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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:


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/property. 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 supposed 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

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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 continuum.”.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 WE’VE 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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