Saturday, 12 November 2011

Boots - For All Your Gender Stereotyping Needs.

Not sure if anyone caught this, but there was a Boots advert on TV up until fairly recently which blatantly ripped off a scene from the film What Women Want (2000). I can’t find it online anywhere, but the gist of it is that a woman doesn’t feel like having sex and tells her partner she has a headache, to  which he quickly (almost preemptively) whips out a box of paracetamol. Hooray for Boots and their ready supply of cheap painkillers, and also for their lazy advertising that not only rips of a mediocre film*, but is also supposed to be aimed at women yet presents them as liars and stereotypes!  

Honestly, I was more surprised at the nerve of their probably overpaid advertising team for presenting an idea that wasn’t their own. I was also mildly annoyed that no one else seemed to have noticed, or if they did they simply didn’t care or see a problem with it. It’s harmless right? Well, considering the stink that was caused by several men’s health websites over this 2010 Boots advert, I find it frustrating that no one recognises the same lazy, stereotypical advertising at work:

The advert was referred to as, ‘typical misandric crap’, ‘very sexist and stereotypical ‘, ‘breath-taking hypocrisy’, ‘lazy humour’, ‘disconnected from reality’ and ‘part of an increasing trend in the negative portrayal of men’. I can actually get on board with some of these views. This is most definitely an example of terrible  advertising which uses gender stereotypes for a cheap laugh. However, for women, this is nothing new and when you consider some of the advertising that is supposedly geared towards women (and most of the advertising aimed at men) there are negative representations and stereotypical portrayals as far as the eye can see. Take, for example, this current advert for a ladies shoe retailer:

Not all women are obsessed with shoes. And those that claim to be are not literally obsessed, they are probably just mildly preoccupied with them. Now, the idea here might just be that the man is concerned because his partner seems to be experiencing some sort of serious trauma when confronted with a delivery of shoes. However, I can’t be the only one who picks up a different message from this man’s panicked expression- ‘Oh god no, I have to pay for these.’ Surely we’re past the assumption that when a woman spends money the husband automatically covers the expense? Especially when it comes to personal expenses such as shoes. Didn't anyone listen to Destiny’s Child when they told you – the shoes on their feet, THEY bought them!! This advert  is also a rip-off (is there no originality in advertising anymore?!) of another advert. This time it is for beer and, whilst also exploiting this strange ‘women + shoes = manic bliss’ myth, it evens the score by including the similar ‘men + beer = manic bliss’ hypothesis. We can all laugh at harmless stereotypes so long as it’s tit for tat in my book, and this one is far funnier so it gets away with it:

*It should be noted that in said shitty movie (and it really is shitty) the idea is dismissed as terrible and offensive. But I guess the Boots advertising team stopped watching at this point, but who can blame them really.

For more information on the negative portrayals of women in advertising, and the impact this has on society, you can't do much better than Jean Kilbourne's series of talks Killing Us Softly: Advertising's Image of Women. The third installment is available here. (This may or may not be legal, but I didn't upload it so don't sue me.) 


  1. It is unfortunate how many women are mildly preoccupied with shoes, and additionally how much money they spend on this preoccupation! I too find it ridiculous that a man is automatically expected to pay for women's shoes. What year are we in?

    Gender stereotypes are used too often in comedy that is unoriginal or lazy, choosing to take the easy way out to attempt to get a laugh. It's the public's choice (to an extent) whether or not they decide to listen/watch this form of entertainment.

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