Ad Stereotypes Hurt Guys Too


Advertising has pushed a lot of stereotypes on women. We've all seen the sexy vixen, the stain-chasing housewife, and the ditzy blonde.

But the art of marketing also puts men into constraining macho boxes. Therapist Paul Dunion maintains these stereotypes hurt males and society at large. We can easily recognize the cliche of the clueless dad trying to take care of kids, or the Don Juan, but Dunion is more focused on depictions of masculinity that stunt them emotionally. Dunion, who wrote the book, "Path of the Novice Mystic: Maintaining a Beginner's Heart and Mind," turns his eye to commercial messages men receive. It's just another look under the male mask.

Boyish Men Who Share Beer, Not Feelings

A beer commercial depicts a young heterosexual couple watching television together. His cell phone rings and he appears to spend a moment or two listening to the caller, then turns to the woman and says, "Bobby needs to vent." The woman responds sympathetically, "Then go help your friend." In the next scene, the guy is knocking on a apartment door, carrying a twelve pack of beer. Bobby answers the door, high-fiving his friend and yelling, "Let's vent!" In the last frame of the commercial, both men are drinking beer and watching a football game. The man’s phone rings and he answers it saying, "Yes, honey, Bobby is still venting." This kind of scene dangerously defines males as stuck in the grips of adolescence. Men deceive the significant women in their lives, and exploit the female's sensitivity to a friend's need for support. That implicitly suggests that any need for emotional support as unnecessary. The highest values promoted are beer drinking with a friend and actively remaining a sport fan. 

A Man Going Fast Into Isolation 

There was a radio commercial with a man narrating: "It's my cocoon - my new car is the place I go to laugh, sing, talk to myself. It's the place where I can agree or disagree with the likes of Don Imus. It's the place where I can be myself more than anywhere else. It's my personal rocket ship to the stars." That a person can be himself only enclosed in thousands of pounds of metal shows how men can’t move out of emotional isolation. The phrase encourages an excessive self-reliance and independence, leaving men ill-equipped to give and receive love, collaborate effectively with others, show empathy, attend to losses by actively grieving, effectively address conflict, non-violently work with their aggression, and generally speak the truth about how they actually feel to others. They’re alone in a car.

A Yes Man Saying What Others Want to Hear

A fast food restaurant ran a commercial a while ago showing a couple dining - the woman was speaking derogatorily about her sister's boyfriend who insists upon watching sports on Sunday. The man listens attentively, planning a response to his companion’s upset. He finally burst forth saying, "What a jerk!" suggesting that he was bright enough to figure out what she wanted to hear regardless of what he actually thought. We groom males to be dishonest, confused about their emotions, exploitive where it might benefit them, and to be callous without remorse when their behavior is injurious to others. 

Paul Dunion, Ed.D., LPC, is a therapist, cofounder of Boys to Men (mentoring teenage boys), and author of the new book, "Path of the Novice Mystic: Maintaining a Beginner's Heart and Mind," available at, and

Images: Main, Ben Eekhof via flickr

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