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WTF Wednesday: Crest’s sexist toothpaste commercial

Hillary Di Menna

He could be the one, soul mate, husband, loving father to your children. But first, you’ve got to get him to say hello. These are actual words from an actual Crest 3D White Arctic Fresh Toothpaste commercial that started airing last November (and is still on air). Naturally, the commercial suggests the only way to get “him” a.k.a. “The Perfect Man” to say hello is to use Crest. As a recent Media Smarts report says: “The fascination with finding out what men really want also tends to keep female characters in film and television busy.”

Here’s a play-by-play of the ad in all its absurdity: A woman sits alone, destined to be an old maid. She spots the man of her dreams. Her pearly 3D White smile is not held back, knowing this may be her only chance and the stakes are high. She envisions herself and this stranger in Paris, then on the beach in wedding attire. Finally, she dreams of rubbing that coveted baby bump, made possible by “the loving father to [her] children.” He sits with her by the end,  and she is one step closer to acquiring a ring on her finger and a bun in the oven.

Because that is what every woman wants: to be a white, heterosexual lady who meets a white, heterosexual prince to marry and have babies with. All in under half a minute.

Media Smart’s section titled How to Catch (and Keep) Your Man looks at Women and Weight: Gendered Messages on Magazine Covers by Amy Malin, Kimberlie Wornian and Joan Chrisler. As it turns out, having white teeth is only one way to catch your man. Another, of course, is to be skinny: “messages about weight loss are often placed next to messages about men and relationships … ‘Get the Body You Really Want’ beside ‘How to Get Your Husband to Really Listen,’ and ‘Stay Skinny’ paired with ‘What Men Really Want.'” The section also includes research findings from The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media: “A 2008 study of female leads in G-rated films found that nearly all were valued primarily for their appearance and were focused primarily on winning the love of a male character.”

Crest 3D White’s official YouTube channel has this awesome commercial for those of us who need to relive the magic when we’re surfing the net instead of channels. The comments worry me. Some people got the offensiveness right away. Their comments range from the simple, “Why can’t she say hello to him?” to the blunt, “That’s sexist.” There were a few too many comments hinting that the female character’s thought process is typical of all women. The largest demographic for US YouTube subscribers is the 18 to 34 years old crowd at 67 per cent, male and female viewers are nearly equal.

One comment reads, “I am SO fucking glad I’m not the only one who finds this commercial weird and creepy.”

Right?

“Bitches be trippin’ hardcore if you just see a dude and automatically think about spending the rest of your life with him.”

And that’s where they lose me.

I won’t get into the obvious about not being keen on my gender being referred to as “bitches” but this is Internet land and I’m not so naïve to think it is void of such language. The issue is that people weren’t voicing that the commercial itself was crazy, but the woman’s character. People think is an accurate portrayal of a woman’s thought process and goals. How are we having this discussion in 2013?

I didn’t think I’d have to say this, but women aren’t twiddling their thumbs waiting for some man to grace them with love, a home and babies. And men aren’t around merely to give ovaries that special child-making ingredient. Some think marketers have grown wise, if not ethically conscientious, to the fact that commercials like these are offensive and passé. This Crest ad was, “just the frosting on the cake I’ll be baking in my kitchen where I belong,” says Katie Speak in a blog post on this topic.

The commercial asks, “What will a 3D white smile do for you?” Nothing. The thought of buying this garbage makes my teeth grind.

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