Is it just me or is anybody else noticing this new trend in commercial storylines: a man and a woman are engaged in some sort of joint venture that involves an element of danger. The woman expresses, either expressly or impliedly, fear or apprehension and the man completely ignores her, disregarding her opinion and endangering her life so that he can continue some sort of pleasurable pursuit.
There’s a Bud Light commercial in which a man picks up a hitchhiker holding an ax over the objections of his girlfriend because, hey. The guy has Bud Light! The other commercial is for the Honda Odyssey mini-van in which a leering man is driving fast on a curvy road while the woman in the car clutches the “oh shit” handle and smiles nervously at him in between apprehensive glances at the road.
Women have worked hard to empower ourselves to speak up on our own behalf, and to refuse to shut up until we are heard, and yet both of these commercials make light of women’s expressed sense of danger. The message to men is that it’s acceptable to disregard what women say, because men have superior judgment and reasoning capacity. Plus, these commercials tell us, women’s lives are not as important as beer or being able to drive as fast as you want.
It’s not a big leap from the pursuits of fast driving or beer drinking to sexual gratification. In the Honda commercial, the camera cuts from tight shots of a woman’s hand grasping the handle to tight shots of the leering man’s face, lending a vague odor of sexual predation to the plotline. Picking up hitchhikers is the quintessential “don’t” for women travelers; rape or murder, we are told, are the logical consequences for women who extend assistance to strangers. Once you internalize the concept that it’s okay, even desirably masculine, to disregard women’s voices when driving fast or getting your hands on some beer, it’s pretty easy to apply it to a sexual context and justify disregarding a woman’s protestations of a man’s sexual advances. What these commercials are telling the largely male audience (they air during sporting events) is: “Women’s opinions don’t matter, so even if she says no, it’s totally okay to keep on doing whatever it is that you want to do.”
Rape culture, anyone?