The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
By Katie Halligan 28/05/2014
I don’t think I’m going to surprise anyone when I state that the media, and in particular, those involved in advertising, continue to enforce heteronormative complexes on society, excluding and isolating anyone that is anything other than cisgender. If you are not a heterosexual masculine middleclass male, hopefully western and white, or a heterosexual feminine female, in a loving relationship, then the product advertised is not for your kind.
Now no one needs a college education to recognise how the advertising industry hones in on a prototype of the ideal consumer and manipulates people into thinking a certain way of life is normal, fulfilling and will ultimately lead to happiness, so why this article? Well, throughout the MA in Women’s Studies, we have learned how imposing a heteronormative ideology can be detrimental to society.
As mentioned earlier, it is an ideology that has the power to alienate anyone that does not conform to what we, as a society, recognise as normal. This can lead to homophobia, sexism and violence against those who are perceived as different or other. It was an advert on television for Littlewoods catalogue that has motivated this rant. It depicts a lady receiving an invite to her school reunion party and debating whether she will go or not. In comes Caroline Morohan in the form of a fairy godmother encouraging her to attend. This ensues a ‘checklist’ of the perfect life; cute children, good looking husband, polished and pristine house. The advert ends with the lady at her school reunion, impressing former classmates with her lovely lifestyle, shown to them through the magic medium of her smartphone. With a wink and a smile from the fairy godmother, the ad ends…and so begins my anger. Are we to assume that if you are single, or gay, or married without children, or renting, or pursuing education or a career, or travelling, or any number of things, then you should avoid meeting people from your past at all costs because you have failed in life?
The pressure to conform; have the big wedding day (spending up to ten thousand euro or more), then the beautiful healthy baby, obtain the large mortgage (because that hasn’t had a detrimental impact on the economy of the country), maybe work (money isn’t really the issue because your dashing husband can support the family and mortgage with his wonderful job), is forced on us time and time again. In this class we have discussed compulsory heterosexuality and the extent social constructions have impacted our lifestyle choices.
The notion of maternal instinct as natural must be challenged, with adverts depicting a woman’s lifecycle as grow up, get married and have babies. All I ask is that we resist the urge to be tricked into believing that a normal life is the life we see perpetuated in perfume, tampon, beer or car ads. You don’t need a house, a baby, a partner, a garden, a dog, a fancy car, a holiday once a year, or ten billion friends to be happy, fulfilled or successful. These adverts exclude those who do not conform to a typical lifestyle, and sadly disillusion those that do. My friend assured me that Johnson and Johnson or Pampers adverts are not a realistic depiction of pregnancy, and I believe her!