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Khaki or tacky: Is this 'pink/blue, truck/doll, pants/dress' ad offensive?

by Jeremy Hooper

What follows is the splash page currently running at Dockers.com. Decide for yourself: Offensive or benign?

Screen Shot 2009-12-11 At 11.13.02 Am-1

Now, we hesitate to even raise a question about Dockers, considering their parent company, Levi's, has been immensely pro-gay in the past few years. But there are a few undeniables here. (1) The text is completely hostile to those who eschew traditional "gender norms." (2) The implication (even if satirical) is that a lack of "manliness" equates a lack of heroism. (3) Focus on the Family sees this as a great victory for their LGBT-hostile cause, with the anti-gay group posting the ad to their blog under a "healthy sexuality" tag.

Without a doubt, this text is born out of heterosexism/gender conformity. But it's also undeniable that all of us, including modern ad executives, are products of a society that put a G.I. Joe or a Barbie in our hands based on our genitalia, not our displayed interest. So to us: This ad was most likely never meant to offend. But at the same time, it still provides a teachable moment that we should not let pass us by without comment.

What say you?

**MORE TAKES: Dockers “Wear the Pants” Campaign: Khakis the New “Call of Manhood” [The Sexist Blog -- Wash. City Paper]
Bunk Documentaries: Dockers does it again (2 of 2) [Bitch magazine]
Dockers is for Real Men® [nobody]
Ads gone bad: The Dockers man-ifesto [Heartless Doll -- SF Weekly]

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Your thoughts

I'm as gay as it gets, and I can't say I find this ad offensive. If I had seen this ad in print and read it, I would have thought here is an advertiser milking nostalgia.

Posted by: Geoff | Dec 12, 2009 10:55:37 AM

It disgusts me to have to wait for the bus with these ads plastered all over. How does it make feminine males like me feel to stand next to this ad while we wait for the bus? How does it make women feel? This "joke" is tired and offensive and upholds very dangerous notions about how binary gendered our society should be. There should not be a question mark in the title of the blog post because this ad is clearly offensive and wrong.

Posted by: mark | Dec 13, 2009 3:06:48 AM

So many opinions.. And all are just. My immediate take:
• WTF?
• We couldn't possibly be having an insecurity issue here, nope...
• I must have missed the pandemic. What is it again?
• I fail to see the logic in your conspiracy, so I'll pass on your membership offer, thank you.
• Long-ass incomprehensible ad, whatever, man.
• Way to go for offending everybody you're trying to sell to! Wait, who ARE you trying to sell to?
• Target audience must be seriously f*cked in the head.

So yeah, offensive towards EVERYONE, and totally nonsensical. Who the hell are these people designing the ads?

Posted by: Fazz | Dec 13, 2009 12:26:54 PM

I see a lot of pandering to straight people's heterosexism and homophobia in the media these days, done in subtle or "deniable" ways and/or mixed in with pro-gay content. A lot of it is intended I think to appeal to Gen X/Gen Y straight people, especially straight men, who think of themselves as "our [gay people's] friends" and are honestly put off by (too) overt homophobia, but who will still, out of our presence or in it if the power balance in way over in their direction (as in junior high or high school), sneer "that's so gay" about something uncool, socially clumsy, unfashionable, laughable or pathetic, and who often display an amiable, smirking contempt for gay people, especially gay men.

Given that Dockers sell to so many gay guys, I'm sure this ad was carefully planned to be "deniably" humorous and silly, even though it's a completely heterosexist message. Perhaps it's part of a campaign to shift Dockers' image, to make it more butch -- and not coincidentally, less gay.

It's generally a mistake to believe that advertisements for major consumer products aren't very thoroughly thought out.

This ad is perhaps designed so that we (gay people and other gender non-conformers) would look stupid protesting it.

But read "straight", it's directed almost entirely against US, against gay and non-macho straight men.

We probably didn't make a big deal of stuff like this in the past because there was so much that was worse, but we've won enough victories and got enough positive change out of the mainstream (straight) media establishment that we should start trying to get rid of ALL the anti-non-gender-conformer propaganda that they put out. We're getting ever closer to the time when we won't have to put up with ANY of it.

Those who think it's a non-issue are free to abstain from any action, but for the rest of us, it probably wouldn't hurt to send a letter in any form to the maker of Dockers to let them know what we think of their ad and the degree to which it might cause us to have negative feelings toward their product.

Posted by: Donny Dakaloto | Dec 13, 2009 1:01:44 PM

First of all, Dick Mills, you crack me up! I love you!

Secondly, one of my pet peeves is someone posting numerous times (Alonzo) because they must continually dispute anyone who disagrees with them, and they must have the last word. Please make your point once, then go away.

This would have been a great TV ad if it was spoken while the visuals went completely against the words. As it is, it's slightly offensive and rather stupid.

Posted by: Bonnie_Half-Elven | Dec 13, 2009 6:27:47 PM

Last Word!

Posted by: Alonzo | Dec 14, 2009 11:38:07 AM

We are calling on GLAAD to respond to this ad, which yes, is homophobic/sexist.

Posted by: QueerToday | Feb 9, 2010 4:21:25 PM

We are calling on GLAAD to respond to this ad, which yes, is homophobic/sexist.

Posted by: QueerToday | Feb 9, 2010 4:21:26 PM

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