Speaking of Women's Rights: New Dockers' Ad Campaign: Shocking? Offensive? You bet your pants.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Dockers' Ad Campaign: Shocking? Offensive? You bet your pants.

My mother often tells me about her experiences as a young woman in college…how the women in her class were actually required to wear skirts to class. It’s hard for me to imagine, as I throw on whichever pair of denim happens to be the near the top of the pile and relatively clean, and head out the door to work. Perhaps it’s partly because of my mother’s stories that I found myself shouting at the above image on my computer screen yesterday morning.

Dockers has unveiled a new ad campaign for its line of khaki pants. The gist? We were all a whole lot better off when men “wore the pants”.

“In today’s world, men have lost a bit of footing, in part because women have come so far,” claims Dockers Marketing V.P. Jennifer Sey. What is with this idea that only one gender can be doing well at any given time?! I have an idea wherein we all prosper together…it’s called “equality.” (ok fine, so I didn’t come up with that one…) Why does it have to be one or the other?

Then there’s this nice little bit from the full-text version of the ad: “But somewhere along the way, the world decided it no longer needed men. Disco by disco, latte by foamy non-fat latte, men were stripped of their khakis and left stranded on the road between boyhood and androgyny.” Yes Dockers advertising team, there’s nothing less manly than a non-fat latte. Clearly. (oh, and way to piss off Starbucks.)

My real problem with the ad is this: While Dockers thinks they’re being all “tongue and cheek” and cutesy, they’re actually perpetuating gender stereotypes that we’ve spent years deconstructing – stereotypes that create dangerous situations for those who don’t seem to fall into the “norm.” And let’s get real here: We all know what “wearing the pants” means in our society. It has to do with power and money, things that have been in the hands of men for centuries. Women have come a long way since the days when a lady in pants was a faux pas. In 1979, the first year anyone kept track of the wage gap between genders (we can only imagine what the numbers were like before then), the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings was 62 percent. The most recent data for 2009 has us making 80% of our male counterpart’s salary. There’s still a lot of work to do on the issue of wage disparity, and a whole host of other gender equality issues. And blaming the decline of our society on our decreasing need for gender stereotyping isn’t going to give us a lick of help.

I can’t speak for potential khaki-consumers everywhere, but the America I live in is working toward equality and acceptance. Let’s hope I am proven correct and this campaign falls flat on its face.