Diamonds are a girl’s best friend—but what about the advertising?
During the time of my absence I have of course received many comment notifications from other blogs, including the publishing and response to a comment that I had assumed had been censored due to dissent and where I had planned to write a post on the topic under discussion. Seeing that the eventual reply contained a number of further fallacies and misleading claims, I will go ahead with my own post, despite the almost ridiculous delays involved: My comment 2011-08-20; publishing of the comment by the poster (lizzyflax) 2012-09-02; my own post 2013-08-18—with almost a year between each event. (In fact, I am slightly tempted to wait another two days…)
The poste consists of four photographs of “fantastically offensive” adverts for diamonds, each followed by a hard-to-justify condemnation for sexism and whatnot.
To start with, I give my answer with the relevant text of the corresponding adverts inserted in square brackets (with reservations for transliteration errors).
Looking at these adverts, I would say that you are overreacting—while failing to attack the true insults, namely that the viewer would be sufficiently stupid to buy/want a piece of extremely over-priced and mostly useless [piece of] carbon, resp. sufficiently stupid that he would be moved to make such an expensive buying decision by advertising.
[HEY, WHAT DO YOU KNOW. SHE THINKS YOU’RE FUNNY AGAIN.]
Is a swing-and-a-miss, but not really offensive—and sadly there is a grain of truth in it: There are quite a few women out there who either confuse true affection in a man with the giving of gifts or are opportunistic enough to “play nice” when given gifts. Notably, these women tend to be more common around men with enough money to buy diamonds for other occasions than proposals (and the ad does appear to be directed at non-proposal situations).
[What she says: “Any ring is fine so long as I have you.” What she is thinking: “No diamond? How cheap! [Lethal revenge threats]” Get Her A Diamond, idiot! ]
May be a bit exaggerated, but is spot on as a psychological observation: The typical woman will be disappointed when her man does not go the extra mile. She may not contemplate cutting his break lines, but the absense of a diamond for a proposal will not sit well, even when she has claimed otherwise in advance. Similar pitfalls include e.g. agreements not to give each other Christmas gifts and many “It’s OK. You don’t have to do X.” situations.
The truly offensive part here is the “idiot” directed at the male buyer.
[Make her speechless. For a change.]
Is an old joke played very well. It may not be a hit with women, but then it is directed at male buyers and it does reflect a sentiment that most men share—that women talk too much. (And you might want to reflect on the number of jokes directed at men in modern advertising.)
[Buy her a diamond ahhh… a moment of silence.]
Is a more amateurish version of the same joke.
Selected parts from the author’s reply:
At first I was loathe to respond to your comment because in characterising my article as overreaction, you seem (mind I don’t know you or your intent, this is only what I can surmise from your comment) to be using an age-old tactic of painting any woman who speaks her mind as overly emotional, even hysterical. This isn’t a good way to start an exchange of ideas.
On the contrary, the age old tactic is painting factual criticism of one individual woman as an attack on women in general and/or implying that the criticism is related to the the fact that the woman was a woman. In as far as women are begin painted as over-emotional, it is almost invariably in situations were they actually are over-emotional. Women who speak their mind with good sense and solid arguments are welcome to do so as far as I am concerned—and this is the opinion of practically every man whose opinion I can actually judge. (Including many, say Pär Ström, who have been severely maligned as e.g. misogynist for their pro-true-equality engagement.)
Applying Hanlon’s Razor, the conclusion would be that lizzyflax considerably strengthens my interpretation that she was over-reacting by … over-reacting. In both cases, it can pay to bear the problem of gender-glasses in mind.
On the other hand, similar claims (including accusations of mansplaining) are so common among feminists that I find my ability to use Hanlon’s Razor very limited by now.
1. I find this point pretty offensive, not to mention weirdly anecdotal. For example (to use your model of argument), I know of no women in my acquaintance who equate gifts with love, nor do I personally know any women who are drawn to men with money because they are opportunistic/greedy. In no way am I saying these women don’t exist, however I don’t think they are as plentiful as you or the media would like to imagine. I also don’t happen to think these traits are sex-linked and it is irresponsible and simplistic to believe in something as patently manipulative as the trophy wife/gold digger caricature.
Apart from offering nothing beyond the anecdotal in return, the last sentence is an entirely unwarranted attack based on a non sequitur.
Looking at the more constructive points of the arguments: Irrespective of lizzyflax’ claim, women very often tend to see gifts (and similar attentions) as a (not necessarily conscious) gauge of their SOs love (or lack thereof). (Whether her formulation, “equate gifts with love”, applies to the phenomenon I refer to is another matter.) Notably, I do not claim that these gifts have to be diamonds: It is a matter of “signs of love”, including anything from diamonds to an end-of-the-day compliment, where women on average simply have a different thinking than men on average.
The gold-digger/being-drawn-by-greed part goes considerably further than anything I say, well into strawman territory. Notably, my “play nice” means nothing more than just that: The (already existing!) boyfriend is treated a little better than usual. Corresponding to the add, this could for instance include laughing at a joke that would otherwise have been ignored.
In addition, gold-diggers are very real. They may be common or they may be rare, but they do exist and they are predominantly found around men with money. (The rarity or commonality will likely depend on matters of definition: Is a woman who accepts a drink in a bar under false pretenses of mutual interest a gold-digger?) Correspondingly, even had I (or the add) spoken of gold-digging, her criticism would have been faulty. Incidentally, parallel to writing the first draft, I stumbled on an interesting storye with topic relevancy.
Finally, that a woman is attracted to a rich man or a man who gives gifts need not have anything to do with opportunism, greed, or deliberate gold-digging. Such attraction often has strong automatic or even unconscious component—just like a man’s feeling for a female “10” is mostly an automatic reaction (as opposed to e.g. deliberations on the jelousy of his friends if she became his partner or on the looks of their common children).
2. Again, who are these women? Perhaps you should consider widening your social circle. I find your broad generalizations about women pretty ghastly and most definitely dangerous. And, by the way, you leveled the same charge of “idiot” at anyone who would think it necessary to cement an emotional tie with an expensive bauble.
These women are probably an out-right majority: Pick-up a book on relationships or ask your friends how they would actually feel in situations like the ones given (or, worse, when a birthday is forgotten). The situation is often even worse than I imply: During my readings of online diaries and relationship forums, I saw many examples of women expecting a man to “propose” with a ring and what-not—even though an agreement of marriage already existed, sometimes even with a wedding-date already set… (In other words, where the actual proposal, i.e. the suggestion of marriage, had already taken place, making the “proposal” a purely ritual act.)
I note that lizzyflax continues her unwarranted attacks, without anything resembling actual arguments.
3. I don’t think I ever argued this isn’t a genius marketing strategy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t rooted in the misogynistic trope of the woman-as-scold. Although this piece wasn’t written to explore misandric tropes (therefore it wasn’t relevant to discuss), I would be happy to consider doing a piece about this as I consider it every bit as dangerous (particularly the trope of the bubbling father).
Firstly: The characterization is not a matter of women being scolds—but of women talking too much and reacting positively to gifts. Secondly: Is it misogynist to describe women as they actually are? (With the typical reservations for individual variations vs. the average/typical, and similar.) In feminist rhetoric: Yes. In my book: No.
(More generally, even stereotypisations and exaggerations need not be any type of “-ism”, but can, depending on context, be just mutually enjoyable humor. Consider e.g. the extremely stereotyped portrayals of some types of Jews, in particular “the Jewish mother”, that are common among Jewish comedians. Cf. e.g. “The Nanny”. For that matter, the main protagonist of that show was a bimbo, who obsessed about her looks and about finding a husband—an extreme caricature of a woman. Still, the show’s creator and leading force was a woman (Fran Drescher)—and she, herself, played that bimbo…)
4. Yeah, see, it’s every. How revolting.
Makes no sense, but I note the spurious use of “revolting”. Compare with some highly negative statements towards me above.
In closing: stereotypes. They’re dangerous and effective (especially when used in advertising) and I’m sorry to see you seem to have bought into quite a few of them.
I have not bought into stereotypes: I have developed insights that lizzyflax lacks, through long years of observation (to a lesser degree also experimentation) in my own life, through readings of at least half-a-dozen books and dozens of articles on relationships (many or most with female authors), and through very long readings of what women themselves say and do through e.g. online diaries and relationship forums. Of course, also what other men have said and observed; however, here some degree of partiality cannot be ruled out.
Here we see a constant problem with feminists (and the politically correct in general): They have a world-view which does not match reality, often based in preconceptions and ideas of how the world “should” be, and when someone points to the reality, he is condemned as prejudiced and unenlightened (in some form or other).