Once upon a time, there was a snack made out of dried meat. This snack was magical, because it prevented spoilage, and therefore prevented the people of the kingdom from getting sick or hungry in times of trouble. The people rejoiced! Over time, however, a bunch of people decided that this snack needed to take over the world. The only way to do this, in the small minds of these puny people, was to appeal to both men and women, separately (not just humankind in general, that would be ludicrous).
And so came the day that advertisers decided that they needed to make sure that beef jerky was “female-friendly.” They released questionable advertisements of women eating jerky with flavors that would “knock his socks off.” Another “Bombshell Jerky” model exclaims “I like my jerky the way I like my men…hot!” These gender stereotype enforcing “just-for-her” marketing techniques are enough to end the story with a bad, not-so-knock-your-socks-off taste in your mouth, but unfortunately, it doesn’t end there.
Last month, at Rutgers University, where I am currently a senior, our school’s paper, the Daily Targum, ran this gem of an ad in their online classifieds section for jobs. Here’s what it said:
“Looking for enterprising girls to sell jerky at football games and other sporting events in the area You keep the cash you make above and beyond my product cost This could be a great fundraising opportunity for a sorority You will subtly use the sexual connotations that come with the word “jerky” to help promote the product.”
The name of the company who ran this ad is “Happy Ending Jerky.” I know. Original, right?
My problem with this ad isn’t that it’s asking females to sell jerky. I have nothing against being a female and promoting a product. But the ad is only asking females to sell the product, automatically insinuating that females aren’t meant to buy the product, or sell it in any type of non-sexual manner. The fact that it specifically enforces the idea that women will sell and men will buy is problematic. Women will sell sex, and men will buy it, and that will be that, and that is the only way that it could possibly go. That’s the cycle of objectifying women for the purpose of monetary gain, and it’s also the cycle that keeps stupid things like jerky so gendered.
Furthermore, these guys specifically target sororities in this post, which sends the message that sorority girls are more “enterprising” than other females and more likely to “subtly use the sexual connotations of the word jerky” than anyone else. Basically, they need money, and they’ll be down for whatever. That’s pretty insulting to organizations whose principles, as far as I’ve heard, are grounded in sisterhood, civility, dignity and charity. Sororities on my campus fund themselves via dues, bake sales, and co-sponsored charity events. I’m not saying they’re perfect organizations, but I seriously doubt they need to make money off of puns about masturbation geared towards selling some dried meat.
Whether you are a sorority girl, regular girl, or male with a brain doesn’t matter- this post should trouble you. If it seems trivial in the face of larger gender-based inequalities, think about the origins of those inequalities. Whether they are trying to get you to put on booty shorts to sell jerky, please a man by buying jerky, or keeping you from earning wages equal to your co-workers, a jerk is a jerk, and that’s the moral of the story.