I stumbled across this article about a recent milk ad campaign that has been pulled.
The gist: An old study suggests that calcium can lessen the symptoms of PMS. So milk launched a campaign that can be summarized with a single picture:
So the article described the outcry over this add campaign, and it concluded with a simple question: is this add offensive?
The overwhelming percentage of online voters said that it was not offensive. The comments below the article lamented the "oversensitive feminists" for not being able to take a joke. (WARNING: it is highly recommended that you just take my word for it on this one, and don't venture into the msnbc.com comment thread on your own, that kind of thing can be dangerous).
A lot could be said about this add, and the idea of hypersensitive feminists who can't take a joke. But I'll keep it short.
I thought about whether or not I found the add "offensive." I did vote for that option at the end of the article, but it wasn't quite right. I don't get PMS, and I wasn't offended. The ad did upset me, but if I wasn't personally offended by it, why was I upset?
It's because the ad is harmful. Just like most jokes that rely on further marginalizing marginalized groups are harmful.
In the end the ad doesn’t offend me, it hurts me. It hurts me by making the culture I live in a little bit worse. It feeds a damaging stereotype that allows female thoughts and opinions to be dismissed at a higher rate than male. The idea that women who are PMSing are ‘crazy’ and ‘irrational’ as opposed to ‘in physical pain and discomfort’ is an idea which is used by misogynists (women included) to dismiss female emotions every day of the month.
The ad is clear, poor men suffer under the irrational oppression of their female overlords, and they should buy milk in a desparate attempt to seek a reprieve. Is that offensive? I’d say that really it’s more harmful than offensive. It *hurts* our society. It isn’t because it’s a joke, or because feminists can’t take a joke, but because it feeds a monster THAT EXISTS. Jokes based on stereotypes or assumptions, or pooling categories, are funny when they feed a monster that isn’t real. It’s a fine line, but I think it’s fairly distinct. PMS being used to marginalize women is common in our society. So a joke which feeds that concept is harmful.