Radfem-ological Images (Chef Boyardee)

by FCM

this commercial for ravioli-in-a-can pretty much stopped me in my tracks, and it was unexpected, to say the least.  i didnt expect to have anything to say about it, but there you go.  the thing about radfem analysis is that it applies to literally everything.

here, we have a girl with a “security blanket” thats male.  male.  a male security blanket.  and judging by his voice and mannerisms, he appears to be quite a bit older than she is.  and he “wants to snuggle.”  the second girl has a male security blanket too, which she doesnt want anyone to know about: young bridget is keeping a secret.  about a presumably-also-older male blanket named “rick” from whom she gets security and comfort.  okay!

there are a lot of things that probably deserve our attention here: grooming young girls to accept “security” and comfort from men, when in reality men are whats wrong with women and womens lives, due to mens PIV-entitlement and the epidemic of mens sexualized violence against women, as a sexual class around the world.  young girls getting sexual attention from men, or older men.  young girls keeping secrets about all of this.

but what interests me at the moment is the blanket’s voice: a vulgar-sounding older mans voice.  why did they use this, when they had thousands or hundreds of thousands of other voices to choose from?  thousands upon thousands of unemployed and working actors, and virtually unlimited digital and mechanized voices they couldve created in a lab, and they chose this one.  why?

without re-imagining this commercial in literally infinite ways with the infinite number of other voices available, lets imagine if it were a womans voice: if a female played the part of “blankey”.  if she said “lets snuggle” at the end, it could sound maternal or it could sound lesbian: are both equally unacceptable?  i dont know, but they didnt choose a female voice and there is absolutely a reason for that.  dangerous, sexualized attention from men, even as applied to minor female children, is more acceptable than maternal attention, and its waaaay more acceptable than lesbian attention isnt it?  even though both maternal and lesbian attention arent going to get you pregnant.  they arent likely to get you raped, by men.  they arent going to remove you from the relative safety of the women in your life because they *are* the women in your life.

so what is the advertising agency creating advertising for chef boyardee really selling here?  they are selling heterosexuality.  they are selling dangerous male sexuality and sexual attention as “comfort” and security for women and girls, even very young girls.  they are running far, far away from lesbianism, or any hint of lesbianism, even a whiff of it would be too much.  even when it would be less creepy and pedophilic to have a womans voice here than a mans, they dont care about creepy and pedophilic: they care about not sounding lesbian, and not evoking either lesbianism or maternalism.  not evoking female, even in the context of feeding children.  its weird mkay?  the lengths to which they have gone here, to leave out female entirely, in a sexualized and feeding-context involving young girls.  why they felt they had to sex it up in the first place, is, of course, an issue as well.  childrens food, and sexualizing childrens food?  really?

in case anyone wonders, advertising hasnt always been this way, and it hasnt always been this way for this brand either: here are some vintage boyardee commercials, where what they are “selling” is very obvious.  what they used to sell is food.  nutrition, taste, and value.  15 cents per serving!

why are they working so hard to sell men and heterosex currently, in any and all contexts?  and why are they specifically targeting young girls, and selling them on men and older men, when they are very young?  this is a serious question.  could it be that heterosex and heterosexuality are a hard sell now, and that it didnt used to be this way?  it is possible that women and girls can see freedom from here, or some version of it, and need our vision obscured and diverted?  interestingly, childrens “convenience food” can be read as being liberating for already-heterosexed women with children, who dont have time or energy to provide homecooked meals *and* do other things, like performing wage-labor or going to school.  so while women may (or may not be) using these products this way, its advertising is grooming very young girls to accept men and heterosex uncritically, so they end up needing “childrens convenience food” just the way their mothers did, instead of oh say, not having kids at all, or having them in the context of extended communities of women that share caretaking duties including providing food and security from men, and mens sexually predatory behavior, and all the ills men and heterosex are known to cause women, as a sexual class, around the world.

and…what would the fun-fems probably have to say about this one?  i wonder.  since they dont criticize mens PIV-entitlement and the female specific harms of the penis at all, if they said anything about it, they would probably be limited to addressing the pedophilic implications here, and say or imply that it had the same effect on boys and men.  but they would be wrong about that, wouldnt they?  not when “pedophile” and “heterosexual” and het-partnering look so much the fucking same, and they do look the same, from the perspective of girls and women who are the targets of abusive male sexual attention for our entire lives.  and when the end-result of sexualized male abuse for girls and women ends up being indistinguishable from a beloved institution: motherhood, marriage, and the nuclear family.

34 Comments to “Radfem-ological Images (Chef Boyardee)”

  1. They are also selling humiliation.
    I looked at two other ravioli commercials. One called soldier and one called timeout.
    The theme there was humiliation also, but what struck me was the style of the humiliation for the boy being very different from that of the girl and woman.

  2. ooh thats good TBW! interesting. nine deuce wrote about slim-jim ads “selling” something similar. to men.

    http://rageagainstthemanchine.com/2011/08/30/new-study-finds-nitrites-decrease-gayness/

  3. “grooming young girls to accept “security” and comfort from men”
    girls simply do not need a father-figure or male influence. neither do boy-children. it’s always going to be a molestery situation; grooming for patriarchal complicity is molestation. have y’all ever seen the wiggles, perchance? just might turn your stomach.

  4. still thinking about the “humiliation” angle. does sexualized humiliation from men cause girls and women to want to eat non-nutritious food? or to buy it for their families? these ad agencies arent stupid; this combination of imagery and themes absolutely *must* create the desired effect, or the commercial would never be made.

    its also telling that the “things” we are supposed to be getting our comfort and security from are the ones who are sexually humiliating us, in this commercial. ie. our male security blankets!

  5. Good work, FCM. I was disturbed by that commercial but lacked the energy to analyze it. You nailed it.

  6. Was it just me, or was the male security blanket also really aggressive?? Kind of putting the girls in their place?

  7. And another thing…. your comment “they are selling heterosexuality. they are selling dangerous male sexuality and sexual attention as “comfort” and security for women and girls, even very young girls” is spot on.

    I’ve always had the feeling that we’re supposed to see relationships with other women, sexual or platonic, as lesser than relationships with men. I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in Australia I cringe every time a straight woman refers to her “girlfriends” – it’s such an insipid term, and sounds to me like they’re making sure everyone knows that they like these women, but they’re just a fun “girlfriend” to go shopping with, and not a really important person in their life, not like a male partner or husband. Kind of instantly disposable?

    It was similar at school – I went to a girls’ school and most of the girls there spent huge amounts of time complaining that there were no boys (I couldn’t work out what the problem was, but then I’m a lesbian…) – whenever one of them had a boyfriend, he would instantly become the focus of her life and she’d ignore the great girls/women around her – I know that happens with lots of people in new relationships (I’ve done it myself) but I think there is also something bigger going on. I kind of got that feeling from the blanket in the ad – it sort of felt like “you girls can sit and eat together, but everyone knows that it’s the males you’ll really save your important energy for” – or am I reading too much into it?

  8. You are supposed to relate to the person being humiliated over being exposed as having had a blankie. Then connect that to the ravioli comfort food. The implication being that the ravioli is worth the embarrassment. (We called them silkies because of rubbing or silking on the binding. FYI.)
    So in the case of the two girls and the boy at the table eating together, the girls are ritually humiliated in front of the boy by an older man’s voice.

    In the one titled soldier the boy is alone being ritually humiliated in the style of a DI.

    The one called timeout is a woman being humiliated by other women in front of children for telling the truth to children. A truth that is expected to cause children to reject the ravioli. That there is a microscopic amount of a vegie in the ravioli.

    There are a lot of layers in the conditioning these commercials display.
    By the way, we are supposed to think that effed up humiliation shit is funny.

  9. yes to the “layers” of conditioning. in the older ones for example the pasta meal is a “meal for 3” which is the perfect nuclear family i guess? and i LOLed at the chef who asked “can i come in?” as hes walking through your door, apparently not interested in any actual response, but he asked permission anyway just to be nice. you know, like men do when they want to have the PIV! the older ads dont compare at all with the new ones of course, as far as being sophisticated and layered do they? it really gets complicated.

    So in the case of the two girls and the boy at the table eating together, the girls are ritually humiliated in front of the boy by an older man’s voice.

    yes! excellent. thats really fucking creepy.

  10. and i barely even noticed the little boy at the table, which is not a good thing when analyzing media images! haha everything is there for a reason. everything! even little boys in the corner of the frame that dont have speaking parts. i barely see little boys in real life anymore either. which is actually really nice. i start to notice when they are about 13 or so, and become a legitimate threat.

    its interesting that for the commercial with the young girls, there were 2 kinds of comfort going on there, first with the blanket then if you believe that the ravioli is supposed to be read as “comfort food.” is the double-layer of comfort supposed to soften the blow a little? so its not quite so obvious that grown men are sexually humiliating young girls (in front of each other and boys) on a commercial for canned pasta?

  11. It is really interesting that they chose male voices – it caught me by surprise right off the bat because normally in any situation involving a kitchen, women are always the kitchen slaves.. even in modern commercials.. so to replace the “protagonist” of a food related commercial with a male .. blankey.. is soo obviously not just an accident here.

  12. Argh the male voice made me instantly want to puke. The blankie is so disgusting and revolting, like a monstruous blob, it took me a while even to figure out that it was the girl’s blankie, and not some dirty old kitchen cloth lying there.

    This is a clear allusion to child rape, and a normalisation of sexual humiliation of girls by adult men. The authoritative manly voice which stand in contrast to the girls and serves to intimidate them; the man’s possessiveness, the shaming, threatening and humiliation by publicly exposing intimacy, “secrets” in order to maintain control over the girls and then blackmail them into a “snuggle” – these are all rapist techniques.

    by the way, best to avoid saying pedophilia, as it means love of children. Raping children is not a sign of love – so I prefer to say pedocriminality or child-rape.

    I’m not sure an adult lesbian would be more appropriate within this ad than a heterosexual male, as adult sexuality shouldn’t at all be relevant in relation to the girls – any clear sexual intention from an adult, whether lesbian or heterosexual, towards underage children would still technically be pedocriminal.

    Rather than replacing the voice of the blankie, I’d just destroy the whole ad. Ads form part of the pernicious patriarchal indoctrination aimed at grooming girls, women, boys and men to ther respective contrived, destructive patriarchal sex roles, with the purpose of maintaining class, hierarchy and life-destructive forms of consumption, and should be destroyed altogether. The ravioli look disgusting anyway.

  13. you know what…i frankly do not know how to respond to the “lesbian pedophile” thing. lesbian pedos! this post was not about lesbian pedos. it was about unproblematic, safe female attention from women, compared to problematic, harmful male attention from men. and how the problematic harmful male attention is preferable, always.

  14. Dear FCM, thanks for your replies – I wasn’t quite sure how to interpret your reflexions on the lesbian-mother thing, but you clarified it for me. I understand what you meant now. It’s all about making women and girls believe they are safest with their oppressors. What a joke.

    i think what makes the tone predatory, other than the maleness, is the age-gap, the intimidating voice, blackmailing and threatening, and possessivity and final invitation to “snuggle”. If the voice would have been female, it might have been interpreted as annoying, nagging, pestery, but not sexual, since the children are girls and most people can’t conceive of lesbian relationships, let alone female pedocriminality.

    I guess the ad makers chose a male because males preying on children is male’s normal sexual behaviour in patriarchy, and Normal sexual behaviour per se. They do certainly identify (to) it, and see it very clearly (they’re the ones doing it, they’re the ones who grow up from birth with the instructor’s manual to dominate) but instead of calling it rape, they call it “pleasure”, “sex”, “heterosexuality”, “marriage”, “love”, “seduction”, “prince charming”, “intimacy”, “secrets”, and many more Lies. If they admitted it were rape, it would allow the oppressed to denounce them. They don’t want that, they want us to believe their Lies.

  15. oh thanks witchwind, i am glad you found them helpful. i ended up deleting them though because i dont think it was even appropriate to go there and i didnt want to go there: this post was not about women victimizing girls. and i didnt think anything i could possibly say would be as effective as just saying that, clearly. its also a what-about-the-men concept, and this is not that kind of blog: that any of us (including me) would discuss “female pedophiles” in a post about lesbianism and maternalism being safe havens from mens sexualized abuse is probably a problem with perspective. isnt it? this couldve just as easily be read as it was intended: as completely safe (if perhaps annoying or nagging, as you say) attention from women, and not evocative of sexual abuse at all. either nonthreatening lesbian attention from a girl their own age, *or* maternal attention from an older lesbian *or* maternal attention from an older non-lesbian. im sorry if that wasnt clear, but i think it *was* clear, or it couldve just as easily or more easily been read that way if the reader was already familiar with that perspective. its a female-identified perspective, not a male-identified one, where men and male-identified persons project all the sexual abuse men perpetrate on both males and females, onto women.

  16. It’s striking to me too, now that we have the “humiliation” piece so clearly present (tbw reports its the theme of their entire current campaign) that “evoking female” would’ve had the opposite of the intended effect: the girls wouldn’t have been properly humiliated, or properly sexually humiliated, if they weren’t *completely* surrounded and dominated here by boys and men. I thought it was weird not to evoke female at all here, and turns out that even a little bit of female would’ve thwarted the sexualized humiliation of these girls, whether the female attention was sexual or not, maternal or nagging or whatever. That’s stunning to me, it really is. It’s exactly that formulaic. I’ve had an a-ha moment here.

  17. I wonder what this meeting was like, where they figured this one out. Theme: humiliation. Targets: two 12 year old girls. We can’t evoke female here AT ALL, this is critical…it has to be an older male and a boy in the room and that’s it.

    It has to be that deliberate doesn’t it? It must be. I’m stunned here, I really am.

  18. Let’s hope this disgusting advert was accepted by all the men who decide to make ads (let’s be honest here, men make ALL the ads we see.) because young girls having sex with older men is not taken as a given any more, and the men who created this commercial felt the need to do something about that.
    I remember listening to a Sheila Jeffrey’s interview where she was talking about how in the seventies women did not speak about the sexual abuse they’d suffered at the hands of their fathers and other older men. THey simply didn’t. What the movement did was manage to get women *talking* about what had been done to them. Feminists NAMED the fact that the person most likely to abuse a girl was a family member or close family friend. Now the idea is out there and women have shined a light on what men do, I do believe it has shaken patriarchy to the core. It has cracked the structures of it.
    This commercial is so vile, that it can only be read as a last-ditched attempt to push the idea that it’s normal for there to be a pervy old bloke with you in the kitchen, which has in fact always been a women’s space as someone mentioned above.

  19. With the two young girls, it’s not any kind of humiliation but sexual humiliation. With the two other ads, the humiliation is non-sexual because uni-sexual (I almost said homo-sexual, but that doesn’t exist for patriarchy, only as tokenism). The adult male on young female humiliation ad is sexualised (because this is the only sexuality possible in patriarchy). That’s why they chose such a pervy male voice – what would they choose it for otherwise?

    If it would just have been any kind of non-sexual shaming, they might as well have chosen an adult female or girls their age (ie shaming between females as in the ad with the mothers, when they ostracise another mother = political division between women in favour of allegiance to child-raising, and internalised misogyny). But they already had that female ostracisation trope, I guess they had to vary the themes.

    Basically, this ravioli takes it profit from the humiliation of the oppressed classes. Are you oppressed, humiliaited, shamed, or even raped? Take a (disgusting) ravioli to forget all about it!! (Which is a typically capitalist pomo message by the way – encouraging blind acceptance of oppression, to discourage the oppressed to revolt)

    Patriarchy is so blatantly formulaic!

  20. Cracked the foundation ay? Cherry, I hope you are right. 🙂

  21. Thanks for the discussion. It makes me absolutely SICK to think of the beautiful female children in my life ever snuggling with an adult male blankie. In addition to noticing that the voice was aggressive, chastising, threatening, sneering and creepy, my first thought was that the blanket was berating the girls for eating. That women and girls shouldn’t eat. That they eat for “comfort” rather than nourishment. That eating is a shameful thing, something you do in secret and don’t want to be ‘caught’ at. The ad was a reminder that the male gaze, so internalized by girls and women, is omnipotent.

  22. thanks sea. i wonder how many women were literally sickened by this commercial? thats kind of the opposite intended effect when anyone makes an ad for something. maybe the feeling you perceive as “sickened” is interpreted by others as “hungry for junk food” or comfort food as TBW says. or maybe you have to have *some* awareness of the raging gynocide around us to notice these things…again, most women *are* aware of this on some level, i think, even if they would never admit it or dont have the words to. maybe this was a bad ad, and only works for men?

  23. I would bet that this ad is aimed at boys (of a very specific age), not girls. It is encouraging boys to enjoy the humiliation of the girls and identify and side with the adult male (blanket) because the choice is to be either the prey or the predator in this scenario (and everything else, basically). The girls are just foils for the joke — the visual or other affect on them is purely tangential to the intention. Emotionally-stunted men make these ads — they think stuff like this is hilarious and expect boys to think it’s hilarious, too, or at least expect to train them to think it’s hilarious (hell, that’s part of their job writing for these very expensive ad firms, cheek by jowl with Hollywood writers of the same ilk — they have a genre to maintain). For the product part, all they have to do is create a joke that boys can identify with and associate that with the food by proximity. The joke implies a grown-up, 2-and-a-half-men scenario where women and girls are the butt of every joke and sexual predation is never more than one joke away. All the better if you can have the girl or woman set up in a comfortable, familiar, previously-safe space, then launch the attack so the men can fully take in the effects and the girls/women can’t get away. These ad men have new-found (retread) cache to do shit like this and they’re going for broke.

  24. Meant to add — they couldn’t do anything as overtly girl-hating as having the boy take part AND they don’t have to have that to make their point and reach their intended audience. This is a very common genre now — boys (and men) recognize the dog whistle immediately. It’s an in joke among manly men who fuck lots of women and the boys who long to be them. Wink wink.

    And just to clarify — the humiliation isn’t tangential to their scenario, just how the girls actually might feel as human beings is tangential (and unexplored by the story). They couldn’t care less about the females in these set-ups — that’s the most egregious part of their hatred of women and girls. They simply do. not. care. what affect this has on them either in their fake scenario or in real life.

  25. It is just a dogwhistle to men and boys isn’t it? Notwithstanding the fact that women buy the food for their families and get kids liking certain foods over others, so they continue the consumerist pattern themselves. Boys do not purchase canned ravioli for themselves until later, their mothers are expected to do it now, and this is the ad they use. Are ads supposed to sell products anymore (assuming they ever did)? Or are they just selling male centric culture, and this ad agency madmen industry doesn’t even care if the ads actually sell more stuff because that’s not what its about anyway? This is really confusing. I get the Charlie sheen stuff and what its doing, of course. But ads for grocery items and children’s convenience food are ALSO supposed to GET WOMEN to BUY STUFF. Aren’t they? Is this approach working? It must be mustn’t it? Can chef boyardee survive if only college age men purchase it for themselves?

  26. Or does the commercial work because women are making grocery lists in their heads constantly and would be “reminded” to buy it, and women are just constantly going about the task of caring for their families and children, despite all the misogyny, child rape and necrophilia men are lobbing at them at all times? Women just keep on keeping on? We really are like soldiers in a fucking war aren’t we?

  27. You’re right, women buy the food, and the impetus for buying this product looks like it always has: “mom, can we have [fill in the name of some crap brand that has colonized a kid’s mind], pleeeeeeaaaaassssssse.” And that’s the kid who she can’t get to eat anything she wants him to eat and is just happy that she’s found a food he likes. Or just wants to shut him up by giving him what he wants. That’s also the kid who “bonds” with his dad/uncle/big brother/new step-father over watching those kinds of shows and she’s just used to turning a blind eye, because, really, what else can she do but give in to the 24/7 misogyny that makes up the majority of media? She orients to the bonding and tells herself (without having to even bring it fully into consciousness) that that will have to be enough in the measly pickings she gets from being involved in men’s and boy’s lives. BTW, this is also aimed at a particular economic demographic I’m sure. But that’s probably a whole other post!

  28. I would like Blankie to speak in Rosie’s voice from the bounty commercials.

  29. It’s a very incisive analysis, FCM. I like the way you write, btw, with no capital letters or other hassles…

    As a vegan and an ethical buyer, I tend to avoid major food brands like these. One thing is for sure, I wouldn’t spendngle penny of my money on a product of which the company makes ads like these. Hell, no…

    I agree that it’s pure heteropatriarchy being imposed on young girls through pop culture/consumerist phenomena like e.g. the advertisement industry. It’s all male-supremacist grooming against lesbianism. At the same time, it also reflects what currently happens in people’s own home within Western society. Between 1 in 3 girls (or 1 in 4) gets sexually abused by the age of 18, according to most popular child abuse surveys. So therefore, there are so many men on this earth who freely abuse very young girls in the “privacy of the home” every day in this society. No wonders there are ads like these being made. They somehow represents what men are doing to girls; and the men who make those ads are probably child abusers themselves. They just are never caught and want to culturally impose their twisted ideology onto young girls via ads like these. When girls see them, they get brainwashed into believing that heterosexuality is “necessary” and that having sex with older men (i.e being abused by older men) should be “acceptable.” Every day, it’s absolutely awful the work men do in attempting to destroy females, i.e. destroy us mentally, psychologically, socially, etc….

    “Sexual orientation” as ‘biological’ is a big lie, one of the biggest lie of patriarchy. How can womyn ever be so “sure” that they ‘wouldn’t’ like being lesbians when they’ve got heteropatriarchy being forced down their throats from a very early age. Magazines like Cosmomolitan or Glamour, etc probably provide the main form of “sex education” for girls nowadays in the West (if it’s not I-porn they stumble upon online). Those magazines may be offshoots from “third wave” fun-feminism; they are very hetero-centred and patriarchal. Those magazines teach girls how to please men, not to please themselves or other women. Those horrible mags also teach them to be ‘feminine’, yuck…

    re “Third-wave” fun-feminism, it’s all about capitulation. It’s all about womyn losing hope or refusing to see reality and adopting “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” politics… Every day I keep seeing womyn being so awfully “asleep” WRT knowledge about the patriarchal system we live in. When the fuck are womyn going to wake up? Their young daughters have never been more groomed to please men as in our times. These are very scary times. If only all older womyn (35 yrs old onwards) could at least wake up and smell the shit that’s out there, especially within the obvious pedophilic culture we live in, FFS if only they could it would make a change….

  30. I meant to say I wouldn’t spend a single penny, not “I wouldn’t spendngle penny,” btw…

  31. @Maggie: “’Sexual orientation’ as ‘biological’ is a big lie, one of the biggest lie of patriarchy. How can womyn ever be so ‘sure’ that they ‘wouldn’t’ like being lesbians when they’ve got heteropatriarchy being forced down their throats from a very early age.”

    That knife cuts both ways. This is what always-lesbian women are told ad nauseum : “How do you know you don’t like men/aren’t straight/wouldn’t like het sex/blahblahblah if you haven’t tried it?”

    And what does a woman’s age past 35 have to do with whether she gets any of this or not?

  32. Noanodyne- I agree re the knife ‘cutting both ways.’ Do you agree that “sexual orientation” being a socio-patriarchal lie though, btw?

    And what does a woman’s age past 35 have to do with whether she gets any of this or not?

    My point basically was that if we could at least have all older womyn (35+) ‘fully awaken’ wrt the patriarchal status quo (i.e. they would suddenly fully understand what’s happening) then we could have some massive change for all womyn.

    The Western pornified culture we live in currently targets younger girls the most (although it targets all womyn as well), but younger girls the most (because when you’re younger it’s when most heteropatriarchal socialisation takes place). If only those girls’ mothers could suddenly notice what’s happening or (as FCM pointed out) if they had WORDS to describe what’s happening, then they could campaign and make younger womyn aware of this. And then, once all Western womyn would be ‘de-brainwashed’, maybe we could then quickly start improving the conditions of our non-Western sisters. This point of mine is purely hypothetical though, Noanodyne (and everyone else reading). You are allowed disagree and correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂

    Also, contradicting my point here with an observation: there are already Western womyn’s organisation helping 3rd world womyn. But those Western womyn also wrongly asume that in their own society, womyn have “reached” equality…

  33. LMAO @ the article from Rage Against The Manchine about nitrites in Slim Jim curing gayness! Ha ha ha! I’ve read and posted that one before. I was posting it to make fun of the conspiracy theorists who think the government is putting chemicals in food to make people gay. I mean, I completely believe that 9/11 was an inside job and all that, but all this homophobia is just out of control. Why would the government want to make people gay when they’ve always discriminated against gay people? Oh yeah, “population control.” Well, guess what? They actually have a much more efficient way of doing that, and it’s just called killing people.

  34. I can’t even watch that video. I just can’t. They will NOT sully my memories of Buccani. I just wanna say this today, because I have to- I really, truly despise men. Even the ones I am coerced into caring about.

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