A picture of a woman with toothpaste coming out of her mouth seems innocuous enough doesn’t it?
Look at the words on the beer mat. There are two uses of the word ‘oral’ and one of the commonly used sexually linked term ‘swallow’. Who swallows toothpaste apart from toddlers who are still learning about dental hygiene?
These beer mats were given to young female undergraduates at the University of Sussex during freshers week. The potency of these images demonstrates the pervasive demeaning sexualisation of women in every which way possible.
The woman is the intended consumer but the branding is based on pure misogyny. I am going to term it ‘misogynistic capitalism’. This advertisement not only treats women as commodities but also as consumers of a product that demeans them. Women are, basically, convenient fodder for capitalism by virtue of the fact that ‘swallow’ male-oriented jokes make up the landscape of humour.
The business model for these sexualised products at the simplest level must be to grab cheap humour, package it up, stack it high and sell it on on the basis that there is enough misogynistic buoyancy in the market to ensure that it is a success.
What these producers have not reckoned with is the growing #metoo movement that has created a level of unprecedented challenge and critical questioning. Where once these beer mats would have been swatted away as harmless fun, there is now an awareness that the big picture of sexual harassment is made up smaller acts which are still powerful enough to cause harm to females.
Consider this, female undergraduates are vulnerable enough as it is with the rape culture at universities and such images add to the pressure of forcing women to conform and submit. A woman with toothpaste in her mouth is a human being brushing her teeth, not a replication of some scene from a porn movie.