Battle scars

There’s an ugly trend on Australian television that’s been going on for quite a while. I hoped it would fade away but it only seems to be getting worse.

I’m referring to the ever-increasing number of commercials that depict males as incompetent fools who are put straight by their female companions.

Maybe it’s been happening in your country too.

Like the proverbial boiling frog, most of us have probably been oblivious to it. But, just as when you want to buy a particular make of car you suddenly spot them everywhere, when you are aware of this trend you can’t un-see it.

Man making loser sign on his own head.

I’ve never understood the battle of the sexes. Bias against women affects men’s partners, mothers, sisters and daughters. Bias against men affects women’s partners, fathers, brothers and sons. Everyone loses.

So I caution against promoting one demographic at the expense of another. Propping someone up by pulling someone else down is a zero-sum game.

In other words, we can’t fight an “ism” – be it sexism, racism, or something else – with yet more ism. Instead of resolving the problem, it perpetuates it.

We need to call out prejudice against women and men. Otherwise I fear a downward spiral for the latter, which will inevitably scar us all.

4 thoughts on “Battle scars

  1. Hi Ryan, long time reader, first time poster. I would like to gently call you in to a different perspective of what you are discussing in this blog. :-)

    First of all, I completely agree that depicting men as incompetent tools is damaging to men (and women). However the part of your argument that I think is incorrect is directly linking the “depicting men as tools” with “promoting women and girls”. You mentioned the importance of promoting STEM for women and girls and then directly move to the point of promoting one demographic at the expense of another. This leads the reader to assume you mean to say the two things are related. That degrading men is a way to promote women. (fighting sexism with sexism). This is what I disagree with.

    Those of us who are promoting STEM for women have nothing to do with those ads which depict men as overgrown babies (and women often as controlling). I also find ads like that infuriating, and wish they would disappear. I just disagree that those ads are one way that we attempt to promote women and girls.

    (Having said that, I am not 100% sure which ads you are specifically referring to. I lived in NZ for 12 years and bloke-culture was strong there.)

    Thanks for the opportunity to chat about this.

  2. Thanks for joining the conversation, notbigondignity.

    My apologies, my intent wasn’t to directly link the promotion of STEM for women with the misrepresentation of men in ads. But upon re-reading my post through that lens, I could see how the clumsy way I pitched my argument was misleading. So I’ve removed that par for clarity’s sake and it reads *much* better.

    I appreciate you calling it out for me.

  3. Hi Ryan, thanks heaps for your response and I appreciate you taking the time to reconsider your post.

    I would argue that the line “So I caution against promoting one demographic at the expense of another. Propping someone up by pulling someone else down is a zero-sum game.” is still problematic because it implies someone is attempting to promote women by degrading men. Those ads really don’t promote women, they spread the myth that men are babies and so therefore women must “mother” them. Often the women are put in roles that depict them as nags, shrill and controlling, which imho is also damaging to women.

    In short I totally agree with you that those ads are terrible and damaging, I just don’t think they do women favours either. :-)

    Have a great day!

    PS- I would be more interested to read about how important it is to have some analysis of gender in e-learning. For example, I saw a fantastic short presentation by a colleague who is working on developing a systematic evaluation tool to help those of us who design and deliver courses consider how we actually take gender into consideration (regardless of how well we espouse to take it into consideration). Do you have any thoughts on that?

  4. On this point I must respectfully disagree. While I don’t imagine an Illuminati-style group of extremists plotting the next TV commercial, the outcome remains. I suppose my point is that subtle but persistent patterns such as these are culturally problematic. I take your point about depictions of women as nags, shrill and controlling, and I consider it yet another example.

    On the subject of e-learning — is that what this blog is about? of course this post draws parallels to education — something I’m pleased to report is an improved depiction of people in compliance training scenarios. For years I’ve noticed men being cast as the villain and women as the victim or whistleblower, but lately I’m seeing a much fairer diversity of roles. Bravo!

    Beyond that observation, I haven’t looked into gender in e-learning very much at all. I do believe it important to have some analysis of gender in e-learning and I’m keen to learn more about your colleague’s evaluation tool. Is there a link you could share with me to read more about it?

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