It seems that more has changed in the California Milk Processor Board’s newest “got milk” ad campaign than the abandonment of the milk mustache. While previous ad campaigns have depicted milk as a promoter of bone strength and power, using celebrities, athletes, and pop-culture icons to convey the message, the current campaign uses ordinary men to promote milk as a reducer of PMS.
Since its launch last week, the campaign, titled “Everything I do is Wrong,” has sparked a great deal of controversy. As the Huffington Post appropriately summarizes, “It consists of several frightened-looking men holding cartons of milk as offerings for their better, angrier halves. Slogans include ‘I apologize for letting you misinterpret what I was saying,’ and ‘I apologize for not reading between the right lines.” Many see this as a sexist campaign that plays on the stereotypes of women. However, the defenders of the campaign argue that it is funny, ironic, and not meant to insult. Perhaps the defenders are partially correct: To its target audience (men) and its creators (also men), the ad is quite possibly funny and inoffensive. However, many women have been unable to see the humor.
Leah Berkenwald, writing for Ms. Magazine’s blog, points out that, “Jeff Goodby, of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the creative agency behind the campaign, is sitting in that sweet spot where he gets to capitalize on anti-feminist humor about women being too sensitive and/or irrationally angry, and then write off any criticism as women being too sensitive and/or irrationally angry.”
It is not that women are necessarily angry at the idea behind the ad itself (that milk can reduce the signs of PMS- which though not proven, does in fact have some evidence in its favor), but that this ad campaign is eerily reminiscent of old arguments against women being kept out of certain jobs or positions of power because during their period women apparently become raving lunatics. This ad is essentially saying that yes, women are in fact completely irrational during that time and anything they say can be written off as a result of PMS and should not be taken seriously.
If the ads themselves were not enough, men can go to the website, http://everythingidoiswrong.org, to take polls (which all point out the insanity of women), construct apology videos using a “video enhancer,” locate milk on a map, and view the “Current global PMS level.”
There is no doubt that the campaign was well-constructed and carefully implemented. However, ads such as these call into question exactly how much progress against societal sexism we have really made. The fact that ad companies can still capitalize on such stereotypes of women just shows us that the fight for equality is far from over and gives us incentive to finish what the women before us began.
Offended by the campaign? Take action and sign an online petition by Change.org: http://bit.ly/qO607Z