Intersectional Self.

Identity is created, and is not constant. The intersectional self accounts for many factors that contribute to this term.  For example, gender, sexuality, class and ethnicity may be regarded as separate ‘compartments’ for categorisation. However, this reductionist approach is not useful, and is somewhat discriminative. Therefore, by blurring the imaginary lines between binaries, the idea of an intersectional self can flourish. Binary pairings are set up so they are opposite, and are either ‘marked’ or ‘unmarked’. This means that one attribute is classed by a certain culture as ‘normalised’ and unmarked – heterosexuality and one is classed as ‘abnormal’ and marked – homosexuality. Clearly, the labelling as either marked or unmarked is reliant upon the power of the society, and the general consensus as to what is regarded as normal or not.

To view the world in this reductionist way can provide avenues for interesting discussion. The advertising industry is a prime example of how a certain culture or society can be played to, and can be unconsciously led to buying into a lifestyle or product. During the second half of this session, we watched two television advertisements for Old Spice, and discussed the newer one. The advert consists of a solitary black male actor, who is wearing only a towel around the waist. He addresses the “ladies” supposedly watching the advert, and begins to explain how if “her man” wore Old Spice she could be living a certain lifestyle. His confident manor and well spoken voice encapsulates the viewer, and draws them into what is being said. The actor appears successful, and clearly knows how to treat a woman. He can give her two “tickets to the show she wants to see”, diamonds and ultimately a masculine, attractive boyfriend.

Clearly there are many potential issues with this advert, and from an intersectional self point of view, many assumptions are made. Firstly, the advert presumes that every woman is with a man, therefore presuming that heterosexuality is the cultural norm. This unmarked characteristic will be seen by the general viewer as normal, as the majority of the population is straight and it is the dominant or preferred sexual orientation. The use of race in this advert is interesting, as the protagonist is a black male. Personally, this had no effect on me as I viewed him solely as an attractive, masculine and successful man. The colour of his skin was irrelevant. However, it is important to address the issue that black skin is considered a marked attribute in the current culture, as white is still viewed as normalised. Therefore, would male viewers of this advert be less inclined to believe a black man, rather than a white man?

The role of women in this advert also raises an interesting point. The actor directly addresses “ladies” very early on in the advert, as if to be selling them the product, rather than men. It could be viewed that the woman is totally fictional, and is instead used as a device to make the male population feel inferior and to highlight their current inability to achieve success with women. This therefore makes men desire success, and possibly want to purchase Old Spice to improve their chances and ultimately their lifestyle.

A great deal of tongue-in-cheek humour is employed in this advert however, and should be taken lightly. However, some of the issues that are embedded within the advertisement are important, and shouldn’t be considered so lightly. The makers of the advert were being forcefully satirical, and just wanted to boost sales. Sexuality sadly, still does sell.

J.

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