Dude, Where’s My Objectification?

These ‘jokey’ Veet ‘Don’t risk dude­ness’ ads in which a ‘sexy lady’ turns into an ‘unsexy dude’ because she hasn’t used the smelly depil­at­ory cream have pro­voked an e-flurry of out­rage for their sex­ism and sham­ing of women who aren’t always smooth, so much so that Veet had to issue an apo­logy and with­draw them.

But what’s truly ‘funny’ about these ads is that in some ways they strike me as actu­ally being the advert­ising world’s ver­sion of those ‘gender flip’ click-bait posts that many of the people lam­bast­ing the Veet ads pro­fess to love. You know, the ones that pre­tend that men are never objec­ti­fied – des­pite male (self) objec­ti­fic­a­tion being hard to miss these days unless you’re try­ing really, really hard not to notice flag­rant, flam­ing evid­ence like this. And this.

And this:

Zac Effron shirtless award



Instead of look­ing around us, we’re sup­posed to listen to blather like this:

For some reason, as soon as you put a man in there … it’s an entirely dif­fer­ent thing that we aren’t used to seeing.”

Only if you’ve been jam­ming your eyes shut for the last twenty years, dear.

So, hav­ing pre­ten­ded that male objec­ti­fic­a­tion doesn’t exist, it’s now ‘really rad­ical’ and ‘chal­len­ging’ to ‘flip’ the roles. But in an ironic and uncon­vin­cing way, usu­ally mak­ing sure that the men adopt­ing the faux ‘sexu­al­ised’ poses are unat­tract­ive. (And not wet­ting their vests.)


The ‘anti-sexism’ of many of those ‘gender flip’ memes strikes me as com­pletely bogus, impli­citly depend­ing as it does on the entirely (hetero)sexist pre­sump­tion that sex­i­ness is a female qual­ity. The ‘ludicrous­ness’ of the man adopt­ing ‘sexy’ poses requires a world­view that insists men just aren’t meant to be objec­ti­fied. That simply doesn’t see male objec­ti­fic­a­tion because it’s not sup­pose to hap­pen.

So the ‘gender flip’ actu­ally tends to rein­force the very thing it hypo­crit­ic­ally pre­tends to undermine.

Worse, people pre­tend, over and over again, to be impressed by daggy male hip­sters pre­tend­ing to do sexy while pre­tend­ing to sub­vert sex­ism – as a way of get­ting atten­tion. Which is the only really sin­cere part of the whole charade.

Instead of ditch­ing the dreary fuck­ing irony and just doing this. Or this.

By con­trast, these crass Veet ads are at least refresh­ingly hon­est and out of the closet in their hor­rendous het­ero­sex­ist revul­sion at ‘dude­ness’, and the ludicrous­ness of male sex­i­ness. And of course the thing that is always hov­er­ing behind that revul­sion, par­tic­u­larly in the US: that dudes might get it on with other dudes.

In stub­bly fact, this obses­sion ends up swal­low­ing their whole cam­paign, no gag reflex, to the point where it has little or noth­ing to do with women at all – des­pite them being the tar­get market.

It ends up being about two dudes in bed.

h/t Dr Petra

8 thoughts on “Dude, Where’s My Objectification?”

  1. Thank you Mark Simpson for say­ing what I’ve felt for years!These so-called “pro­gress­ives” just keep rein­for­cing the same tired,old ste­reo­types that they claim they want to break down.Behind it all?-good,old-fashioned homophobia.Gay men have been unapo­lo­get­ic­ally appre­ci­at­ing the male form since the dawn of time,so of course that means the whole concept has to be ghet­to­ized and marginalized.Male sex appeal,to vary­ing degrees, has been a bought and sold com­mod­ity for dec­ades now,but the het­ero­sex­ist main­stream keeps pro­clai­mimg that they’ve inven­ted the wheel!Here ladies and gentlemen,right here,right now-the first male sex object in recor­ded history!Zac Efron!Please.Let’s play a little game.It’s easy!It’s called “spot the continuüm.”.Anyone heard of Rudolph Valentino and his andro­gyny and muscles way back in 1922?Tyrone Power’s heart-stopping pret­ti­ness in the dirty thirties?Clark Gable and what he did to the male under­shirt industry?The young Brando and his ripped T-shirt?Elvis and his wig­gly Pelvis and oh-so-kissable lips?Rock Hudson at the start of his career, when he didn’t seem to own a shirt?.Joe Dallesandro,unquestionably the sex object of the Warhol sixties,dangly bits and roun­ded but­tocks and all?Newman and Redford and all that jokey homoeroticism?Bowie and Jagger in their dresses and makeup and wig­gling their asses unashamedly?.David Cassidy and that shag­gable shag?All those Tarzan movies!All those op-ed pieces about Richard Gere and his cock in the early Eighties!Christopher Atkins and that remov­able loin-cloth!Tom Hintnaus lean­ing back on that phal­lic column!Any after­noon Soap Opera you’ve ever seen!Marky Mark in his underwear!Beckham!Magic Mike!Dan Osborne!See how easy my game is?

  2. Nice essay on Buzzfeed, if a little mean­der­ing — but then, boy-crushes are daydreamy.

    However, Ms Peterson is need­lessly unkind to Ricky Nelson, who was MUCH pret­tier than Zac — someone whose ante­cedents seem to me to be mostly David Cassidy (who goes unmen­tioned). Who was also much pret­tier than Zac. The bland­ness and strange lack of real, liv­ing pret­ti­ness of Zac is what makes him inter­est­ing. It’s a kind of simu­lac­rum of prettiness.…

  3. I’m hon­estly sur­prised that nobody put a link up to this art­icle for our dear Mr. Simpson


    Whether Ms. Petersen real­ised it or not, I think that she chan­nelled “Marky Mark and the Hunky Bunch” in her art­icle. Zac Efron, more than most male stars, makes me won­der a great deal about what he would look like in drag.
    As for male objec­ti­fic­a­tion, I ima­gine that the above pic­ture is an example of ironic anti-ad advert­ising. Of course, we live in a simu­lac­rum uni­verse, where every­one seems to be search­ing for a mas­culin­ity that never actu­ally existed.

  4. Hans: My t-shirt is always wet. And my nipples always erect.

    Elise: Male hip­ster­ism does indeed seem to be try­ing to do away with both mas­culin­ity and sex(uality) at the same time, very likely in an attempt to please Feminist Mom. But you just know that the guys in these gender flip cam­paigns are watch­ing really nasty ‘objec­ti­fy­ing’ porn when they’re not sub­vert­ing sexism.

  5. Re the gender flip cam­paign, plenty of men (and I pre­sume women) find those hairy ugly ‘dudes’ attract­ive, but yeah, it would have been more ‘unset­tling’ had it been Tom Daley in those poses (includ­ing wet t-shirt instead of a dry one).

  6. Is male hip­ster­ism, i.e. get­ting rid of tra­di­tional mas­culin­ity and sex *at the same time*, what hap­pens when you raise a gen­er­a­tion of (mostly white, mostly afflu­ent) men on fem­in­ism? I am sure this thought is not original.

  7. Are women’s bod­ies still more objec­ti­fied than men’s? Very prob­ably. (Though I’m not entirely sure that it’s men doing all the objec­ti­fy­ing.) However, this isn’t the premise of these ‘gender flip’ shoots, which don’t seem to be able to accept that men are objec­ti­fied at all and always pre­tend that THIS IS THE FIRST TIME WEVE EVER SEEN A GUY LIKE THIS!! Basically, what I’m moan­ing about is the way ‘gender flip’ shoots give ugly male hip­sters the ‘power’ to draw atten­tion to them­selves and demand approval at the same time. Again and again.

  8. I actu­ally think that the point of gender-flipping is to show that sex­i­ness is indeed regarded as a female trait, and that this is the prob­lem. I agree that by ensur­ing that the man in these memes etc is reas­sur­ingly unat­tract­ive (although this is a sub­ject­ive stand­ard of course) deval­ues it some­what, but it also proves the point that men have more ‘power’ to look unat­tract­ive in our cul­ture. ‘Unattractive’ women (ie the unair­brushed or, I dare say, the hairy-legged) are very rarely seen on TV, in magazines etc, unless they’re put for­ward as a token, or a rare ‘free-spirit’ who has some­thing to prove. There has been a massive increase in male objec­ti­fic­a­tion over the past few years (although not to the extent that pic­tures of naked male behinds are plastered around Tesco, some­thing that I believe Morrissey called for about 30 years ago), but the point is that men have more of a ‘choice’ whether to be sexy or not. Of course, women have this choice too, but they are far more likely to have their bod­ies scru­tin­ised and far less likely to appear on prime-time telly, lest people choke-up their lamb-chops at the sight of an unbleached moustache.

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