Intel: Apple is Simple, ‘For Moms’

Here’s a quick hit from the tech world (courtesy of my father, expert lurker of Mac blogs):

Intel CEO Paul Otellini recently took a swipe at Steve Jobs for what he thinks is a “step back” in the forthcoming Apple TV design. Citing Apple TV’s lack of full internet features, Otellini said that the product would be for his “mom,” while Google TV would offer something more serious, more advanced, for someone like his son.

This is indeed reminiscent of Droid’s hypermasculine campaign, or Dell’s “Della, for women!” Are women & moms really the barometers for simplistic, unsophisticated, dulled-down products? Is that really fair?

Otellini’s comment wasn’t just a factual exploration of the different demographic targets or marketing strategies between the two products; it was an insult. And a somewhat petty one, too, as the backstory shows that Apple had chosen to forgo Intel’s Pentium M processor for their TV, opting instead for an ARM chip. Now that the two companies aren’t business partners, Intel is suggesting the only market for Apple’s product is moms, too confused to use anything advanced. Sounds like stereotyping to me.

Zoolander - "iiiiin the computer?"

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Spirit Airlines Ad Objectifies Women, Mocks Oil Spill

Via Jezebel:

Today Spirit Airlines came out with this advertisement for coastal flights, featuring a greased-up woman in a bikini, with the header: “Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches.”

This ad is particularly tacky for multiple reasons– exploiting women as well as the oil crisis. This time, it’s not just the feminists who are upset. Spirit received so many complaints, it took down the ad and posted this apology on its site:

It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with today’s beach promotion.  We are merely addressing the false perception that we have oil on our beaches, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these vacation hot spots.

I guess it’s really too much to expect from a company whose previous ad campaigns featured a game of “digging for Jimmy Hoffa” as well as the following tag line: We’re No Virgin! We’ve Been Cheap and Easy For Years!

What are your thoughts on this ad?

PETA Strikes Again

Did Southwest Airlines ban this PETA ad because of its racy nature, or because of its pro-vegan message?

Southwest reports that the ad was rejected from publication in their magazine, Spirit, because it is “too provocative to run.” PETA, however, claims that this advertisement is no sexier than other ads Southwest accepts– and that Southwest’s motivations lie in the fact that their base is in Dallas, “the heart of the beef belt.”

I’m not sure why Southwest decided to reject the ad, but I’m glad they did. Once again, PETA tries to capitalize on the male gaze and anonymous, sexualized bodies of women to sell their point. Not only that, its specifically addressing the airport body scan controversy, an issue that many people, particularly women, have felt is an attack on privacy, because it gives others permission to images of their nearly nude bodies.

I don’t personally have a problem with TSA body scans, but I do have a problem with PETA’s message. That is: the motivation for a woman to go vegan or vegetarian should be to look more attractive to men. It’s similar to a weight loss ad Mike posted about a few weeks ago. Men can go vegan because they want to be healthy and oppose animal cruelty; women should go vegan so that they no longer have to be ashamed of their fat, ugly bodies.

In fact, I think that’s the way PETA normally frames the argument. It’s why they select mainstream attractive, frequently petite, white women for all their ads. You want to look sexy like the women in the ads? Go vegan. Want to get men to like you? Go vegetarian! It’s no different from the way any corporation runs their fashion or cosmetic advertising, but it’s even more sexualized and offensive, particularly because PETA thinks of itself as a social justice organization. Pro-animal, but not pro-woman.

I’m not a vegetarian, but a lot of feminists are. Yet it’s no wonder that most feminists hate PETA. PETA is an extreme organization that relies on sexism and racism to try to get people to stop eating animals. What could have been an allied relationship between two groups supposedly concerned about rights, just feels like a constant battle. Furthermore, PETA is overly concerned with this idea of “Speciesism“– the notion that humans are superior to animals. I’m not even going to bother comment on the merit of that concern in general, but it’s obvious to me that PETA is a speciesist, too. Animals, they think, are deserving of autonomy and rights. But women exist for the purpose of beauty and marketing.


Bristol Palin’s New Ad

I found this new PSA, featuring Bristol Palin on Feministing this morning. The PSA’s message is brief:

What if I didn’t come from a famous family? What if I didn’t have all their support? What if I didn’t have all these opportunities? Believe me, it wouldn’t be pretty. Pause before you play.

Feministing posted a scathing review of it, writing that the commercial’s message is:

“Apparently you should keep your legs crossed if you’re poor, don’t have family support, or are not a celebrity. What a despicable, classist approach.”

I’m not so sure I agree. It seems to be a bold move for Palin to highlight her own privilege in the scenario. Since news came of her pregnancy, the media circuit has helped glorify this affluent, famous white woman for “choosing life.” I even wrote a few months ago that Palin’s life circumstances made her choice much easier than for many women, and she had no right to use her experiences to speak to all unplanned pregnancies.

I think it’s pretty wrong to assume the message of this ad is to go ahead and have unprotected sex if you’re rich. I don’t think this ad applauds Palin’s behavior while shaming poorer women– at least that’s not its point. What I think it means to do is break down the privilege Bristol has that has contributed to the cheery depiction of her teenage motherhood. Strip all the sunny media coverage away, and the reality of being a teenage mother, especially with fewer resources and support, is much different. And there’s nothing wrong in acknowledging that.

The thing I don’t like about the ad is it seems to focus on abstinence, though that’s not entirely clear. The Candie’s Foundation does support abstinence-only initiatives, but the ad isn’t so hard-hitting on that message. On the Candie’s website, the group highlights that “Pause before you Play” can mean a variety of things:

pause to think about your future; pause to think about consequences; pause to evaluate your relationship; pause to delay sex; pause to get a condom; pause to ask “why now?”

“Pause to get a condom” signifies a safer sex approach, not strictly bullheaded abstinence-only propaganda. If I got picky, I’d say I would appreciate some comprehensive sex ed facts in the ad, as well as facts about what leaves single mothers trapped in working poverty. But for 27 seconds, this PSA doesn’t do such a bad job.

Globalization & Homogenized Beauty

In a recent New York Times blog article, photographer Zed Nelson describes what he sees as globalization’s increasing impact on standards of beauty.

“Globalization hasn’t just given us Starbucks in Beijing and shopping malls in Africa,” he said. “It is also creating an eerily homogenized look.”

The increasing reach of American or Western advertisements, tv shows, and other forms of pop culture has influenced culture and beauty standards in foreign countries. Why is this dangerous? Because Asian women are getting their eyes surgically widened,  women in Africa are lightening their skin, and Iranian women are undergoing record rates of nose jobs. All in the name of “being more beautiful,” which has also become increasingly synonymous to “more white.”

Wide-spread and unnecessary cosmetic surgery is already a problem within the US, but when you start convincing women of other ethnicities that they’re inherently less appealing than white women, you’re in pretty dangerous territory.

And it doesn’t just span ethnicities and cultures; age also falls victim to the impossible homogeneity. On Toddlers & Tiaras, children ages 2 and up wear corsets, high heels, hair extensions, and make-up to render them physically closer to age 18. And the flip-side of this is of course face-lifts and botox in older women. Going under the knife is never an easy process, and one that can result in painful consequences.

Does the West have a responsibility to reduce the imposition of white beauty standards on other countries? Regardless, it’s doubtful that will change. But I do believe that the fashion industry incorporating more women of color into their ads may help things– at least marginally.

Maybe it’s impossible to curtail the West’s encroachment on other regions’ cultures. And maybe it’s equally impossible to reduce the spread of Western beauty ideals. But maybe if the worth of women in all societies becomes less linked to physical appearance– I’m not even suggesting the link be miraculously eliminated, but just reduced to the point where major surgeries don’t seem like a great option— maybe things can improve for all women.

Offensive Ad of the Day: Women Don’t Care About Getting Healthier, They Just Want Men to Say “Hello”

I saw a truck this morning delivering food for the Diet To Go food company.  (Diet To Go prepares a week’s worth of food (supposedly healthier) and delivers it to a central location for its customers to pick up.)  One side of the truck shows before-and-after photos of a man with the words “Thanks for giving me my life back!”  A sensible ad, right?  Eating the Diet To Go food will make a man healthier.

But here’s the other side of the truck.

Nothing about making a woman healthier.  No, all the woman cares about is that “Men now say “Hello.'”

Is President Barbie A Feminist Ideal?

Two weeks ago, Mike wrote about the latest from Mattel’s Barbie collection: Computer Engineering Barbie. He lamented, rightfully so, the head-to-toe pink accessories, including a hot pink laptop. (Because, let’s be honest, girls can only write in C++ with a fuchsia computer).

Today, I read that the White House Project, who had teamed up with Mattel in 2000 to launch President Barbie, has once again partnered with the company to promote Computer Engineering Barbie, while simultaneously advocating for national recognition of women’s issues. On the White House Project’s website, President Marie Wilson writes:

“Through Barbie, and its ‘I Can Be’ President Barbie, little girls have had the opportunity to lead the country from their living rooms and bedrooms, or get out their Barbie and Ken dolls and call a joint session of Congress.  We at The White House Project are thrilled to be partnering with Barbie as she celebrates her 125th career and continues to inspire girls of all ages to follow their dreams.”

Is this partnership problematic? Barbie is never popular among feminist circles, due to unrealistic body expectations, race issues, and stereotypes of girls’ activities. And let’s not forget that while Barbie first ran for president in 2000, eight years earlier she was skipping math class to go to the mall. (“Math class is tough,” TeenTalking Barbie repeated. “Let’s go shopping!”) And furthermore, what sort of mixed messages is President Barbie sending? Girls can run for office, provided they fit a mainstream patriarchal view of beauty, and spent their formative years gossiping on pink cell phones about Ken dolls?

And who among us can really say, as Marie Wilson writes, that they’ve been inspired by Barbie dolls? Entertained, fine, but inspired? The White House Project does a lot of good as far as promoting women’s leadership, but is their message diluted by the addition of Barbie to the mix?

On the other hand, Barbie continues to be one of the most popular children’s products out there, and global sales of the doll rose 12% last quarter. Is this part of the ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’ mentality? And if so, is it harmful for girls and feminism?