Friday, May 21, 2010

Coke Zero: The Manly Diet Soda.

As one of the most popular products in the United States, Coca-Cola is commonly associated with feelings of nostalgia and patriotism. These positive emotions have been strategically packaged and sold to Americans for years, impacting the consumer behaviors of both males and females alike. This demographic changed in 2006 when the Coca-Cola Company launched a new product primarily targeting adult males. The new soft drink “Coke Zero” was produced and sold largely for the male population as an alternative to the classic Coca-Cola drink. Utilizing specific coloring, changing the use of language, illustrating male values and attitudes, and providing strong images of masculinity in Coke Zero advertisements include some of the ways the Coca-Cola Company is able to sell their product exclusively to men.

Viewing all the images pictured in the advertisements, it is easy to see that the male gender was specifically targeted when selling “Coke Zero”. The two most obvious tactics to gain the attention of male consumers dealt with color and language. Although “Coke Zero” is a soft drink with no calories, generally known as ‘diet soda’, it was named differently so as to avoid the widespread association with females and dieting. Not only is the brand name enforcing the idea that “Coke Zero” is a male product, but the coloring of the packaging of the soda invoke what is commonly believed to be male style. Pat Kirkham and Alex Weller mention this form of gender advertising by noting the following: “Recent advertisements for the ‘male’ products were produced in black and white whereas those promoting ‘female’ products feature full color” (268). Coloring the advertisements and packaging black and changing the conventional name of the product provide evidence that “Coke Zero” is predominantly a product fashioned for males.

“Coke Zero” can also be viewed as a product intended for males because of the use of images that stand for typical masculine ideals. Jackson Katz mentions the traditional method advertisers utilize to assert masculinity: “One of the ways this is accomplished, in the image system, is to equate masculinity with violence, power, and control” (352). In the “Coke Zero” advertisements above, the center photo depicts a strong masculine figure in total control. In fact, the man is so focused, fearless, and powerful that he is able to balance the coke product on his head. Likewise, other advertisements depict typical male activities that include the soft drink. This type of advertisement associates ‘maleness’ with strength and control, leaving a lasting impression on the consumer to equate these positive qualities with “Coke Zero”. This ‘male’ style and imagery, along with the coloring and language of the product, allow for “Coke Zero” to gain a consumer base that is largely adult men.

Works Cited

Katz, Jackson. "Advertisting and the Construction of White Masculinity: From Eminen to Clinique for Men." Sage Publications. (2003): 249-258. Print.

Kirkham & Weller. "Cosmetics: A Clinique Case Study." Gender, Race, and Class in Media. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2003. 268-73. Print

Images retrieved from:

Friday, May 14, 2010

Femininity and Womanhood in No Doubt's "Just A Girl".

Turn on the television, radio, or simply scan the front covers of magazines. Browse ‘youtube’ or drive down the highway past hundreds of billboards. Today, no matter where we go, it is nearly impossible to escape the constant images of men and women performing certain roles. The media places men and women in what is seemingly an ‘appropriate’ gender role for the society in which we live. Because of this, gender is commonly seen as a dichotomous concept. Femininity is thus synonymous with vulnerability, weakness, and passiveness, while masculinity is believed to be strong, assertive, and confident. For the most part, these concepts are reinforced frequently in popular culture. A rare but excellent response to this conventional display of ‘femininity’ is represented by the ska-punk band No Doubt and their song “Just a Girl”. Gwen Stefani recognizes, and subsequently mocks, the hegemonic tendency to believe that being a woman is, fundamentally, being pretty and needy.

Stefani blatantly acknowledges the patriarchal society of America in the first line of her song: “Take this pink ribbon off my eyes”. A patriarchal culture shapes ideas about the way social life is supposed to operate and what is expected of people (Johnson 95). This line is symbolically referencing the fact that society has separated her into the gender role she is ‘supposed’ to occupy and assume she will display the corresponding characteristics. This principle haunts the everyday lives and actions of men and women alike, consciously or subconsciously. The song implies that these ‘feminine’ characteristics are limiting and bothersome. Likewise, she sings “don’t you think I know exactly where I stand”, implying yet again that by being a woman, she has a specific lot in life and is seemingly confined to the realm of ‘femininity’ and exclusively to the traits that accompany it.

Gwen Stefani would agree with the media critic Jennifer Pozner’s statement about the patriarchal society in which we live. Pozner writes “…women are valued as ‘perfect 10s’ simply for being pretty, passive, and intellectually unthreatening” (98). Similarly, Stefani ridicules this limiting status for girls by singing “I'm just a girl, all pretty and petite, so don't let me have any rights”. This statement implies that the world of American girl’s is somewhat pre-destined. Ultimately the value of a woman is merely characteristic of whether or not she possesses the select few external traits that define femininity.

Moreover, it is commonly thought that those external traits are identical in every woman. This can be seen on front covers of magazines where every woman is wearing makeup and exhibiting a ‘girly’ pose that reinforces pre-conceived notions about femininity. On the odd occasion that a girl is not ‘made up’, in a literal and figurative manner, before getting her picture taken, the magazine mentions multiple times that ‘so-and-so’ decided to not cover up her face. Unfortunately, it is more astonishing in American culture if a woman is not conventionally pretty and wearing makeup in the exact same manner as other women. Thus, it follows that every woman is believed to be an indistinguishable set of strict characteristics. Stefani, yet again, shows contempt about the fact that every woman is understood to be a carbon copy. Consequently, she calls herself “just your typical prototype”, poking fun at the norm.

In the same verse, Stefani sings “your rule of thumb makes me worrisome”, referencing the aforementioned beliefs as well as the control society has over her identity. The sociologist and author Allan Johnson mentions this power in the following way. “Above all, patriarchal culture is about the core value of control and domination in almost every area of human existence” (94). The ‘rule of thumb’ Stefani refers to is that same dominance Johnson considers existent in our culture. Society has made rules about gender roles and continues to sustain those rules by highlighting them in elements of popular culture and imitating them in daily life. This type of caged in and controlling lifestyle makes the lead singer of No Doubt, and other women as well, disturbed and distressed. Because of this, Stefani attempts to make the culture aware of the patriarchal society in which we live by referencing all the elements that sustain it, and how they make her feel.

At the end of the song Stefani repeats multiple times that she is angry. Her resentment seems to stem from the limited role she is ‘allowed’ to play in society, simply by being female. She rejects the control and limitations of the social construct of ‘being a woman’. After analyzing the way Stefani attacks the society in which we live it is easy to see why the phrase “I’m just a girl” is repeatedly used. This phrase is the most important and honest statement in the entire song. What has been defined as socially acceptable indirectly defines the whole of a woman. In this sense, girls are nothing more than feminine characteristics. Therefore, Stefani is repeatedly saying she is JUST a girl – the sum total of vulnerability, weakness, and physical beauty - because that is how womanhood and femininity are frequently illustrated.

Works Cited

Johnson, Allan G. “Patriarchy, the System: An It, Not a He, a Them, or an Us.” The Gender Knot: Unraveling Out Patriarchal Legacy. Temple University Press, 1997 (91-98).

Pozner, Jennifer. Learning Gender. 96- 99. Print.

Stefani, Gwen. “Just a Girl”. Tragic Kingdom. Interscope, 1995.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Jessica M. - Links

1. "Gender Roles Reversed in 'Jersey Shore'"
Posted Monday, January 04, 2010 3:07 PM Jessica Grose
 Title of Blog: SLATE

2. "Visuality and Feminism in Lady Gaga's 'Telephone' Video"
Posted April 16, 2010
Author: Amy Littlefield
Blog: Gender Across Borders: a global feminist blog.

3. "Cosmopolitan magazine: friend or foe of feminism?"
Posted: Monday, September 21, 2009
Author: Gracie
BLOG: It's all Relative: My journey through understanding mass media and cultural studies

4. "Glee brings it again with a Feminist Episode"
Posted: Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Authors: The Daily Femme
BLOG: The Daily Femme

5. "Nike's Women Problem"
Posted: Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Authors:  Timothy Egan
BLOG: Gender in America

Link to Blogging in College: the main Gender & Pop Culture blog