Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Allstate: Victim Blaming in Our Faces

Dear Allstate,


Thanks for making victim blaming mainstream.


Love,
Ami

That's a pretty big accusation, so let me back up. Perhaps you have seen the new Allstate Insurance "mayhem" commercials. The premise is pretty simple. A menacing guy in a suit plays the role of various forms of "mayhem" that one may encounter in her or his life which would make for a bad day and an insurance claim that your "cut rate" insurance may not cover.

Most of them are pretty straight forward. A rich guy unexpectedly slams on his breaks and you can't help but rear end his car. A random wind storm knocks a tree branch on your car. A puppy chews up your backseat.


All of these are pretty crappy things that could happen to your car. They suck. They might be considered by some to be "mayhem." But they're not anything for a feminist to really notice. Not yet.


Then Allstate takes a dive into sexist land with this gem. A teenage girl driver in a pink Hummer is texting while driving, gets emotional and swerves into your car. Oh fun. We're going to toy with some sexist stereotypes surrounding emotional female drivers. Cool times.


That was actually the first commercial of the "mayhem" series I saw because my friend Jessica brought it to my attention a few months ago as a blatantly sexist advertisement. Blatantly sexist, yes, but anything above and beyond the same blatantly sexist tripe we consume day in day out? No, not really.


But then came this.


This one is a whole new level. In this instance the man playing "mayhem" is a female jogger. An attractive female jogger. A "10" in fact, who catches the eye of a man driving and the man subsequently crashes his car into a light pole.


So what's the problem here? Let's review...a guy slams on his breaks out of nowhere in heavy traffic, so you crash. His fault. A wind storm knocks a branch on your car. Wind's fault. A puppy chews your back seat. Puppy's fault. A teenager is texting and driving and hits your car. Her fault. A woman jogs, you ogle her and crash...AND THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE HER FAULT!? *She's* the mayhem?

This is victim blaming in its purest sense. The victim here is not the man who crashed his car. It is the woman who was on the receiving end of an unwelcome stare as she went about a very basic task that anyone should have the right to: jogging.


It is this same type of rhetoric that places the blame of rape back on women. In this case, a woman is going about a routine task (exercising) but her simply existing in her body and going about her life is the cause of "mayhem." In the case of rape victim blaming, the claim is that if a woman is too sexy, dressed too "provocatively," or has had sex with other men, SHE IS ASKING FOR IT and the rape is her fault. In other words, by simply existing in her body and going about her life, she is the cause of her own rape.


This type of advertisement reinforces the idea that women's bodies are public domain. It's the culture that normalized street harassment. Simply put, it's nasty, ugly sexism at it's worst.


I will never...ever buy Allstate Insurance. Besides, they're ridiculously over priced.

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