Where Are Women’s Voices?

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.

Men Aren’t Boys, so Why Are Women Called “Girls”?

Have you ever heard a man refer to himself as a “big boy”? I’m betting no. Now take a second and think if you’ve ever heard a man or, worse, a woman referring to a woman as a “big girl.”  I’m betting yes. Why the difference?

Men rarely ever reference themselves in a fashion that detracts from their manhood. The last time a man in your life was going through a rough situation, did he ever declare, “I’m a big boy! I’ll get through it!” I somehow doubt it.

Yet, turn on practically any episode of “The Bachelorette” and listen to both the male contestants and the bachelorette herself refer to her as a “big girl.”

“I’m a big girl. I can handle myself.”

“She’s a big girl. She knows what she’s doing.”

And, of course, there’s Lena Dunham’s equally lauded  and bashed show, “Girls.” While it’s true that some of the females on the show act in a childish fashion, they also engage in some very adult activities. But, I suppose the producers decided that calling the show “Women” or “Ladies” just wouldn’t have enough appeal.

Remember Sarah Michelle Gellar’s show, “Ringer”? In it, SMG’s character refers to herself as a girl. (Go to :24 in the video.) Now, all due respect to the wonderful SMG, but you’re 36 years old. Your character doesn’t look like a girl. Couldn’t you have mentioned to the writers (or couldn’t the writers have thought for themselves) that declaring, “You have the wrong woman” would work just fine?

How about when women reference a girls’ night out? Nope, ladies, sorry. Your evening plans usually entail drinking alcohol, which girls aren’t allowed to drink, let alone purchase. Your fun times may happen in a bar or other adult establishment, where girls can’t go. It may last into the wee hours of the morn, when girls should be sound asleep in their own beds. So, no, ladies, have your ladies night out, but leave the girls to their sleep-overs and Disney channel marathons.

Girls gone wild? That would be child pornography. Yet somehow “women gone wild” doesn’t have the same tawdry allure, which is a good thing. Why? Because “women” indicates maturity and sense, and attributes displayed by adults (hopefully).

We live in a world where women are inundated with images and language that encourage, cajole, and pressure us to infantilize ourselves. Look younger! Dress younger! Be younger! Get rid of the wrinkles. Why celebrate womanhood when that makes you old, boring, and undesirable? Be a girl and stay young, interesting and desirable forever!

Well, enough. I say “woman” isn’t a dirty word. It’s a badge of honor. It means you’ve grown, lived, experienced and, hopefully, flourished. It should be empowering to call yourself “a woman!” Men don’t refer to themselves as boys. It’s time for women to stop referring to themselves as female children and start embracing who they are and what they’ve been through and accomplished to become WOMEN.