Forbes Magazine invisible privilege

Harm men face from viewing women as legs

Forbes page 1 advertisement showing white male wearing swimwear and two legs. Text reads "Fresh prints. Sometimes a swimsuit can make a splash..."

Four page advertisement in summer 2014 edition of Forbes magazine.

A white woman and an african-american man laying in swimwear. There is a set of legs from the man in the first half of the page.

Four page advertisement in summer 2014 edition of Forbes magazine.

Do you know how your actions affect me and you? Will I ever be viewed as more than parts but someone who has a brain and a heart?  These questions may seem puzzling since their root is invisible to society. Privilege. This term is what established advantages and rights for members of a class or sex and made those who did not belong disadvantaged. The readers of Forbes magazine exhibit a privilege that separates them from society based on class, gender and economic status. Based upon a fall 2013 demographic analysis of the magazine, 73% of the readership identified as male. In addition, the readers ranked into a high income bracket of $100,000 or greater. Thus, the audience is predominately male, businessmen, in the upper class. Now, what privileges  do they have that the middle and low classes don’t have access  to? Compared to the lower class, their access to higher education provided them with a greater knowledge of business. Due to earning an advanced degree, their income bracket is significantly higher than those who do not earn a degree. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, “college graduates ages 25 to 32 who are working full time earn more annually – about $17,500 more – than employed young adults holding only a high school diploma,” (Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends 2014).  Hence, a majority, if not all, of these readers have more privilege in society to live more luxuriously than members below them whose paychecks are much lower. But privilege is typically ignored throughout society because those who have privilege did not ask for it or earn it any more than anyone else. So how does the advertisement in the summer 2014 Forbes magazine demonstrate this idea of privilege.  Well, at first glance the ad seems to be selling the idea of summer clothing that “can make a splash”.  The first page of the ad contains a baby blue background to set a mood that is tranquil.  All the members of the ad are looking toward the viewer as a means to draw them into the page. With further analysis, one may notice the hidden message on page two.

Page 2 of Forbes advertisement. The background color has changed to pink and the three men are smiling and looking toward the next page .

Four page advertisement in summer 2014 edition of Forbes magazine.

There are two legs crossed and a pair of swim trunks laying on a beach towel. The woman's upper half is not visible.  The text from page one: "Sometimes a swimsuit can make a splash..." continues "...especially when it comes off."

Four page advertisement in summer 2014 edition of Forbes magazine.

This page is set against a pink, orange and red background.    These colors can evoke feelings of lust and hot weather. The  woman, who was present on page one, has become legs and the  men are looking toward the legs with amusement. This shift in orientation, from looking at the reader to looking at legs, shows the privilege men in society have to look at parts of a woman with lust. This privilege is apparent in the punch line: “Sometimes a swimsuit can make a splash…  [flip the page] … especially when it comes off.” Clearly, this  advertisement appeals to men by degrading a woman to legs or a torso but, women and men are negatively impacted. Women are denied equal voice in public dialogue due to power of the privileged, hegemonic group. Still, men receive a false sense of power over women which can lead to a stereotyped image of a woman. Men come to see each woman for her body’s worth instead of how she contributes to the workplace and thus perpetuates the hegemonic idea that a woman’s worth is to serve the man and her family. But, this attraction violates a widespread religious belief. In Matthew 5:28, it states “but I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” (Holy Bible). The privilege men have established to objectify women is so common in the media that it is difficult to separate the media’s fantasy from real life encounters. Men have to differentiate these two realms before succumbing to adultery for once one man has committed it, the media’s depiction is seen as just.



5 thoughts on “Forbes Magazine invisible privilege

  1. This ad not only degrades this woman but also promotes pornogrophy and sex. When men view pictures like this, they may harbor “benevolent” sexism, which includes the belief that a woman’s place is in the home, or hostile sexism, a more adversarial viewpoint which includes the belief that women attempt to dominate men. They see this woman as a tool they can use to fill their sexual desire. This could lead the man to pursue this woman, which could lead to sexual harrassement. If that happens, the man could face the lose of his job, family and respect.

  2. Robrienco, thank you for your input about this advertisement. I think another point to discuss is the Cultivation Theory. This theory analyzes how people’s perception of reality is shaped by what they see in the media. For example, there are commercials selling hamburgers by utilization of a woman, or parts of her. Thus, society comes to accept women as being parts to amuse the man. As you said, this is bad for the man related to his working and family environments. This brings up the question: what effects do the media have on society? Particularly, if we look at young people who are not educated enough, yet, to distinguish between reality and the media’s portrayal of said reality. For this reason, the media reinforces these hegemonic values in support of the dominant group’s invisible privilege.

  3. I really like your thoughts on this advertisement. I think in modern day society men think it is okay to look at women in a lustful way because the media says it is okay for men to look at women this way. I think you were spot on with the quote from the bible because I firmly believe that if you look at a women with lustful attempts you have already committed adultery. Furthermore, I think men who have looked at women as objects, rather than human beings, should take a step back and contemplate what they are doing. I think if more men did this, the world would be a much better place, especially for women. However, if this continues with certain men it could lead them to wanting more; thus, leading to sexual harassment charges, which could end them up in jail, shunned from their families, or dead.

  4. The problem I see with this ad is why does the first page portray two men lusting after one woman and then the second page inserts a third male lusting over, still one women. This image will give society the impression of male dominance and could result in gang aggression, that involves the tendency to assert control over females. I would like to inquire the authors thoughts on if this ad was reversed from the portrayal of slender individuals vs. the same individuals, but slightly overweight and not so perfect.

  5. Anonymous 75 thank you for your feedback. As far as your question pertaining to reversed roles, I believe this act is still wrong based upon Proverbs 7: 19 and 21″My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk,” (Holy Bible). This quote shows the evils at play in a woman who looks at a man with lust for she becomes an adultress. However, I would expect the woman’s punishment for looking at a man to be much harsher than if a man looked at a woman. For example, when a man looks at a woman, there are, usually, no social repercussions other than labeling him as a ‘pervert’ or a figurative slap on the wrist. Juxtaposed with a when woman looks at a man, she is more likely to become a victim of abuse, if she is married, by her husband as a way to establish hegemonic, male privilege over her as well as a scare tactic to discourage her from doing that again. On the topic of having overweight men and women in the advertisement, I would like to point out that these ads are less common since being overweight is viewed as deviant from the hegemonic norm of acceptable appearance. But, if this were the case, I don’t feel like the media’s agenda would be the same. Their agenda setting function would have a subliminal message about obese and overweight people in American society being less able to obtain happiness. By doing so, the media would argue this behavior is counter-hegemonic and is less important. That is why I think advertisements depicting overweight people is scarce because the media has primed society into viewing it negatively. A prime example is the depiction of celebrities who have gained weight. Here is a link to “50 fat celebrities“. But, I would like to note how some do not appear ‘fat’ and all people gain weight as they get older. Ultimately it comes down to what a man or a woman is attracted to. If a man likes a “trophy wife” aka. a skinny girl, that is his choice whereas another man may be attracked to a “fat woman” with meat on her bones. This is the same for women. There is no right or wrong way to look because being ‘fat’ is a matter of personal perception which can mislabel someone who is big boned or muscular. But, by supporting the objectification of both sexes, society has succumbed to the Hypodermic Needle Theory which states how the weak audience has no control to be critical and thus believes everything the media publishes.

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