Will male objectification persuade us to check our breasts?
Rethink Breast Cancer harnesses the power of viral advertising with their new app, Your Man Reminder, but is objectification ever OK? In the promo ad, a doctor admits that since “studies have shown that women are more likely to watch a video if it features a hot guy”, he can’t discuss breast cancer with the viewer himself—he’ll let a hot guy do it.
Let’s get one thing straight. All objectification is not created equal. Men aren’t objectified in our culture nearly as much as women, and context matters. But the app still objectifies men by treating their bodies as things to be sold, and these men are clearly only being valued for their bodies. This is illustrated in the scene where, as the doctor speaks, the camera wanders away from him over to the hot guy’s abs.
What’s more, every man in this ad has a similar body type: low body fat and very muscled. Let us not forget that men are not immune to negative body image. In fact, eating disorders in men are on the rise. And this one-size-fits-all approach isn’t good for women either. It erases women who might have different tastes, as well as those who aren’t attracted to men at all.
But the Your Man Reminder app isn’t all bad. For one thing, this ad recognizes that heterosexual women have sexual desires. When people say “sex sells,” they usually mean “objectification of women sells”.
Because people making this statement assume the viewer is a straight man, advertisers use “sex sells” as an excuse to plaster naked women on ads for everything from men’s shirts to real estate. When this is questioned, people inevitably bring out the old, tired excuses: “Men are just more visual. Women don’t really want to see naked men.” In fact, in the past, Rethink Breast Cancer has been the source of just this kind of exploitation of women. So although it’s still objectification, it’s nice to see Rethink Breast Cancer acknowledge that (straight) women have sex drives and enjoy sexual images.
For another thing, this ad is effective. After seeing the ad, I was so intrigued, I immediately showed it to several of my friends. And the clever “TLC” acronym has stuck in my brain. This ad is a genuinely good way to spread this information, and it’s important information.
Of course we should focus on the message. I don’t agree with the methods used in this video, but I can’t argue with encouraging women to take care of their health. What do you think—do the positives outweigh the negatives? Or does Rethink Breast Cancer still have a lot to learn about what makes a good campaign?