The representation of women in the media industry in a patriarchal society is characterized by three things: sexualization, objectification, and sexism. The nauseating definitions of what it means to be a woman are reinforced quite often in adverts in the Arab world. The power dynamic, which is at the core of patriarchal minds, perceives men as powerful and women as submissive; adverts often perpetuate such narratives. Marketing teams in Lebanon have somewhat become a queen (or king, Mr. Patriarchy?) in that arena.
Sexist advertisements promoting various things - from those that scream gender-roles to incredibly offensive Valentine's Day ads - have forcefully made their way onto our social media feeds. Most recently, a beauty lounge in Lebanon decided to promote #LaserHairRemoval with a set of different posts in which women's body parts were being represented by fruits.
Cherry Beauty Lounge's failed attempt at boosting sales came at the expense of women. A beauty lounge that reinforces hegemonic beauty standards is just not OK. The marketing team could not even promote laser removal without juxtaposing women alongside shiny and peeled fruit. They couldn't even promote their hair removal services without shaming women for having natural body hair.
"Shave their lives"
In one post, women (and apparently men) are portrayed as cherries. The caption of that post reads:
"Tag a friend and shave their lives."
The header of the advert says "cherry for both," which I assume to mean that the beauty lounge offers hair removal laser treatment for both men and women. OK, doesn't sound too bad, right?
Well, that's until you see their other posts which unashamedly reinforce beauty standards from the eyes of men. In the below post, for example, a fuzzy peach (left) sits alongside a sparkly clean nectarine (right) with a header that reads:
"He prefers his 'peach' smooth."
We all know what the peach represents (does the peach emoji ring a bell?). The advert suggests women should have a smooth "peach" because men prefer it that way. Since when do women have to do anything for the pleasure of men? Why are we always portrayed as submissive beings who live to please their male partner? Our bodily (and other) decisions do not have anything to do with men. Our decisions are our own, and adverts that promote otherwise should really "shave their own lives."
"You're really gonna tell women to do laser hair removal just because it'll satisfy men?"
Her body, her choice
"If a woman wants to shave she can shave not for anyone but for herself"
You would think the marketing team behind the campaign was monitoring the comments. Well, if they were, they would have noticed the backlash it has given birth to. Apparently, the marketers behind the posts don't think people's opinions on the matter count for anything.
But they're losing customers over their poor and sexist marketing skills.
"Way to go. Damn it Cherry you were so convenient for me as a customer. You had to be ridiculously sexist and disrespectful. Goodbye forever," one user wrote on Instagram.
In one post, the beauty lounge used a coconut which I hope is not meant to represent a women's breasts. Or worse, if they were attempting to reference the viral "coconut sex tip" that went viral back in July that would just take the cake.
Their final ad in the series was actually written in the second person because they just didn't have the "chestnuts" to ask women how they prefer their man's private parts. Instead, they were probably asking men (surprise surprise) how they prefer their "chestnut." A man can make his own decisions on the matter, but a woman needs to make a decision based on her male partner's preferences?
"So you went from what he wants, and got backlash, so you switched it to what she wants, you also got backlash to this. Guys this whole campaign is ridiculous, comparing any body part to a fruit is just ridiculous," one user wrote.
"And the most important is WOMEN CAN CHOOSE HOWEVER THEY WANT THEIR BODY HAIR TO BE... really had you gone in a different direction, I'm sure you wouldn't have gotten this much negative feedback."
"I hate fruits now, thanks to you"
This isn't the first time "food" has been used to promote sexism in Lebanon
In 2017, Lebanese restaurant Sandwich W Noss apologized over a sexist ad that positioned two burgers side by side to resemble a pair of breasts. The Facebook post was promoting an offer to men. They did so using a sexually suggestive image and an even worse caption.
"Because our hearts ache at the beauty we see, and because we're sick of smelling and not touching, we decided to please all men in the country by offering them a free burger with their six-wheel sandwich orders," the caption read.
After the restaurant received hundreds of negative comments under the ad they shared on social media, they took it down. But Cherry Beauty Lounge's marketing team probably wasn't around to witness the restaurant's failed attempt at selling, nor does the team have a sense of respect towards women's bodies and choices.