Modern Changes In Gender Construction

David K
Throughout the timeline of car commercials, they have for the most part, been clearly geared towards men or women. In about the last 10 years or so, there has been a very gradual shift towards less gender directed commercials to more either gender neutral, or the opposite of the “mainstream” idea of what car commercials should be. This crossing of gender lines is happening because women are making more, being more independent and overall, they a more free. In the near future, we could possibly see not only car commercials change, but also the entire constructs of what we consider masculine and feminine in cars.
One commercial for the Pontiac Montana, (a minivan) took place in Montana, in the middle of nowhere. Instead of docile moms driving to soccer practice, it was cowboys chasing down cattle to be herded. It looked more like a truck commercial than a minivan commercial. In the commercial they were driving the cars dangerously fast as well and making very sharp turns. What was very interesting is that out of the 4 characters driving in the commercial 3 of them were males and one was a female. Even though 3 were males, the one female in there gives it an appeal to the female audience. It would make sense that they would do this because according to Dr. Beth Kraig of the article “Are We There Yet, Driver? Searching For the Automotive Human”, (2002), “almost 40% of the vehicles that women bought fell into traditionally ‘macho’ categories “("Sport Utility Vehicles")”(10)
Some companies today are orienting themselves towards more gender-neutral ads for the very reason that women now have more access to cars than they did in the past. It seems that American cars are more radically shifting towards gender neutrality than others. Pontiac, Cadillac, and Ford all have commercials where women are driving a car that is predominately thought of as a male car and not a female car. An example that has been most recent and most prevalent on the air is a commercial for Ford. The commercial starts out with a normal man driving down a street when he gets to a stop light he sees the same muscle car as his He looks inside and sees that it is a very attractive woman driving the car. She looks at him and gives him a very flirtatious look. This shows that the man seems sexier in the car but it also says that now it’s the woman’s turn to be the one in the fast car and flirt with the opposite sex. According to, women send 5 times more sexual body language signals than men. In the commercial the woman plays this role perfectly. She gives the guy a huge flirtatious grin while he just sits there smiling.
It seems that car companies are not doing this voluntary but it seems that the public is pushing them towards more gender neutral ads. According to Catherine Strawn, a writer for “The Frisky,” a popular feminine website, Saturn came out with a commercial early last year that caused a lot of controversy. In this commercial, it is a man sitting in a chair explaining that he just lost his job and therefore could not pay for the car anymore. He comes home and yells, “I’m home honey. I just lost my job and the car, what’s for dinner.” Catherine explains that this commercial reinforces the gender stereotype of the 1950’s style housewife which is very rare to find in the modern world. According to Ms. Strawn, there were so many criticisms about this commercial that they changed it altogether. In the new commercial that Saturn aired, it was the same man speaking but there is no mention of him coming home to his wife and asking “what’s for dinner”. It is just him talking about how Saturn would not take away your car if you could not pay because you lost your job.
One commercial that really catches the eye of the viewer is a commercial by Cadillac. The commercial features Actress Kate Walsh of Private practice. In the commercial she is driving the CTS. Her one line that really catches the attention of the viewer is “When you turn on the car, does it return the favor.” A blatantly sexual reference to a car that is driven predominately by males. It is no longer uncommon for a female to drive a mainly male oriented car. According to Jeff Goodby, principal of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, “almost one-third of Porsche's customers for its Boxter and 911 models are women, up from just 3% for the 911 a few years ago”. Considering that now in America 25% of women bring home a bigger paycheck home than their husbands, up from 17% a decade ago, it makes a lot of sense that now more and more commercials are aiming more towards gender neutral ads, or like the Cadillac commercial the opposite idea of mainstream gender construction.

Works Cited:

Kraig, Beth. " Are We There Yet, Driver? Searching For the Automotive Human."
Midwest Quarterly 48.2 (2007): 297-313, 17. Academic Search Premier.
Web. 3 Dec. 2010. <

Cuneo, Alice. "Advertisers target women, but market remains elusive."
Advertising Age 68.45 (1997): 1-24, 2. Academic Search Premier. Web. 21
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"How Women Flirt - Is She Really Interested?" Effective Communication Skills. Web. 03 Dec. 2010. <>.

Strawn, Catherine. "Saturn Edits Commercial To Eliminate Gender Stereotyping | The Frisky." Celebrity Gossip, Relationship Advice, Beauty and Fashion Tips @ The Frisky. 27 Apr. 2009. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <>.

Stevens, John. "The History of Ford Mustang |" EHow | How To Do Just About Everything! | How To Videos & Articles. 4 Sept. 2009. Web. 03 Dec. 2010. <>

Video: 2008 Cadillac CTS ad featuring Kate Walsh