I came across this HuffPost article by Rebecca Adams about the representation of women in commercials, both on screen and on voiceovers. Actually, the article is really about the lack of women, and how women’s voices are silenced in commercials.
I’ve thought about this topic before when I saw the 2010 commercial for Carnival Cruises. The commercial is clearly from a teen girl’s perspective, yet the voice is a grown man’s. Why?
Obviously, I don’t know the answer. Maybe the execs didn’t think a teen female voice is compelling. Maybe they thought parents wouldn’t be encouraged to buy cruise tickets based on their daughter’s view. Or, maybe they didn’t even give the gender of the voice a second thought. Perhaps it was a given that a man’s voice would represent Carnival Cruises despite the image of a young female.
Once you start looking for gender bias in commercials (or anywhere, really), it’s easy to find. Who’s the last female spokesperson for a car commercial, especially for a luxury car, that you can name? Anyone? But we have Jon Hamm for Mercedes-Benz, John Slattery and Matthew McConaughey for Lincoln, John Cusack for Chevrolet, Liev Schreiber for Infiniti, Kevin Spacey for Honda, Donald Sutherland for Volvo, Jeff Bridges for Hyundai, Steven Barr for Toyota, and Dennis Leary for Ford.
The women? Well, there’s Patricia Clarkson for BMW. Oh, and Scarlett Johansson for Lincoln, but only in conjunction with Matthew McConaughey.
Do car and ad execs think that women don’t purchase cars? Apparently not. They do think that women are good for selling cars and car products, if the women are “sexy” or “helpless.” Here’s Carbuzz’s “5 Sexist Car Commericals” post.
So, what can women and their male allies do to confront gender bias in commercials? Write, email, tweet, and post about it. Companies don’t like controversy or issues that will impact their bottom line. Make your voices heard! And you have the choice that if a company isn’t representing you, you don’t have to buy its product.