Did you know that more than 80% of women worldwide will face gender-based street harassment at some point in their lives? They—or rather we—will be approached (or accosted) on the street, subjected to unwanted whistles, cat calls, sexual comments and lewd gestures in which men “assert the right to intrude on women’s attention, defining her as a sexual object and forcing her to interact with them." Charming.
The good news? This week (March 30-April 5, 2014) is actuallyInternational Anti-Street Harassment Week, and activists all over the world will be participating in tweet chats, rallies and protests to raise awareness about the damage done by leering, stalking and sexually explicit comments.
Which makes it a particularly odd time for Snickers to have debuted a new ad that features construction workers heckling unsuspecting female passersby (who are apparently real women with authentic reactions, not actresses) with positive comments.
“Want to hear a filthy word?” one builder yells down from a ledge at a woman walking by, minding her own business. “Gender bias!”
“I appreciate that your appearance is just one aspect of who you are,” yells another.
Nice, huh? Comments like these pretty much had me wanting to marry Snickers. Because whoever thought that a chocolate bar company would be a major force in changing pop culture’s gender discourse?
But then (SPOILER ALERT) the end of the ad happens. And right after all the guys whom I’d just fallen for start publicly calling for an end to misogyny, the words “You’re not you when you’re hungry” flash on to the screen.
Oh. So that’s how you’re going to play this. The builders were only being decent human beings because their tummies were empty. And the minute they eat, they’re going to revert back to sexist, threatening, demeaning cads. Talk about hitting it out of the Totally Offensive To Everybody ballpark.
But wait, here’s an idea: Hey Snickers, since you totally squandered an opportunity to alter the portrayals of masculinity in mass media, why not treat everyone working hard this week to change the gender stereotypes you reinforce to a candy bar?
Because that would be sweet—and really satisfying.