Susan Bordo

Hungy? The United States sure is.

Susan Bordo works at the University of Kentucky as the Otis A. Singletary Chair of Humanities. She also is a philosopher who deals with many traditional aspects of philosophy such as Rene Descartes and Sigmund Freud. However, what sets Bordo apart from most other philosophers is her training of the study of “popular culture and representations of the body. She is a philosopher, that is, who writes not only about Plato but also about Madonna and O.J.” (Bordo 138). Much of Bordo’s work as a teacher deals with the representation of the female body in marketing and advertising. She feels that most adds in the past and present set up gender identities and play off of the norms of society in “… the representation of the female body in relation to what is offered as “true” or “real”, “natural” or “normal” (Bordo 138-39). Bordo is very interested in the ways that society looks into the ads we see every day and what assumptions are made about gender identity, or “…the differences attributed to men and women in the stories we tell ourselves and the ways we picture out attitudes toward food, eating, cooking, body size, and shape” (Bordo 139).
In Bordo’s essay Hunger as Ideology, she challenges her students to “bring in examples that appear to violate traditional gender-dualities and the ideological messages contained in them” (Bordo 166). By having her students perform this task she hopes to reinforce her points about the negative portrayal and almost subliminal messages about gender identification and see if any progress has been made. Finding such advertisements that break Bordo’s said rules about old dualities and ideologies such as women should serve men, become homemakers, and basically do everything to keep their men happy while they are out in the blue collar work force earning a living for the entire family.
After searching through numerous magazines, one ad finally jumped out. [see Figure 1]. However, it did not involve food in any way except that the Kraft food company logo is on the ad because it is a subsidiary of Philip Morris. It was the only ad that I could find that clearly broke any gender dualities. How many times has anyone flipped through a magazine or watched television and saw a representation of a woman “grease monkey?”; very few, if any at all. This is due to the fact that almost at all times “metaphorical dualities [are] at work here, whatever their class meanings, presuppose an idealized (and rarely actualized) gendered division of labor in which men strive, compete, and exert themselves in the public sphere while women are cocooned in the domesticated arena” (Bordo 155). The female in figure 1, simply put, is not what the media wants you to see. This effect, however, is the whole point of the ad, to play on that uncommon duality to catch the reader’s eye and make you read Philip Morris’s ad about how they are working to make a difference.
Another prominent marketing strategy that has been all over the media in the past year has been the “Got Milk?” ads [see Figure 2]. These ads feature celebrities of all shapes, sizes, and professions, with milk mustaches. All of the ads in the “Got Milk?” campaign, which has been made possible by America’s dairy farmers and milk processors seem relatively harmless and contain no subliminal messages that the naked eye can see. Each celebrity is portrayed in the same manner as every other. This is all America’s dairy farmers and milk processors feel they need to sell their products. It sure seems to be working well due to the fact that it has been one of the longest running ad campaigns of the past few years.
However, the types of ads discussed in the above two paragraphs are few and far between. Just by flipping on your television set, listening to the radio or reading a magazine you can find ads that are mostly meaningless on the surface, but when analyzed closely, as Susan Bordo does, it does not take much to figure out that gender ideology is at work in most ads. Food, sexuality, and desire is a topic that Bordo talks about