In my morning reading, I came across a link to an advertising video that has recently gone viral, i.e. been sent from one person to the other because they find it funny, or they identify with it, or whatever. This was in the context of its marketing purposes, and various blogs were dissecting it to figure out just how it became viral.

All marketing genius aside, the video quite frankly pissed me off. I’m not going to do it the dignity of linking to it here, because I’d only be contributing to the spread of the virus. And I don’t think that a piece of advertising that not only plays on gender stereotypes but expects to capitalize on them should reach one more person than it otherwise should.

So — a recap instead. The basic premise of the video is that a man has bought his wife a vacuum cleaner for their anniversary. She is dissatisfied, so she takes him and puts him in a small house where dogs live. (I’m not even going to let search engines tag this post by naming the video.)

This small house turns out to be an underground bunker, filled with men folding laundry, listening to recordings of women saying things they should be doing right instead of giving their partners horrific gifts, like a vacuum cleaner or — gasp! — a thigh master. The men can only get out when a review board of women says they can. So far, the only one to successfully win free of his punishment is someone who apparently figured out that he needed to buy his wife a diamond necklace (this is the only place in the whole video that any actual product placement appears).

I really don’t even know where to start on this one. The poor protagonist is a bewildered, well-meaning young man, who actually thought that buying a nice vacuum cleaner was a great gift for their anniverary.

His shrewish, apparently selfish and domineering wife disagrees and punishes him, along with all the other bumbling, stupid husbands who have had the misfortune of buying mistaken gifts for their loved ones. Hello? Do you know of any women who are actually like that? I have at least one friend that I can think of who would be absolutely overjoyed to have a nice vacuum as a present.

Have we come so far as a society that now it’s OK for us to turn gender stereotypes around and ridicule men in this way? Or denigrate women, for that matter? Are we really that materalistic and shallow that we expect diamond necklaces for every gift?

Imagine an ad where the roles were reversed… where the woman was trying to please the man, and was “punished” for it by being locked in an underground room with all the other unsatisfactory women. Do you think that kind of video would go viral? No it certainly would not. I can guarantee that no women would send it to each other saying, “Oh you know how this feels!” Or men would post it on their Facebook pages saying, “If only we could really do this!” It would be called outrageous, a throwback to the bad old days before feminism, and would probably be pulled from the internet within hours.

This ad made me ashamed to be a woman, that anyone would actually think we could be so shallow and demanding. It made me ashamed to work in marketing, that anyone can think that playing on such blatant stereotypes would be appealing enough to sell their products. And most of all, it makes me ashamed to be a member of the internet community, one where enough people did find this video amusing to make it “go viral” — an almost impossible feat that every marketer is desperately trying to achieve for their message.

Seriously people. You should be ashamed.

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