Advertisements for personal hygiene products lead the consumer to believe that these products are used for a variety of reasons. Some ads lead the consumer to believe that soaps or deodorants are meant to be used to maintain personal hygiene through washing or masking odors. Other ads, like those for Axe Body Spray and Axe Body wash, lead the target consumer to believe that use of these products will result in the individual being more attractive to women. To put it bluntly, Axe markets itself as a product that men need if they want to have women literally willing to do anything for them, be it fight over them or get crapped on by birds. Axe appeals to male gender identity by essentially portraying itself as a product used to make all women, regardless of their position of power, sexually subservient to men.
Most Axe ads portray women as over-sexualized fantasy objects; ultimately perpetuating the sex object gender role for women. Sut Jhally writes, “As Erving Goffman has shown, ads draw heavily upon the domain of gender display—not the way that men and women actually behave but the ways which we think men and women behave…gender (especially for women) is defined almost exclusively along the lines of sexuality.” (Jhally 253) This display of sexuality is perfectly exemplified through Axe’s advertising: women are shown as being either partially-clothed or as displaying their large-breasted cleavage. The images of women used by Axe either feature the women lying seductively or attacking a man with a form of primal sexual wrath that the man happens to be enjoying, as if it were his dream scenario. These advertisements are an example of what Jhally describes as “a culture that is more and more defined erotically through commodities.” (Jhally 253)
These particular Axe ads feature women being humiliated. The one woman drew glasses and a mustache on her face, another has words written all over her arm and breasts in marker, another cleans up a mess while leaning forward to display cleavage, while another lays seductively while getting crapped on by birds. The slogan used by Axe in these ads is “Any excuse to get DIRTY,” hinting quite blatantly at the idea that if the male consumer uses this product women will use any opportunity to “get dirty” with the man. These ads are run in magazines such as Esquire, which have long portrayed women as sexual objects to be toyed with by men. Kenon Breazeale writes, “Misogyny existed in popular culture long before Esquire; what Esquire demonstrated was that woman-trashing as such could be packaged and sold to a large, prosperous bourgeois audience.” (Breazeale 240) Axe shows that no woman is safe from this “woman-trashing” by portraying Hilary Rodham Clinton’s endorsement of Barack Obama as influenced by Obama’s use of Axe. Apparently Unilever, Axe’s parent company, wants us to believe that Clinton’s decision to endorse her opponent at the time was influenced by Axe products. Unilever is projecting the idea that any woman, regardless of power, will ultimately be put in their place by a man, especially if that man uses Axe Body Spray.
"Axe Ads." Web. http://www.adsneeze.com/advert/axe-ads
Breazeale, Kenon. "In Spite of Women: Esquire Magazine and the Construction of the Male Consumer." Gender, Race and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2003. 230-43. Print.
Jhally, Sut. "Image-Based Culture: Advertising and Popular Culture." Gender, Race and Class in Media: a Text-reader. Ed. Gail Dines and Jean M. Humez. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2003. 249-57. Print.