hunks in ads aimed at women

Posted by msnaughty

Advertising offers an interesting dichotomy when it comes to the concept of the female gaze. Advertising is by no means a level playing field; indeed, it could be argued that the male gaze is often the "default" position of any advertising - witness the way that female bodies are regularly used to "sex up" products (bikini girls draped across cars is the first thing that springs to mind).

And yet advertising does require the image makers to consider the demographics of their audience, especially when the product is aimed at a specific gender. When the product is pointedly aimed at women, the female gaze does occasionally get a look-in.

The Diet Coke ads from the mid 90s offer an interesting example of this.


In these advertisements the women are acknowledged as being visual creatures, turned on by a good looking builder/window cleaner. They're not made to feel bad or unfeminine for wanting to look. The man is filmed in a way that highlights his physique and in this ad he exists purely for the pleasure of the women.

This is the female gaze.

The all-female comedy show Smack The Pony added a touch of satire to the same idea:

This ad for Underdaks again gives priority to the female gaze

I watched this and found myself thinking the same scenario would probably garner accusations of sexism if the roles were reversed. Rather than sexual harrassment, however, this ad plays as a nudge-nudge kind of joke. The man who is the object of desire does not feel harrassed or upset by the woman in charge. In this instance, the female gaze is not threatening, only playful.

I'm not entirely certain what to make of this one. It gives us the female gaze - a good looking, shirtless guy speaking directly to the "ladies" but at the end the advertisers begrudgingly let us know they'd rather not have to give us "our hunk" because we'll forget the message of the commercial. Funny, yes, but there's a feeling like the people behind the ad were uncomfortable with the idea of selling to women in a sexual way.

And what to make of this?