Does this ad make you LOL?

Have you checked out the latest Lynx ad yet? Have a peek here and see what you think:

Yeah, I get the joke. They’re not really talking about sports balls, right? Clever? No. Funny? Not really. I find it pretty childish. And I have to ask myself: why does so much of our popular culture focus on sex? And what message does this ad, seen on free-to-air television and at cinemas, send to our children? That our anatomical makeup is a big joke and sex is so trivial we laugh about it incessantly? Or that mature adults are relentlessly fixated on sex and that this is a big part of what your life is going to be about when you grow up, so you’d better get used to it? Grow up, peoples.

In Melbourne, psychologist and author Michael Carr-Gregg has urged radio listeners to boycott the LYNX products. ‘This is completely inappropriate,’ he said ‘[It] just adds to this shadow of pornography that our children are growing up in and I think it’s time we really got strict with them.’

Lynx’s senior brand manager (at parent company Unilever), Duncan Robertson, said that the product is a ‘maverick brand aimed at young men who like their humour sharp and edgy.’

But is the idea of an old man carrying around two saggy old balls that ‘nobody’s played with for years’ really sharp or edgy? Clichéd and lowbrow, more like it. As one viewer commented, ‘my male companion felt embarrassed to be the target of such puerile crap…and he grew up watching Benny Hill.’ Now, that’s saying something!

Most of the negative comments regarding this Lynx ad have centered on sexism in relation to women, but I object on different grounds. I actually think it’s the men who come off worse than the women (although Sophie Monk has done herself no favours). In fact, it reminds me of all those beer ads we’ve seen over the years, where the men are invariably portrayed as morons. Some of these ads are indeed vaguely amusing but, over time, they lead to the sanctioning of the sort of treatment that men are now getting accustomed to in our society.

The ‘men are morons’ message is becoming more prevalent and more accepted within our culture. Over recent decades men have moved from being portrayed as strong, heroic (think ‘Solo Man’) and hard-working (Vic Bitter) to weak, useless fools who are act like children and are treated as such by their women folk (almost all the sitcom men on TV, but most notably Phil Dunphy in Modern Family).

And while we rightly no longer tolerate sexism towards women, it seems that as a society, we are beginning to condone the belittling and denigration of men. Despite many complaints from the public, the ad pictured below was deemed acceptable by the Advertising Standards Board some years ago, because it represented ‘a satirical comment on a patriarchal world.’

The following ad, however (back in 2000) was banned because it was viewed as demeaning to women—which it clearly is; but I sense a double standard here.

Aside from being treated like idiots, or objectified by women, men’s perspective on physical relationships are often regarded as irrelevant or not worthy of consideration. Janet Albrechtsen commented in The Australian last week that Bettina Arndt (former sex therapist) regularly receives hate mail from those who see her as a ‘woman-hater.’ She shines a light on men’s issues in a way that is not always appreciated by ‘the Sisterhood,’ says Albrechtsen.

Arndt’s recent book, ‘The Sex Diaries’, discussed how men and women cope with distinctly different sexual drives. ‘Women lie in bed worrying the hand will come creeping over. Men spend their lives grovelling for sexual favours,’ she says. Feminists everywhere were up in arms, appalled by her advice to Just Do It, even when you don’t feel like it. Many commentators believed that Arndt was blaming women for not giving their partner enough sex. Some even suggested the opposite: that it was the men’s fault for not taking care of themselves and hence becoming unattractive to women.

Instead of trying to apportion blame, wouldn’t it be good if all parties could acknowledge and respect the differences between the genders instead of pretending there are none? To do this, though, all sides of the argument do need to be heard. Arndt herself writes that she is drawn to writing about men’s perspective on these issues because ‘the constant attacks on men has meant they have dropped out of the cultural dialogue.’

Newspaper columnist Catherine Deveny mocks men too, in her recent article on Mamamia about new domestic violence laws being brought in by the government. She sarcastically refers to men as the ‘hidden majority of domestic violence victims.’ Her article is heavily skewed in favour of women, with many readers questioning the statistic she quoted—that 95% of domestic violence victims are women. Many comments on this article were by men and they were angry.
I don’t know what the true domestic violence figures are, and even if Deveny’s figure is close, it does no one any good to demonise men and generalise to the point where we see them all as potential predators.

If we go down this path, we may start to see more crazy decisions being made, such as when the Hornsby Aquatic Centre banned a group of schoolboys from the change rooms because the men using the facilities were afraid of being falsely accused of paedophilia.

How do you think our society views men? Do you find the way they are portrayed in the media acceptable? Are men’s issues treated as seriously as women’s or is their perspective being left out of the cultural dialogue?

About Sonia Bowditch

Writer on society and culture in Australia. And short stories.

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