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Alison Kuznitz
Rhetoric and Civic Life 137H
Dr. Jessica OHara
15 October 2015
The Maintenance Duties of Women in the Face of Scrutiny
Pore through the pages of a fashion magazine, surf the television
channels of pop culture, and prepare for the bombardment of
impossibly thin, stunning models that will spark pangs of inferiority
amongst the general female population. For years, varying modes of
media and advertisements have pressured women to express
conscientious attitudes toward their weight and overall physical
appearance. Pepsi-Cola and Diet Coke are two such offenders of this
trend. A Pepsi-Cola ad originating from the 1950s displays an
extravagant, wealthy woman glancing sensually at a man standing
beside her, while a Diet Coke ad from present day features a cluster of
beautiful, smiling women. Evaluating the deliberate imagery, coupled
with the explicit and implicit text of both advertisements, it is clear
women possess a perpetual civic duty to uphold their appearance for
men, as well as in preparation for public scrutiny. In order to truly
underscore this responsibility, Pepsi-Cola and Diet Coke utilize pathetic
and kairotic appeals.
The images themselves, with minimal reliance on the text,
blatantly assert women must look a certain way to please their male

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counterparts. Surveying the Pepsi-Cola advertisement, ones attention
is drawn to the light beverage noticeably held by the woman, which in
turn forces the viewer to become mesmerized by her ultra-lean
waistline. Additionally, it is difficult to ignore her immaculate makeup
and the long pearl necklace she conspicuously twirls. Her appearance
is complemented by her seductive nature, as evinced by the coy look
in her eyes. This woman is by no means a natural beauty. Inevitably,
she has spent hours painstakingly preparing for this moment. More
importantly, though, her whole life revolves around this sculpted
physique. Indeed, she has learned to prefer lighter, less filling food
and drink - to the advantage of her looks. In other words, women
are not innately inclined to prefer low-calorie beverages and
consequently must train themselves to suppress the basic human need
of hunger. The image presents a dismaying, albeit accurate
commonplace that men are freer than women. The man in the
advertisement is permitted to maintain a normal weight and stand at
ease donning an ordinary suit; it is the undernourished woman who
must wear the sophisticated dress and awkwardly swivel her neck. It is
important to emphasize this ad is an illustration, thereby lending itself
to a glorified and somewhat unattainable version of womanhood.
Contrarily, the Diet Coke ad is a photograph of real women. The air of
reality ignites a deeper appeal for women to perform their civic duty,
which has proven to be feasible. All wearing red dresses of various

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levels of conservativeness, the women form a loose pyramid. The
deliberate use of red displays women are called upon by society to
wear this color. Undoubtedly, they are aware the lady in red is a
sexually appealing image for men (Burkley). At the top of the
hierarchy is the stereotypical bombshell blonde in a strapless mini
dress accentuating her thinness. The eighteen women flanking her
epitomize the less traditional notions of beauty and body shape.
Through their inclusion in the formation, Diet Coke demonstrates they
are well maintained and worthy of attention nevertheless. Conversely,
the blonde in the apex mitigates their womanly success and
desirability. Only by aspiring to adopt societys preferred definition of
attractiveness can they take center stage.
Pepsi-Cola and Diet Coke employ Aristotles rhetorical proof of
pathos, imparting a sense of obligation within women to not shirk their
responsibilities. Both advertisements inspire sentiments of hope and
fear. Although she may have to drastically transform her eating habits
and beauty regimen, surely any woman will endeavor to do so if it is
the key to mirroring the model in the Pepsi-Cola ad. Women will
optimistically believe a man will be just as enthralled to stare longingly
at them after religiously consuming the modern refreshment.
Moreover, a woman may yearn to feel victorious in meeting societys
goals. As a winner, she will no longer be criticized by a ubiquitous
cultural gaze composed of unrealistically high maintenance standards.

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Not to mention, she may even garner envy from fellow women with
unacceptably wide waistlines. On the other hand, this ad could incite
fear, causing women to worry that everyone they encounter will stare
in disapproval if they indulge their appetites and neglect their
exteriors. Following a similar vein, women will be motivated to emulate
the power and confidence the Diet Coke blonde exudes. Once again,
this unrelenting commitment to maintain ones appearance and climb
to the top of the pyramid may be overshadowed by the gnawing
doubts prevalent in the alternative scenario. If women do not fully
comply with the civic, they will become one of the many in the
background of the photograph. Partially hidden from view, they might
feel less worthy of a mans affection and shrink under another
womans prestige.
In addition to Pepsi-Colas other effective rhetorical strategies,
advertisers capitalize on kairos to ensure women devotedly sustain
their outward appearances. Published in the 1950s when the era of
conformity was a domineering force, women would have fallen prey to
the implicit peer pressure underlying the advertisement. Realizing their
girlfriends and sisters already acquired a small waistline as a
consequence of incessant observation from onlookers, they would have
felt compelled to join the Pepsi-drinking craze. The ideology that if
everyone is doing it, then so should I was irresistible to a 1950s
woman. By not hopping on the bandwagon, she would have alienated

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herself from society and guiltily rejected her civic duty. Intensifying this
mentality, the word modern is repeated five times throughout the
text. Pepsi-Cola is creating its own kairotic moment, as every woman
will be transported to the present upon reading the ad. The kairotic
moment is suggested through the couple as well, considering they are
utterly engrossed by one another in the instance when their eyes lock.
Subsequently, the reader has stepped into the role of a modern
womanthis season, with the task of drinking the modern
refreshment. In regard to the Diet Coke advertisement, the element of
kairos seems absent. Without a distinctive mention of time, yet relying
on commonplaces of successful womanhood in the civic arena, this ad
would be equally persuasive in any time frame.
Although the women in the advertisements are superficial, the
words are rich with disconcerting subtext aimed to bring out ones
womanly beauty. The single phrase found in the Diet Coke ad
proclaims, Good taste is about making a statement. The initial two
words generate a double entendre. In literal terms, good taste refers
to the tasteful flavor of Diet Coke. The second meaning insinuates
these women are waiting to impress someone, which becomes
apparent through their uniform, grinning facial expressions. It does not
have to be a gentleman, but rather anyone who will not hesitate to
scrutinize their relative civic successes, as defined by how much effort
they expended to maintain themselves. A passer-by will judge the

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clump of stratified women, some with limited triumphs in comparison
to the others, and decide the central blonde retains superior good
taste stemming from her beauty. Pepsi-Cola presents a deceptive line
as well, stating that ingesting less is to the advantage of her health as
well as looks. The concepts of health and looks are far from
synonymous, thus alerting consumers they are entering a territory of
flawed persuasion. If they were genuinely interested in a womans
health, advertisers would have opted to draw a full-figured
representation of the female body. Pepsi-Colas main concern is the
latter part of the phrase: her looks. In a way, Pepsi-Cola fulfills its
own civic duty of providing women with the means for maintaining a
small waistline. Accordingly, the quality of mens lives will be improved
as they can contentedly ogle the modern woman. On a larger scale,
the general public can stop disapprovingly eying women who lapse in
upkeep rituals.
In conclusion, women do not fare well in society if they are
remiss in taking charge of their waistlines and attractive nature. As
females, their facades are on display at all times. They can never
stumble while they endure the glare of society brutally dissecting their
looks. Not to mention, women must be prepared to capture favorable
attention from men. Spanning a gap of over fifty years, Pepsi-Cola and
Diet Coke have managed to perpetuate this civic responsibility through
every facet of their advertisements. Although they convey their

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message with different levels of command and intensity, both directly
illustrate their vision of the ideal woman. From imagery that
emphasizes successful womanhood, to pathetic and kairotic appeals,
to deceiving language, it is impossible to ignore both companies
intentions. After opting to consume these lower-calorie beverages, at
least women can rest assured knowing their unrelenting duties will
transform them into objects of envy and lust for women and men,

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Works Cited
Burkley, Melissa, Ph.D. "Seeing Red: Does Wearing Red Make You
Sexy? Psychology Today, 12 Aug. 2010.
Web. 10 Oct. 2015.
Diet Coke. Heart Truth Campaign Jan. 2009: n. pag. Print.
Pepsi-Cola. Woman's Home Companion May 1955: n. pag. Print.