Advertising is focused largely toward the middle class, aiming to convince the group that luxuries above their budget are actually necessities. Years ago, advertising was less impactful than it is today. “In the 1950’s and 60’s, when Americans were keeping up with the Joneses down the street, they typically compared themselves to other house holds of similar incomes” (Schor 186). This had a stabilizing effect because people were aspiring to a lifestyle within the reach of their income. However, once women entered the workplace, neighbor interaction declined and people spent more time watching television. This lead to heightened exposure to advertising and people began to emulate a lifestyle that was out of their budget (185). Quickly, advertisers formulated a message for each gender.
Ads that target men specifically have a unifying theme; “cotemporary adds contain numerous images of men who are positioned as sexy because they possess a certain aggressive attitude” ( Katz 351). Katz points out, “men’s magazines… are rife with ads featuring violent male icons, such as football players and leather clad bikers”. Why produce these images of violence, though? What purpose do they serve? Katz later concludes that in a society where power lies in the hands of the white collared and the educated, the use of their bodies and a tool for strength and physical control and often violence can “afford young males across class a degree of self respect and security” (352). This source of security in one’s masculinity can quickly become problematic though as it can easily be interpreted to encourage violence, especially against women.
In an effort to demonstrate that not all men are inherently aggressive, and subject to materialistic consumerism, I aimed to represent myself in a different light. Rather than identifying with an unshaven, leather clad biker, identity masked by sunglasses, I chose a child, enjoying something as simple as a sprinkler to represent myself. Rather than exercising to bulk up like the man depicted on the bowflex, I am more likely to push myself mentally via a long run or bike ride. Similarly, rather than playing football I would prefer something less inherently violent such as kayaking. Lastly, rather than finding appeal in the pretty boy images and labels like Chaps, I’m more intrigued by the sciences. With all this said, it is necessary to emphasize that I do not condemn all types of competition and aggression. These can be appropriate and healthy, as long as they are in moderation, do not harm others and are in combination with appreciation for other things.
Schor, Juliet. The New Politics of Consumption. Gender, Race and Class in Media. Dines, Gail and Jean Humez