Singapore—Gender equality group AWARE has weighed in on a recent advertisement that featured muscular men with their chest and abdominal muscles in full display.
The group said that while no kind of objectification is good, the level of sexual objectification that men and women have faced has never been the same.
“Not even close,” wrote AWARE.
AWARE also pointed out that the attention the Vehs.com ad has been getting is unusual.
“Could the discomfort be due in part to the fact that this ad shows MEN CLEANING – thus challenging the very sticky gender stereotype about whose job it is to perform domestic work? Is the outcry about objectification disguising men’s latent fears of being emasculated by taking on traditionally female roles?)”
On Apr 6, Vehs.com, a homeowners renovation platform, launched an ad campaign for “SINGAPORE 1ST HUNKY GUY CLEANING SERVICE,” featuring several shirtless muscular men doing house cleaning, as well as one very pleased-looking woman.
The cleaning service was only made available for one weekend.
“This is NOT an April Fool’s joke!,” the company wrote in a Facebook post, which ended up going viral, getting shared over 17,000 times.
AWARE wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Apr 28) that people had tagged the group, wanting to hear what they thought of the unusual ad.
The group explained that all objectification is bad, as it “robs individuals of their humanity, agency, and autonomy”.
The portrayal of “ideal” men’s bodies, as exemplified by Vehs.com’s ad’s muscular cleaners, is harmful to men.
“Stereotypes about male strength and physical domination harm men as well as women,” wrote AWARE.
But the group took issue with the perspective that if it had been scantily-clad women featured in the ad, there would have been more outrage.
AWARE wrote that pointing out a double standard, in this case, is “NOT productive” because “there ARE different standards of acceptability,” since men have never been objectified in the same way as women.
As an example, the group posted photos of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, pointing out that how attractive a man is is not a professional liability, whereas being good-looking makes women “hard to take seriously”.
Moreover, men have been sexually harassed at far lower rates and there aren’t chat groups on Telegram where women exchange pictures of men’s body parts without their consent.
“When we objectify women, we are participating in long-standing tradition of oppressive violence that have very tangible consequences on women’s lives.
“The same cannot be said for men.”
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