I just saw this post from the Daily Femme arguing that the Allstate ads featuring “Mayhem” as a woman jogger are offensive to women. That post cited an earlier post arguing that the Allstate ad about “Mayhem” as a teenage girl driver was also offensive. This caught my attention because I have seen those ads, and to be honest, I enjoyed them. It seems that when we’re talking about humor and comedy, the line between funny and offensive is pretty fuzzy. I was curious to see why I had a positive reaction to the ads while other feminists did not.
Annamarya wrote about the color pink and how it was used to portray the female “mayhems” in both the teen driver –
…the “typical” teenage female driver recklessly pulls a hit and run—in a massive medicinal pink SUV, with huge pink glasses on her head, while reading a text on a blinged out cell phone about her BFF Becky kissing a boy she likes. Her “emotional distress” and subsequent “mayhem” is summed up with this little ditty: “Whoopsies. I’m all ‘OMG, Becky’s not even hot.’”
– and woman jogger ads:
And why the hell is she in pink anyways? Is it some play on the asinine color associations, where blue equals boy and pink equals girl, that have been engrained in our psyche? And what are you going to tell us next, Allstate? That we shouldn’t leave the house dressed in miniskirts if we don’t want to be sexually assaulted?
While Annamarya sees the use of Pepto-Bismol pink as an “offensive and asinine” color association, I see it as a wink and a nod – a message from Allstate that they realize they are playing with gender in a completely over-the-top, satirical way. If the ad featured women actors dolled up with pink accessories acting like “bimbos” and men crashing their cars to gawk at them (like plenty of ads do), I would find the concept offensive. But since the part is played by a very obviously male actor wearing a suit, the pink accessories call attention to the stereotype rather than perpetuate it. I think I enjoyed the Allstate commercials because I interpreted them as making fun of these stereotypes about men and women (that women are bimbos and men crash cars because they are distracted by women) and not making fun of women themselves.
Annamarya and I do agree on one thing, though:
I won’t lie. When I saw the first commercial in the Allstate’s “Mayhem is Coming” campaign, which involves a puppy ripping up the backseat of a car, I thought it was funny. I have cats that can be destructive to my possessions, so I understood in my own way. I even found the tree branch falling on a car commercial relatable. Admittedly, those two things fall under the “mayhem” category because they are unpredictable and can destroy your property when you least expect it. But to blame a female jogger for a driver’s stupidity? That’s just offensive. It’s the driver’s fault the car accident happened in the first place,he took his eyes off the road. He is mayhem, not the female jogger.
I agree that women out jogging should not be considered “mayhem.” Women should be able to exercise outdoors, wearing sportswear or whatever clothing like want, without eliciting sexual advances or gazes. And though Annamarya’s “What’s next, endorsing sexual assault?” is a bit reactionary, I see why she is making that comparison. Wearing sportswear and exercising outdoors is not an invitation for men to watch, just as wearing a mini skirt is not an invitation for rape. Just like rape is ALWAYS the fault of the rapist, accidents that occur because a driver is distracted are ALWAYS the fault of the distracted driver, not the object of his distraction. (I recently got rear-ended by a guy who was reaching down to get an antacid when he plowed into me. It wasn’t the antacid’s fault.)
But then again, I’m not sure I think it’s inappropriate to classify a teenage driver as “mayhem.” Let’s be real – teenagers on the road with cell phones are pretty terrifying. (I know, I used to be one.) Of course, the study that Allstate used to gender the issue of teenage driving — which found that just over half of the girls said they are likely to drive while talking on a phone or texting, compared to 38% of the boys — is behind their decision to make the ad about a teenage girl rather than a teenage boy. I would argue from a common sense standpoint that ALL teenage drivers are capable of causing “mayhem” on the road, regardless of gender. However, I don’t find the premise as offensive as Annamarya and Cherie did.
I guess we all interpret things differently. Even though I agree that a woman jogging shouldn’t be considered a cause of “mayhem,” I found the ad’s gender-play to be an interesting twist on stereotypes about women that, if anything, pointed out how ridiculous they really are. All it takes to be perceived as a woman is a pink sweatband? You could even argue that this ad is progressive for identifying and making fun of the performativity of gender. But clearly not everyone reacted to the ads the same way I did and even though they did not offend me, I am concerned about the fact that they offended others.
What do you think about the Allstate “Mayhem” ad campaign? Clever play on stereotypes about gender, or offensive jokes at women’s expense?