Why this gender-bending ad isn’t a great leap forward

Clad only in a red bikini bottom and with a long mane of silky hair, the model struts down the runway to a car. The camera cuts from the car to close-ups of the model’s androgynous features. When she reaches the car and turns around, the pancake-flat chest and bulge in the bikini reveals that ‘’she’’ is in fact a he. It’s 19-year-old Ukrainian male model Stav Strashko.

 

It’s the latest ad for the Toyota Auris. The ad will run only in Japan but has gained an international audience via YouTube.

 

It’s also apparently part of a revolution in the way advertising treats gender. Writing in Salon last week, Mary Elizabeth Williams praised Toyota’s advertising people for avoiding a joke at the expense of transgender people, avoiding homophobia and generally playing with gender. She went so far as to hail the ad as a giant step forward in ”the changing way gender is portrayed in advertising”.

 

To which I say tosh. No doubt the ad is clever and fun, playing on the usual stereotype of beautiful women and cars. But how exactly does it change the way gender is used in advertising?

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