Ironic about chauvinism

31 July 2012 | By Sandra
Lynx High Maintenance Girl 2

‘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.





  1. Whittley
    Posted 14 September 2012 at 10.13 pm | Permalink

    Although this article is a very insightful piece with several points of interesting information, I would like to do an opposite reading of the video advertisement portrayed on this page. From a feminist standpoint, I have a difference in perspective from Sandra when she states this is an example of ironic chauvinism. The ad gives women the allusion of power and control, but also denotes from those qualities with the chauvinist remarks made by the narrator. The fact that the woman in the ad is referred to as “the high maintenance girl” detracts from her image in such a way that damages her reputation and makes her position of authority in the relationship seem trifling. Then the ad goes on to make the man look better because he stops to allow her to go into her purse to pull out her lipstick and apply it to her lips. That attention to her lips is a very erotic image. The woman is already dressed in a (super) high-waist mini skirt donning all her thighs and long legs, also wearing camisole top with light cover-up while simultaneously revealing lots of cleavage and walking with a sassy twist in her hips sporting (very) high heels. Therefore, to add the attention to her lips is really topping the carnal scale. Sure the guy’s sexism “must be earned and approved by the woman”, as Sandra put it in her explanation, but the general sexism involved in the image of the woman portrayed in the ad is a prime example of the chauvinistic portrayals of women in the media. Furthermore, I’d say that this ad can be interchangeably read as an example of ironic feminism because the woman is being manipulated within her allusion of power.

  2. marcella
    Posted 14 September 2012 at 10.33 pm | Permalink

    It’s really interesting to look into the details of marketing for the sexes and how they are intertwined even though an ad may seem to be only specifically targeting one specifically, such as the man carrying his girlfriends shopping bags. It’s completely true that when a woman watches an ad that seems to be targeting men, that we are able to see the ways in which we are being equally targeted.

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