‘Lynx… I though you were on our side! You’ve changed man…’
– reads a top rated comment underneath the YouTube clip of one of the five films in Lynx’s new campaign for its sensory range of shower gels.
The film features the boyfriend of a ‘High Maintenance Girl’ enduring a morning session of dress shopping where he laboriously carries multiple shopping bags in both hands, simultaneously walking her lap-dog (which the narrator describes as a ‘vicious beast’). Finally, the narrator consoles the hero “This morning you are nailing it knowing well that the fruits of your labour will soon be in hand … squeeze ‘em softly.” The other four films of the Lynx campaign place men in similarly humiliating situations to appease the Flirty Girl, Party Girl, Sporty Girl and Brainy Girl types, in exchange for some form of macho gratification.
While these adverts clearly target men, they are also acutely aware of a critical female audience. They are the product of post-feminist masculinity that seeks to affirm manliness without alienating women. The result is ‘ironic chauvinism’ where the man needs to suffer humiliation in order to be allowed a sexist remark or indulgence. Since, even for the contemporary man, overt sexism generates more embarrassment than affirmation – his sexism must be earned and approved by the woman, which is inadvertently through some form of apologetic humiliating rite of passage.
This evolution from the ‘chauvinist’ to the ‘humiliated chauvinist’ is best illustrated in the communications of UK’s Yorkie bar that’s been positioned exclusively for men since its launch in 1976. In criticizing Yorkie’s past campaign that featured a woman pretending to be an (overstated) man to buy a chocolate bar, feminist Catherine Redfern remarks:
“… they seem to be targeting not “British men” but British, large, bearded, macho, builders. That’s gotta be a limited market, guys. Using the most hackneyed stereotypes, the Yorkie ads seem to be trying to say that eating chocolate is an okay thing for a man to be seen to be doing; it isn’t a cissy thing to do, it’s not emasculating. But they are also saying that men can only feel happy eating chocolate if it is associated with everything very, very MACHO.” (Not for Girls? The Yorkie and Echo Adverts, The F-word)
The latest campaign for Yorkie, therefore, comes as a response to this sentiment. The man is allowed to enjoy a Yorkie only after successfully bringing all the shopping from the car to the house in one go, an activity that subverts the slogan ‘man fuel for men stuff’ into irony. Finally, his reward is not just the Yorkie, it is mainly his wife’s approving smirk.