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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Why Does the Consumption of Alcohol Go Hand in Hand with the Degradation of Women?

I bet this grabbed some peoples' attention...
    An honest disclosure is certainly appropriate before debating the following advertisement; the beer being advertised is a non-alcoholic beer. That being said, the advertisement does not follow the average template most beer ads use. Typically, models in alcohol advertisements are not pregnant. In this instance, the combination of the nonalcoholic product and the model’s pregnancy should shift the viewer’s vantage point because it is nontraditional. There is a pressure the woman faces in which she, for health reasons, normally would not consume alcohol. However, this ad forces an alternative on the woman. It is as if the woman cannot escape social conventions that implicate she should either consume or serve alcohol, regardless of her circumstances. Mass media portrays beer and women as the ideal package. When placed together in advertisements, one always complements the other. When each item is separated, they hold completely different connotations.
                What enables beer and women to be classified in one category? Pleasure, in the Epicurean sense, is the most desirable gratification for human beings. When is beer to be consumed? When individuals want to have an enjoyable time. Why are women typically shown serving beer? Because they add to the pleasure the beer already guarantees. Women, in this instance, promise sensuality. In this particular advertisement, before getting ahead of ourselves and stating that she is pregnant, the viewers are presented with a picturesque female. A sharp model’s face, breasts covered by gold, and long legs that compliment her hips. All of these qualities, as well as the slightly disheveled hair and piercing eyes, are welcoming. The model invites the viewer to partake in consumption. The consumption of first the alcohol, which is being handed out as an initial allure, is then followed by the consumption of what the woman has to offer. 
                One might ask, “What is the problem in that? Why is it wrong to consume what is being put forth so readily available?” The answer: mass advertising has given the consumer the false illusion that he has entire power over what he wants because his money somehow impacts the advertisers. And while many economists and business leaders might argue that power rests in the hands of the consumer, it does not in the instance shown above. The deception the ad holds is presented when the consumer consumes; he is not handed a beer from the woman above. The only promise that the advertisement keeps is the distribution of the actual product.
“Well, isn’t that the aim of the advertisement?” Absolutely. But the consumer is left without the promised sensuality from the woman standing in an inviting posture. Only the advertisers achieve what they want: profit. But at what expense, or rather, at whose expense do the advertisers benefit from? The consumer who purchased the product for its own sole purpose is not exploited. Not as much as the woman in the picture, one could say. The advertisers have taken full advantage of the woman’s physical qualities. The breasts that happen to be covered in a gold brassiere are not coincidentally placed next to the golden yellow beer.
Referring back to Freud, is it not the breasts that the infant desired so fervently? “Freud thought that the infant was transiently attached to the mother’s breast in the oral stage…”[1] Consequently, adults “exhibiting these features of personality are also given to ‘oral’ habits, like…overindulgence in alcohol.”[2] It is at the expenditure of the woman’s physical (and only physical) qualities that the advertisement would catch the consumer’s eyes. The photograph suggests that the beer goes great with a large breast nearby.
“How is that degrading?” The exposed woman’s body generally invites one category of consumers: men. Men (and women) will drink beer to achieve some level of pleasure: relaxation, slight intoxication, or drinking to forget. But the placement of the beer next to the breast implies that drinking the alcohol is as good as the golden breast. They complement one another as if they were equal. Sharing the singe trait of pleasure, a human being’s body is lowered to the level of alcohol. When separate, hopefully people would place higher value on dignity over a manmade depressant. But when they are put together in an ad, the viewer accepts the reduction of the woman to the level of the beer.
What beer advertisements create as a side effect more often than not is the zeroing in on women’s external qualities. Like many advertisements that use female actresses or models, the woman is always depicted as inferior. Between the viewer and the pregnant woman shown above, the woman is consequently lower than the viewer because she promises to hand over the almighty beer. It can be then be argued that the woman, therefore, possesses the power if she holds the product. Again, the advertisers give a false illusion. The beer is not for the woman to give. The woman in the Nova Schin ad is not actually giving the consumer the beer. The standstill woman is just an invitation for purchasing a beer. She does not directly benefit from giving it away. Ultimately, she has no say on who purchases “her” beer.
If the above arguments were not enough to suggest that the woman is being degraded through the exploitation of her external features, than what does her pregnancy imply? A quick reminder for this argument is that in this specific ad, Nova Schin is advertising a non-alcoholic beer. (Yet, it only takes a second example, like the Budweiser advertisement, to prove that alcoholic beer advertisements exploit women in the same manner.) Nevertheless, what the pregnant woman portrays more plainly is social pressure. Though the advertisement may or may not be for men; if the Nova Schin ad is targeted at women, it suggests that there is no reason to not drink under any circumstances, even during one’s pregnancy. Similarly, if the men who consume the product encounter a wife, girlfriend, or random woman that is pregnant, the external goods that women typically offer are depicted as available when there is simultaneously a non-alcoholic beer. This makes viewers uncomfortable because it is indecent and unnatural. Society does not typically place pregnant women alongside alcohol.
The blatant implications of both ads suggest the consumption of either the product first and then the female, or vice versa. The placement of the woman in the Budweiser ad suggests that one must get through her to reach the product where, as stated before, the Nova Schin has to be consumed as an initiation to reach the promised “goods.” In either instance, the woman is exploited through the exposure of her body for the false promise that consuming either product will bring instant pleasure, whether it is through the breasts or the beer.  

[1] Storr, Anthony. Freud, A Very Short Introduction. 30. Oxford University Press, USA, 2001. Print. <>.
[2] (Storr, 31.)