This is a blog for the community of Rhetoric 20, the Rhetoric of Interpretation, "Who Holds the Keys?" in the Department of Rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley, Summer, 2014.
Powerful song by Helen Reddy. But I couldn't help but to feel guilty when listening to the BK cover of the song. I remember when the commercial was on television and it was very catchy. That darn marketing team sure knew what they were doing.
When we watched the "I Am Man" commercial in class, the first thing that I thought of was the way the "I Am Man" signs in the "protest" recalled the "I Am A Man" signs from the Memphis Sanitation Workers strike: http://jrcreativeink.files.wordpress.com/2011/08/i-am.jpg. There are so many things that I could say, and frankly the commercial makes me pretty sick, but I find it absolutely disgusting the way that it trivializes peoples' actual struggles by equating them to the struggle over "chick food." What does it mean to assert "I am Man" when the definition of "man" is one that obviously does not care about others' needs/struggles, and how is this different from the definition of "man" put forward by the sanitation strike? Also, notice how there are no cops at the protest in the commercial. There is no danger for these bodies who are occupying public space--the violence associated with putting one's body on the line (especially when that body is not a white, male, cis, straight, able-bodied body) is totally forgotten because, for those who inhabit the signifier "man" in the commercial, that kind of danger does not exist.
I remember watching that commercial as a child and being aggravated by the fact that manhood and manliness were both being related to the consumption of meat products. I grew up as a vegetarian and as a child I was always taught that the first duty of a man is to be his brother’s keeper. In my family the definition of a brother extended way beyond a blood related male and included everyone who needed protection. Anyone that you could protect should be protected and that included animals. As a child I was furious at the commercial because it was imposing the ideals of masculinity and meat eating together. Now I’m even more frustrated that not only did it trivialize an important movement in our nations history, it also spits in the face of the song it is paying homage to by showing/calling out stereotypical caricatures of objectified women (cheerleaders, chicks, etc.)
For me, one of the most irritating things about the “I am Man” commercial is that I can imagine how effective it was. If this commercial is any indication, it seems as if sexism, rampant consumerism, and even vandalism (among a host of other awful things) become acceptable if they are communicated through catchy song. It’s horribly depressing to think about how easy it is for so many people to disregard the message of a commercial if it is wrapped in a bow and displayed in the proper fashion.
I do agree with Leah that the "I am Man" commercial was incredibly effective. I, too, was swayed into the catchiness of the testosterone filled ensemble. Helen's I am Woman is a pop ballad tune that has powerful lyrics wanting change and wanting to be heard. Still it is a gentle, yet empowering tune. The commercial is filled with consumerism and displays that ALL men, since they are flooding in every corner, are carnivores and are the dominant figure since meat is submissive and of a lesser species than humans. This controversial commercial boosted sales and was not banned whatsoever for sexism. I still think that sexism is not as accepted and realized as a society compared to racism.
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