Every once in a while, if I find the time, I’ll flip through a Seventeen magazine to relax and see what’s new in the world of fashion and pop culture. The last time I did this I stumbled upon an advertisement for Venus Embrace razors that caught my attention. It displays a man and a woman in an embrace with the phrase, “Goddess of he’s mine”. This ad caught my attention because the people seemed very happy and simply loving their life, but also fairly sexualized. I chose this advertisement to analyze because it strongly reinforces the “typical” male and female roles and portrays them as something that is desirable to the readers of Seventeen magazines. However, I believe that the advertisement has aspects an inflected oppositional reading. The three main ways in which it does this is by reinforcing masculine hegemony along with the ideals of masculinity and femininity; reinforcing the stereotypical roles for men and women to follow; yet, the ad communicates a conflicting message about power between the characters. It conveys these messages through appearance of the characters, the behaviours of the characters, and finally the character position and “slogan” of the advertisement.
One important part of this ad to look at is the support of masculine hegemony and feminine ideals, through the appearance of the characters. The characters of the male and female are explicitly shown as models that the audience should be like, and the anti-models are implied to be the opposite of the presented characters. The woman is seen as a model because she is thin, pretty, happy, and very feminine. The man is seen as masculine, fit and handsome; he emphasizes masculine hegemony because he is a heterosexual male who fits into a specific category of masculinity. Furthermore, the feminine ideals are displayed through the woman’s little pink bikini, smooth legs, and pretty hairstyle. These ideals being reinforced isn’t good because they teach the audience of the ad (typically women ages 13-20) that all of these qualities are what you need to be happy in a relationship, like the people in this advertisement.
Another aspect of the advertisement to consider is the portrayal of male and female roles through the behaviours of the characters. For example, the man staring at the woman’s legs is an instance of “male gaze” because he sees her as a sexual object to be stared at. This is especially detrimental to women since most of the viewers of this ad are women, who are supposed to identify with the female character. If they do this, they may see it as okay for men to appreciate them solely based on their physical attributes and their beauty.
Finally, the part of this advertisement that encourages me to categorize it as an inflected oppositional reading is the conflicting message that it sends about patriarchy and power within the relationship. It seems as though the woman is in power because she has “claimed” her man; this can be seen in the slogan “Goddess of he’s mine” displayed beside the couple, and the way that the woman is embracing the man. Both of these things contribute to the woman’s empowerment because, the possessive quality of the slogan leads the audience to believe that she has power over the man, and the embrace does the same, since the woman is in control in their positioning. Nonetheless, this is a mere bending of patriarchy because it appears that the woman only got her power through being attractive and being something that the man wanted. If she was less desirable to the man, she would likely not be in power. This is a negative message to women as it shows beauty as a necessity to gain power, which is not the case.
It is beneficial to think critically about these types of advertisements in order to question the messages that magazines are sending to young readers, specifically female readers. These messages of beauty and strict feminine and masculine roles are fairly dominant throughout Seventeen magazines, and it makes me wonder, is this really what the media should be teaching young women?
Images courtesy of Seventeen magazine.