Here at The Food Frame we tend to jump at the defense of women in food advertising, and it’s pretty much always for a good reason – we see women being degraded, simplified, and slandered in an array of food advertisements across all forms of media. But we also need to look at the whole picture, the grand scheme…namely, the other sex. Just because women are more often than not the target of insensitive advertisements doesn’t mean we don’t see the objectification of men in ads as well. Kraft just came out with an ad campaign for their new line of products called Kraft Zesty Italian dressing.
Take a look at the two ads featured below; is it the dressing that seems harder to resist? I don’t think so. The first ad in this campaign shows a dark haired, scruffy-looking man in his underwear feeding himself a piece of spaghetti. He sits invitingly atop a wood table in the kitchen, next to a casually placed cutting board and bowl of pasta. The text – if you happened to notice it – says, “Once you go Italian, you’ll never go back.” This tiny print at the top right corner of the image is hardly the focal point of the ad – the viewer’s eyes are instantly drawn to the over-saturated white of the man’s underwear, followed by his perfectly sculpted (er, photoshopped) abs, then to his face, arms, and then, maybe just then, to the tag line. In the second ad, we see the same man in almost the same exact pose, except this time he’s lounging on what appears to be a table set for a romantic dinner for two. His bright white collared shirt is unbuttoned and he has a look of intrigue on his otherwise stoic face. The text featured in this ad says “The only thing better than dressing is undressing.”
There’s no denying that this ad campaign is eye-catching to say the very least, so in that sense, bravo Kraft, job well done. But what is it saying about men? Well, first and foremost, what’s most desirable to women is that a man has a tan, chiseled, flawless body. We could argue that advertisers perpetuate unrealistic depictions of the female body as well as the male body, but we’d also be making an argument that’s not exactly grounded in a cornucopia of proof. This is just one example of men in food advertising, and let me tell you, this alone was hard to find. I wanted to explore this topic with this post and intentionally set out to find examples of men in food advertising that were portrayed as sensationalized at the very least. This ad campaign was the best that I could find, and what’s somewhat more troubling is that through my research I stumbled upon a quote from a Kraft rep that says that the campaign is “targeted toward our salad dressings consumer, who we define as a mainstream foodie. They enjoy cooking and creative expression, and this campaign speaks to them in a way that recognizes she is an individual in addition to being a mom.”
I suppose if I was in a forgiving mood I could thank Kraft for recognizing that moms are more than, well, simply put – moms, but then I’d be acting under the presumption that that fact wasn’t common knowledge already. An “individual in addition to being a mom” doesn’t sit so well with me, and maybe that’s because I would put ‘mom’ in addition to being an individual. Then again, I’m not a mom so maybe that will change for me when I start my own family. Do you think that this ad necessarily connotes any notions that are inherently bad or good for either sex? Am I not giving men the same degree of respect that I tend to give women here on The Food Frame? I’m open to all thoughts.