Is The New Milk Campaign Sexist?

Recently, the California Milk Processor Board, which brought the world “Got Milk?,” launched a PMS campaign aimed at men. Called “Everything I Do Is Wrong,” the ads feature men who have inadvertently pissed of their premenstrual partner, and are going out and buying milk to appease her. The goal of the ads is to let people know that milk helps to reduce the symptoms of PMS.

Some of the taglines on the banners and images featuring men looking sheepish read, “I’m sorry I listened to what you said and not what you meant,” and “I’m sorry for the thing or things I did or didn’t do.”

In a New York Times article about the campaign, one of the lead marketers notes that milk ads from several years ago that used the same tactic to appeal to men were accused of being sexist.

And guess what? They are sexist. In fact, they’re a lot of things. They’re sexist against men and women, making women look like bitches and men look like buffoons (a.k.a., taking a page straight out of the “Everybody Loves Raymond” playbook). They reinforce cliched gender stereotypes. They’re heteronormative (for those of you who didn’t spend four years working in a feminist organization or major in gender studies, heteronormative means that they reinforce traditional roles in heterosexual relationships, thereby normalizing hetero behavior and having the spillover effect of making homosexual behavior seem “other.” Gender 101 for the day).

But honestly? I think that these ads’ worst crime is that playing it safe within the confines of tired stereotypes isn’t very funny (see: “Everybody Loves Raymond”). Besides, the realities of PMS are ripe with comedic potential!

We’ve covered PMS here on The Gloss before, and we can tell you that what we want when we’re about to bleed form the vag isn’t a goddamn glass of milk, even though we get that there is a public service aspect to the ads. We want a scotch milkshake (hey, there’s milk in that), and I personally would like someone to be able to predict when ASPCA commercials are going to air and preemptively change the channel.

So why not get a little more creative and daring in the marketing? Have the partner bring in a bottle of scotch with a straw, or trot out the CEO of the ASPCA so the PMSing lady can throw a few punches.

And while you’re at it, have the partner be a woman in a couple of the ads. Those who needed to get it would.

Anyway, the ads were created, according to the New York Times, with the intention of — brace yourself! — generating social media buzz, which they no doubt will (at the time of this blog being posted, they already have). And hey, it’s good news that PMS is being talked about; I’m certainly in favor of women’s health finding a place in the marketing world.

But the reality is that if you’re going to go the comedic route with PMS, you better do it well, because otherwise you’re going to have to get serious. PMS — in addition to being a goldmine for hilarity — can also, on a more somber note, be terribly painful for a lot of women, between migraines and debilitating cramps and muscle aches and other symptoms that I probably don’t even know about because every woman’s body is different (Feminism 101 for the day). If marketers aren’t going to address that fact, they could at least have the decency to make us laugh.

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    • Eileen

      I always thought “heteronormative” meant not normalizing traditional roles in heterosexual relationships but rather the idea of heterosexual relationships in themselves?

    • Hanna

      Yes, this ad is definitely sexist and not very funny at all.
      Plus, I don’t want an f-ing glass of milk, I want white wine and ice cream and pizza and a foot rub. Luckily, I am getting those things momentarily.
      Wait a minute, ice cream is made of milk, right?

    • Jamie Peck

      Also, milk is not actually that good for you. Regularly getting enough calcium can help alleviate symptoms (as well as being good for you in general), but there are lots of ways to get it other than in milk. When you drink milk, you are also taking in hormones and possibly pesticides, which increase your risk of cancer. It can also be bad for your skin (PMS zits are the worst). It also contains pus and (often) blood from the poor cows whose udders get rubbed raw by the milking machines, which won’t hurt you (since it’s been pasteurized) but is nonetheless super gross. This is not to mention the direct connection the dairy industry has with the veal industry. I drink fortified almond milk for all my milky needs.

      • miinxi

        i really wish i hadnt read this. i adore milk.

    • Klee

      I will admit I was completely out of control when I had pms. Doing so was the best thing to do, so I could schedule it in advance and my husband and I prepared strategy, I exercised and took a mild tranquilizer, and I did drink more milk. Let’s face facts-hormones are real. Facing them, dealing with them and having my partner understand no, I’m not always a bitch helped us work through it and make it better. Denying it would have just made things more difficult for everyone.

    • Sue

      Made me laugh, your just on your period.

      • JessicaW

        Haha that’s what I was thinking! =)