The image that I have selected is from a 1968 Lestoil advertisement. The image appears to have been originally published in a magazine or other form of print advertisement. Currently, I am accessing the image from a google search via a scanned jpg format of the original print document. It does not appear to be altered from its original form in any way, and the image is clear except for the small print in the bottom right corner describing the cleaning product. The advertisement displays a woman in a futuristic space suit holding a bottle of cleaner, “Tomorrow’s Lestoil”, and a caption reads: “Women of the future will make the moon a cleaner place to live.” This particular Lestoil image constructs a prediction about the future reality of gender roles and sexuality from a 1968 social context.
In the early 20th century, women assumed a role in American society primarily as house-wife or home-maker. However, by the late 60’s and early 70’s the feminist movement gained momentum, and women fought to achieve equal rights and roles in society1 (Hist 110). This image highlights the conflict between traditional gender roles for women and their fight for equality during that time. To further contextualize the space-suit aspect of the image, it is important to note the race for space between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War2(Hist 110). This race reached its peak a year after this image was published when the United States placed the first man on the moon. Accordingly, the social environment in 1968 is important when considering the motives for creating the advertisement and the audience that will ultimately view it. Additionally, the historical context is relevant to the gender role and sexual implications about the future that are portrayed in this advertisement.
Both the caption and the futuristic space suit demonstrate the intent of the image to depict a future reality. In this case, the imagined future consists of people living on the moon. However, in this imagined future, the role of women as home-maker is unchanged. Women will use Lestoil to fulfil their duty of keeping homes clean on the moon. This is problematic, and it highlights Judith Butler’s argument in Gender Trouble that gender is a construct that is created out of society’s interpretation of “normative” actions and performance. Over time, certain duties have played a crucial role in the construct of gender. As in the 20th century, society constructed the duty to clean and care for the home as a “feminine” performance. This performance, therefore, became associated with the reality of the female gender construct. Ultimately, this Lestoil image inaccurately predicted the future in its assertion that gender roles would remain unchanged.
The advertisement additionally envisions a future in which women, particularly white women, continue to be sexualized. Featured in the image is a white female, probably “Twiggy” (a famous model in the 1960’s), with full lips, make-up, big eyes, long eyelashes, and polished nails. There is an element of sexuality in this image that coincides with popular perceptions of beauty in the 1950’s and 1960’s as evidenced by magazine covers during that time. In one particular Playboy issue, Marilyn Monroe, a white female, is displayed on the cover with the words “entertainment for men”3 (Hist 110). Therefore, the white female in this advertisement matches the idealized sexual image at the time. Further, the girl in this image is sexualized through her hands. In reality, her hands should be covered as part of her space suit for protection. However, they are uncovered in order to show off her hands with polished nails holding the bottle. This image highlights an envisioned future where sexualization of females is prominent. This theme is consistent with Linda Williams’ analysis of women in Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess in which she argues that certain film genres feature a “bodily excess” focused on female “sensation and emotion” (pg. 4). Given the current state of our society, the sexualization of women as predicted in this 1968 advertisement is still very prominent today.
An analysis of this image provides an insight into the historical environment that makes such an advertisement relevant to a wide audience of the time. This image targets America’s obsession with reaching the moon by envisioning a future life on the moon. According to Lestoil, this future reality will retain its current perception of gender roles and its sexualization of white females.
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