaign, the milk board just might find a whole lot of rampaging female consumers suddenly feeling mighty lactose intolerant.

Don't blame us. We're just funny that way.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

MORE FROM Mary Elizabeth WilliamsFOLLOW embeedub

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Advertising Television