How to Respond to Clueless Advertising: An Exercise in Self-Esteem
Sarah Dopp is the editor of Genderfork, a blog that explores androgyny and gender variance through artistic photography. I asked her to write a guest post about gender and money. These are her words…
I’ve given up on television and I avoid magazines. I haven’t figured out a way to escape billboards and pay-per-click banner ads yet, but I know how to cope with them now: I laugh at them.
The way I figure it, marketing is about power. Good marketing is about empowering consumers, while evil marketing is about overpowering them. Then there’s bad marketing, which is in a category of its own. Bad marketing lobs its power in the wrong direction and misses its mark entirely, wasting everyone’s precious time, energy, and money.
Those of us who reject traditional gender roles get to face an excessive amount of bad marketing in our daily lives. We threw a wrench into marketing strategy when we took on nontraditional motivations, unpredictable desires, and unusual ways of expressing our identities. As a result, they lost track of how to reach us. Fortunately for the marketers, we’re a relatively small chunk of the population that can be easily ignored.
Unfortunately for us, we live in a world that inundates us with advertising, even when it’s not meant for our eyes. At its best, it’s a distraction. At its worst, an offensive invasion. Accepting that we can’t really make it go away, it seems we have three basic options for how to respond:
1. Get Angry. How dare they!? If I have to see one more commercial asking if I ever smell “not so fresh,” I’m going to break my television! And who are they to suggest that men can’t take care of children?! I can’t believe this!
There’s a saying I’ve heard: “Being hateful is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Unless you have the resources and drive needed to take on and change the advertising industry, chances are your anger isn’t going to affect anything but your own life expectancy.
Anger is not actually a form of power. Actions are power. And if your actions consist of jumping up and down and yelling at your television set, you might want to reconsider the real value of that adrenaline rush. But I suppose it’s still better than choosing to…
2. Feel Inadequate. I’d never look good in that. No one treats me that way. My life is so weird and lame. If only it were that easy. Why can’t I just be like them?
Or, my personal favorite: How come no one markets anything to me? It’s lonely over here — why can’t you compete for my attention, too? What, am I not good enough for you? I have money, too, you know. Why don’t you want to help me spend it?
It’s so much easier to slip into this mode than we want to admit. We know it’s not healthy. We know it’s not worth it. We know that this kind of response is tragically disempowering. And really, we know we’re fabulous no matter who’s saying otherwise. It’s just… so easy to be blind-sided when we lose our footing for a moment. When we’re feeling down, all we need to do is look up to remember that the world, as a whole, doesn’t care about us.
So we need a strategy. A basic easy-to-remember system for bushwacking our paths through the full-page spreads of life. I propose…
3. Laugh. OMG that’s hillarious! ::chuckle chortle guffaw::
I’m serious. When life hands you a sexist billboard, make a joyful noise. I’m not talking about the passive-aggressive-evil-glare kind of angry cackle. I mean a real, sincere, giggle. The kind that makes your eyes brighten and your belly shake. Thank that clueless ad for being your comic relief of the moment, and then move on to the next joke that’s coming into view.
Laugh because their tactics aren’t going anywhere near your identities or desires, and therefore the joke’s on them. Laugh because they’re not influencing you, and because you get to have more say over your spending impulses than most of the people around you. Laugh because you know how to co-exist with a system that is so caught up in sales that it doesn’t have time to stop and smell the delicious sweet air you’re enjoying right now. Laugh because you know yourself and you love yourself, and because the rich creative energy that surrounds you inspires you to grow.
Laugh because you have power. Laugh because you’re free.
More about Sarah Dopp
Sarah Dopp is a writer, website developer, and project management consultant in San Francisco. You can read more from Sarah at her personal blog, Dopp Juice.