The New York Daily News site featured an article recently titled “Sexist ads from the era of Don Draper,” the latter being a character in the popular TV show Mad Men. It’s a photo slideshow depicting 15 ads that put down and/or stereotype women (and men!) in the 50s. For example, the above photo depicts a “tiger woman” brought down by the stunning attractiveness and implicit authority found in the man’s new pair of Leggs pants.
To many of us in the United States today, it’s shocking that these ads ever made print. But their publication is very telling of the mindset and sentiments of the era: Women, as a whole, were assumed to be significantly weaker (physically and mentally) than men.
Understandably, women retaliated. They fought for the right to vote, a substantial presence in the workplace, positions in the clergy. Today, some activist groups are still fighting for equal wages, claiming that women receive 25 cents to a man’s dollar.
Without discussing the credibility (or lack thereof) of some of these arguments, I believe there is one area where women (including myself) have gone too far: male bashing.
There’s a common motif in media today — whether it be movies, commercials, advertisements — of “the idiotic, inept, bumbling boyfriend or dad.” Clueless men are sharply contrasted with women who are wise and all-knowing. Popular raunchy comedies like Knocked Up or even the Taco Bell commercial below perpetuate this image.
Another common yet related stereotype is “the emasculated, weak man needing the guidance of an in-control, strong, intelligent woman.” Men are overruled by the domineering alpha female and forced to acquiesce to their will.
These all-too-common characters have taken the feminine-empowerment movement way too far. As one blogger coarsely put it: “A simple test is to reverse the roles. If the girl was shown as [stupid] and the man smart, would there be outrage? If yes, they’re sexist. Feminists don’t want to eliminate sexism, they want superiority.”
Viewers often brush off these claims, believing that the insults and teasing are all “harmless fun.” But male bashing has exceeded the boundaries of harmless fun – it’s reversed the double standard. Now it’s okay for women to insult men, but not okay for men to insult women. Neither should be okay.
It’s one thing to assert male and female equality. It’s another thing entirely to insult the powerful majority in order to boost up the status of the weaker minority. In heaping insults on men, women become bullies rather than revolutionaries.
As Forbes writer Leslie Knight put it, “The feminist movement was about ending sexism and stereotypes. It was not about creating a new form of sexism.”