I have just seen the most infuriating commercial. Maybe you’ve seen it too. It’s the the Gilette “First Girlfriend vs. First Real Girlfriend” ad. In summary, Becky was your first girlfriend, for about three periods in seventh grade. Then there’s Sarah, your first real girlfriend, who’s super hot, and sundresses were made for her. Cue montage of Sarah in sundresses.
Now, this ad already had me upset before I even knew what they were selling. Maybe it was the way Sarah was on display mostly to show skin to titillate men. Maybe it was the way apparently girlfriends are only good for being sexy, and your relationship with your “first real girlfriend” didn’t extend beyond her looks. But then they got to the sales pitch:
At some point, every man is ready for his first real girlfriend. Just as he’s ready for his first real razor.
Did you see it? The misogyny? It’s okay, I know, it was quick. But here it is: This ad is equating women to objects. And not just objects like a thing you can own, but objects like a thing you must possess, as a right of passage. The girlfriend is no more than a razor, a way of stepping into manhood. If you haven’t had a hot girlfriend, you’re not a full man. You have to acquire one to secure your masculinity. Also shave.
The fact that this ad is targeted at young men who are just learning to shave is even more distressing, as they will internalize harmful attitudes toward women. Instead of viewing women as equals or partners, we’re viewed as acquisitions. Never mind that this ad erases the existence of queer men, or any man who chooses not to have a girlfriend (they are implied to be not real men at all).
It’s not the first ad that treats women as objects, and I’m dismayed to say that it won’t be the last, but I hope when you see ads like this, Dad, you’re aware of what they’re selling ideologically, and I hope you’re not buying it.
I know I’m not,