by Josh Gershenson, April 18, 2021
The advertisement above showcases a young, attractive woman with the caption, “You know you’re not the first,” comparing a used car to the woman. After receiving criticism and backlash, the ad was pulled and never ran (Green). Immediately, the blatant objectification perpetrated by BMW Hellas (Greece) is identifiable, but there is much more at hand regarding the interpretation of the deeper, more complex meaning and long-term societal effects this form of rhetoric can impose.
To start, beauty is equated to promiscuity. Promoting this, especially in the sphere of consumerism and public availability, leads to an altered perception of women as enjoyment objects. Portraying a beautiful woman as always ready and willing completely neglects her choices in sexuality and tears down the fabric of consent in our society. The person depicted in this advertisement could be a virgin or completely celibate; just because she is considered pretty does not warrant judgment about what choices she makes with her sex life. This ad only reinforces the mentality that sexually violating women, both verbally and physically, is socially acceptable and encourages this same mentality in the younger generations.
The objectification and mentality of using women like a car exposes the consumerism in this country and how its grasps have fallen over even the usage and discarding of women. As a society, our perception of fast purchases has become synonymous with our sexism. This unveils the detrimental effects our economic system has on other issues – a comorbidity which can be seen in multiple other social problems we face in the Western world, such as relentless classism and its strong ties to racism.
The majority of women viewing this ad, however, would most likely be repulsed by its imagery and would not be enticed to buy a BMW. So, how could this ad have gotten past BMW’s review board if it polarized half of the audience from buying their products? This would be a counterintuitive move for a company that appeals both men and women— and that’s the catch: I don’t think it does. It seems that BMW made this decision based on the notion that only men would buy their cars, and the opinions of women was irrelevant in terms of sales. Pushing this concept even deeper, it may be that BMW doesn’t even consider the majority of women as potential buyers. Even now, in 21st century America and Europe, the effects of a male dominant society can be seen in ads like this. The mentality that women would never buy a car without their husbands’ permission still taints even the largest, most successful manufacturers to the core.
BMW Hellas. You know you’re not the first. BMW, 2008, retrieved 7 April 2021 from i.insider.com/51545499ecad04b50f00000f.
Green, Dominic. “The 10 Sleaziest Ads of The Century.” Business Insider, 30 Mar. 2013, www.businessinsider.com/sleaziest-car-ads-of-the-21st-century-2013-3.