Fembots, Advertising and Male Fantasy

April 20, 2010

Created for and originally posted at Bitch Magazine’s Mad World Virtual Symposium.

Advertisers are tapping into some of the most misogynistic male fantasies when they use futuristic fembots to convince men to buy their products.  They are selling a fantasy of control by turning women into obedient, mute, homemaking, sex slaves.

Articles referenced in the video:

  1. Heineken ‘DraftKeg': The Most Sexist Beer Commerical Ever Produced? by Bob Garfield, Advertising Age article
  2. The Gender Knot by Allan G. Johnson, I highly recommend this book to everyone!

** This video is available to be translated into other languages by volunteers like you.  Please visit the subtitling page on Universal Subs and click TRANSLATE to get started.

Mad World: Fembots, Advertising and Male Fantasy

[intro music] “I’ve got some news for you, Fembots have feelings too”

As I was walking around the other day, I kept running into these billboards ads that say “RU Bot or Not” for Svedka Vodka, and it’s apart of this larger ad campaign that they have.  Some of the other ones say things like “Make your next trophy wife 100% titanium” or “Turn ons: stiff drinks and greased elbows.”

I was looking at the Svedka Vodka website and I noticed they have this Bot Builder where you can “create your perfect silicone clone, ready and willing to serve” or you can turn “yourself from hot to bot.”  And it gets even more disturbing when you get inside the program, because you have all these options of clothing choices and one of which is a french maid outfit and you can have your new french maid pose in these cute or sexy model poses and in addition you can give her martini hands so she can you drinks at your whim.

Let’s talk about fembots for a second then because in popular culture and historically fembots are the ultimate misogynistic male fantasy.  They are a mythic construct used to serve male desires.  These fembots are sex slaves and sex objects, ready and willing to serve and clean up after these men.

CLIP: Commercial for Phillips Moisture Shave System Ad [instrumental/electronic music]

So is she the accessory to the razor or is the razor the accessory to her?  I don’t really know but what I do know is that her whole reason for being is to serve this man.

CLIP: Commercial for Heineken Draught Keg Ad [electronic music]

Wait so her uterus is a keg ready to serve beer on demand?  I think Advertising Age actually covered it best, which is kind of surprising when they said that the “Heineken Draught Keg is arguably the most sexist beer commercial ever produced.”  Which is quite a large statement considering beer commercials are pretty sexist.  They went on to say that these commercials, “reduce half the world to a man-servicing beer tap.”

Why do advertisers love to use images that reduce all that women are into plastic, homemaking, obedient, sex slaves who don’t talk back, in fact they don’t talk at all and they even have an on and off switch.

Advertisers are tapping into a core element of patriarchy which is the obsession with control.  Author of The Gender Knot, Allan Johnson says, “As with any system of privilege that elevates one group by oppressing another, control is an essential element of patriarchy: men maintain their privilege by controlling women and anyone else who might threaten it.”  The fembot fantasy is an expression of total control especially over women.  And these commercials are selling men this fantasy of control associated with their product.

I love science fiction and what I love most about it is this opportunity to imagine alternative societies and futuristic technology that can improve our way of life and really be used as a tool for liberation but what these commercials are doing is taking this imaginary futuristic world and making it a tool of subordination and oppression.

CLIP: Commerical for FEMBOT (Bionic Woman Franchise]

“It’s the fembot new from Kenner and Jamie Summers the Bionic Woman sold separately.”

‘I’m Jamie Summers’

‘Oh no you’re not, I am, you’re a fembot!  Your paralyzer gave you away.’

‘She’s unmasked me, now I have to disguise myself as a mystery maiden no one will recognize me, not even Jamie ha ha’

“Fembot comes with everything seen here.  Jamie Summers, the Bionic Woman sold separately.”

 

Related posts:

10 Responses to “Fembots, Advertising and Male Fantasy”

  1. I’m so with you on this one, Anita! Great points all around.

    Also there’s an iPhone app called Fembot that I just came across, by Gryphon Technology:
    http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fembot/id294173756?mt=8

    A great example is an ad from a couple years ago where the fembot is unloading the dishwasher for her “owner” and he give her a RAM upgrade … in a compartment located in her face. I think it was on during the Super Bowl. Anyone else remember what product it was selling?

  2. I agree with this. I used to read my grandmothers Harlequin romances and felt the same way. “All these dudes only exist to fulfill the needs of these really well characterized female characters.” They were rich, or very poor, but their only job in these stories was to exist, be handsome and to circumvent their own needs for those of the female characters (who also tended to be either damsels in distress or on the other end were completely using these men for their sexual/self esteem needs.)

    So I thought about that as a dude, but never spent as much time looking the other way. As a writer firmly believe that most characters SHOULDN’T be good role-models, and satire is satire, so I’m not particularly annoyed by ANY of these ads individually. But when you lay them all together like that, the same way I did with those novels, a pattern of characterization DOES form. I have the same problem in my own work. The strongest female character is the bad guy. Luckily I’m not done yet, so I get to rectify that.

    Anyway, sorry for going on so long. I can’t say I’m exactly a feminist (though my gal is trying to convert me,) but I ADORE alternate points of view. As a society we really don’t spend much time analyzing anything anymore. And not analyzing makes a zing out of why and anal.

    Iocane Reply:

    @Will Ross:

    How is this satire? This isn’t even subversive: this is a commercial that is intended to make us, the male audience, buy their brand of beer/shaving razor. They do this by titillating us with mute women who we can presumably control.

    It’s all too easy to turn a blind eye to this, but eventually we have to cue in that something is going on.

  3. Brilliant and astute observation! Exactly on point. I am a great fan of yours, please keep up the fantastic broadcasts!

  4. I have recently come across this blog, and I think it is absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t help but notice that in the shaving/razor ad the fembot looks Asian, and I think an analysis with regard to the common stereotype of the “subservient geisha” could easily be applied.

    Alise Reply:

    I noticed that too! The Fembot in the Heineken commercial looks arguable Asian as well. Hmmm.

  5. I love “Fembots” by Robyn and I’m so glad to the see the song tied to your video.

  6. I loved this! I think it would have also been helpful to include part of the Buffy episode “I was made to love you” because it brings up issues of perfection.

  7. One thing I do know is that no matter how far we come it almost always seems like we are going to be fighting this fight. People still wonder who killed Jesus , yet so few care about who killed womans rights in all its forms before mans saviour even came along. Keep fighting girls, this is a fight that is thousands of years old and I just hope it wont be thousands of years before we are given the god damned equality we deserve.

  8. [...] Archaic, right?  Well, let’s see what Feminist Frequency has to say about Fembots. [...]