Is it OK for Women to Abuse Men?
Media representations of the relationships between men and women reflect and reinforce cultural norms and beliefs. For many years, there has been a trend for TV commercials to depict men as wrong, bad, stupid, lazy, clumsy idiots in need of a woman to set them straight. Women in these commercials are presented as smart and active authorities. Women’s controlling, demeaning, and punishing treatment of men is portrayed as expected and justified.
If these characterizations of the relative qualities of men and women and how they interact with each other were rare, they could be discounted as not telling us much. It’s the frequency of the depictions that reveals their significance. The lack of reverse scenarios also is revealing. We are not likely to see a company using a man demeaning or slapping a woman as a way to promote its product.
In a commercial for a low-calorie soda, a woman who appears to be the wife of a man admiring a pie comes up behind the man and abruptly pushes his head into the pie.
In the next scene, she pulls back the shower curtain to expose him hiding, attempting to eat a burger. She grabs the burger out of his mouth and pushes in a bar of soap.
The scene cuts to her sitting down beside him on a park bench. He’s drinking the low-calorie soda being promoted in the commercial. She looks at him approvingly, as she is drinking the same beverage herself.
A pretty woman sits down on the next bench. When the man looks at the woman with appreciation, his wife hurls her soda can at him. He ducks and the can hits the pretty woman instead of him. It hits her in the head hard enough to knock her over. The wife looks shocked and worried, portraying that she realizes that she could get in trouble for hitting the other woman. The husband and wife run away from the park together.
The wife is worried about getting into trouble for hitting the other woman, but it doesn’t seem like she was worried about negative repercussions if she hit her husband with the soda can.
This woman is controlling, demanding, humiliating, overly jealous, and physically abusive to her husband, yet the beverage company obviously thought it would attract people to buy their product. Would a company even contemplate this commercial script if the genders were reversed? What does it say about our culture that this female-male relationship is seen as something that could leave a good taste in anyone’s mouth?