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Artist reverses gender roles in '50s ads to 'give men a taste of their own sexist poison'

Gone are the days of the Mad Men era, when advertisements were made with sexist messaging. But that doesn’t mean that misogyny is gone, as is evident in the need for movements such as #MeToo and Time’s Up.

Lebanon-based visual artist Eli Rezkallah encountered the lasting impression of sexism when he visited family in New Jersey for Thanksgiving. The conversations that he overheard among his uncles stemmed from the seemingly outdated stereotypes of gender roles from the ’50s, however obsolete he believed them to be.

“I overheard my uncles talk about how women are better off cooking, taking care of the kitchen, and fulfilling ‘their womanly duties,’” Rezkallah tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Although I know that not all men like my uncles think that way, I was surprised to learn that some still do.”

Visual artist Eli Rezkallah turns gender roles on their head. (Photograph:  Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018.)

The photographer was inspired to look back at advertisements from the time period that his family’s comments immediately made him think of, and he came up with the idea of re-creating his own opposing series by switching the roles of men and women.

What transpired is a series he now calls In a Parallel Universe.

Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018
Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018
Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018

The photos that Rezkallah created replicate the original advertisements. And although they may seem humorous, he assures us that they’re highlighting an important societal issue.

“Those ads were in the ’50s, and some people perceive them as vintage,” he continues, “but it felt at that moment that their essence is still present in the folds of today’s modern social fabric.”

As for the ad for tights (see above), it’s evident why the advertisement might strike a chord with women today, which further illustrates the reason why the artist decided to invert the gender roles.

Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018
Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018
Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018

Rezkallah took to his Instagram account to share a number of photos from the series, many of which have received a viral response. Many people are shocked by the sexist (and in some cases violent) tone of the original advertisements, while others are thanking the artist for his satirical work.

“I’m extremely happy that the message was very well received online and understood by a vast audience,” he shares. “My close family and friends are proud and supportive, as they share the same values as mine and strongly believe in the message behind the campaign.”

Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018
Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018
Photograph: Eli Rezkallah / produced by Plastik Studios 2018

As issues of gender equality continue to plague our society today, Rezkallah hopes that his work can provide men with “a taste of their own sexist poison.”

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