Last Updated 16 May 2021

The Effects of Advertisement: Axe

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Visual culture and social norms presented in our everyday life influence the way we think about gender. In “Becoming Members of Society”, author, Aaron Devor discusses how society impacts our gender identity. Advertisement consumes the public life and shapes how we view ourselves. Axe Deodorant is a brand of male grooming products known to spark controversy all over the world for their commercials and ads. For the Axe Cottage scent that came out in 2008, a sexist, stereotypical commercial was also delivered to its consumers to advertise the new scent (Axe). The commercial displays a cottage with a variety of attractive girls that are all miserable because… they simply need a man. The Axe ad reinforces the stereotypical analysis that Aaron Devor focuses on by recognizing women to be vulnerable, weak and dependent while men are needed, strong and independent.

Commercials and ads are purely presented to attract the attention of consumers. Every product or service is more popular to one group of consumers than others depending on their interests, comforts and values. As a result, every company tries to target a specific group to have an increase success rate in selling their products. Axe Deodorant clearly states who their targeted consumers are: young males. The commercial starts and ends with confused girls in this “Axe Cottage” that they are located at. One girl cannot apply sunscreen lotion on her own back, while another girl has breakfast ready to be served without anyone to serve it to and several girls look depressed because they have no one to do activities with. The commercial finally ends with bold words stating, “You’re needed at the Axe Cottage”(Axe). The commercial clearly depicts that there is disorder in the cottage without the presence of a man. In every scene, each girl is tragically confused on why there is not a man around. The commercial shows that women cannot perform daily activities if a male figure is not around to help them. Devor explains how “the social hegemony of this ideology ensures that we are all raised to practice gender roles which will confirm the vision of the nature of the sexes” (Devor 535). If that was the case and we practiced the gender roles displayed in the “Axe Cottage” commercial, then women would be robots, lost and useless without their masters, and in this case, men.

The commercial is obviously directed to grab the attention of males but by being “humorous”, the commercial is hurting the views on women. Their product’s advertisements encourage sexism. It epitomizes the sexist and degrading marketing that can undermine girls’ healthy development. Devor states that, “femininity must be expressed through modes of dress, movement, speech, and action which communicate weakness, dependency, ineffectualness, availability for sexual or emotional service, and sensitivity to the needs of others” (Devor 532). Basically what Devor is saying is that women should display softness and reliance in everything they do. “Axe Cottage” supports Devor’s examination by having all the women so utterly confused and unhappy because there is not a man to apply lotion on their backs, serve food to, and play sports with. Commercials and ads like the “Axe Cottage” desensitizes how women are portrayed which makes it seem like it is not a big deal. Devor identifies norms of females in society to be weaker than men and that is exactly what is portrayed in this ad.

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Aaron Devor states that “Masculine characteristics are used to identify persons as males, while feminine ones are used and signifiers for femaleness” (Devor 530) and those characteristics are all affected by ads like the “Axe Cottage”. Why must women be held at lower standards than men? He also says, “As we move through our lives, society demands different gender performances from us and rewards, tolerates, or punishes us differently for conformity to, or digression from, social norms” (Devor 528). If that is the case, will we be praised for accompanying to men like the women do in the “Axe Cottage”? Will we be punished if we are not relying on men like we should be? The discrimination of genders is only increasing because of the social norms and standards that the public is creating. This barrier between males and females only leads companies like Axe to poke fun and mock the weaker gender in their advertisements. Women are forced to think that if they do not act like the women in the commercial, then there is something wrong.

Both the “Axe Cottage” commercial and Aaron Devor’s “Becoming Members of Society” underline the meaning of social norms. “Axe Cottage” definitely strengthens Devor’s argument on the effect of gender roles and gender identities. The commercial shows Devor’s ideas of the “generalized other” by having society’s perception on females. The “generalized other” of women is exactly what you see in the commercial. The vulnerability, weakness, and dependency that women are viewed to hold is the message of the “Axe Cottage” when the entire point of this commercial is just simply to sell their new product. “Axe Cottage” is not the only commercial by Axe that shows gender discrimination. Every single one of their commercials displays men as the untouchable while women are being targeted. Many countries have completely banned Axe commercials to be played and there are several petitions online to take down Axe commercials for good. Commercials like these have a negative impact on the males who watch it and the women who are mocked by it. Like “Axe Cottage”, advertisements influence their audience on how each gender should look, think, and behave while hurting us more than we think. Aaron Devor’s piece voices out the social norms of genders and the “Axe Cottage” commercial is pure evidence of Devor’s criticism.

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