Women’s Place In Advertising Women in Advertising Stereotypes in America have existed for hundreds of years. They were present before the Internet, television, radio, and even magazines. This is not to say that these newer media devices do not contribute to the overwhelming prevalence of racism, sexism, and stereotyping. Typecasting occurs regularly in society, for men, and especially women. Advertisers are the single largest contributor to the continuation of female degradation and sexual bias in our society. Advertising plays a tremendous role in promoting labels.
Direct marketing techniques demand that people be placed in certain specific groups. The more defined a group is the better for the advertisers. Their goal is to create a situation where an entire group of people feel the same way, think the same way, and most importantly shop the same way. In the ads that I have found there seem to be three main types. The female body displayed as a sexual object; today’s ads have created a society where the Kate Mosses of the world epitomize beauty.
It is these types of ads that are responsible for the “80% of school girls .. watching their weight” (Kilbourne). These second type exhibits the housewife who is nurturing, caring, older, and unsexual. These ads feature women as competent only cleaning, cooking, and taking care of children. The final type is the empowered female, in control, young, and attractive. It is only the third type of ad, which occurred much less frequently that empowered and recognized women as equal to men.
It is necessary that advertisers change their assessment of women. Women are more than sex objects and housewives; moreover, they constitute half of the consumers in the country. With a change in advertising policies companies will serve dual purposes, their sales to women will increase and, girls will have an opportunity to feel good about themselves, their bodies, and who they are. Traditionally women in media have filled only one role in American society, the housewife. Only recently did she expand to also include the sex object. Through mass media advertisers sell beauty; they create an unattainable ideal woman, compelling other women to attempt to transform themselves into the model. Advertisers make it clear that their products have the ability to complete that transformation.
In my research over half the ads in multiple magazines treated women as sex objects. Scantily clad, sexy, beautiful women drape themselves over a bottle of perfume, a bouquet of flowers, or shaving cream. In ad numbered #1 there is a perfect woman caressing herself after getting out of the shower. Her body and hair are impeccable, a satisfied sexual look on her face. The sexual implications are also evident, “Seduce your senses, Silken your skin .. It’s a sensual experience like never before”. This ad is telling readers that they will be more attractive if they use this particular brand of soap.
A hall-mate of mine described the ad by saying “If I use that soap I will be a beautiful babe.” The ad scheme and the product have no relation whatsoever; soap has nothing to do with beauty or sex. They simply chose a beautiful, satisfied looking woman to use their soap. The 2nd ad shows a tall, thin, gorgeous model. She is in the 5% of women in the world with that particular type of body build. The ad is very clear in revealing its message; these clothes you will look more like this model.
You will give off the sex appeal that she radiates, her eyes, stance, and even the pole she is resting on all are very sexual yet completely unrelated to the pants that are being advertised. Every ad that I collected that featured a woman was beautiful. There are no blemishes, pimples, or love handles; every woman has perfect hair, perfect breasts, and perfect arms, the definition of beauty in our culture. These are the women that create the negative, unhealthy, unsafe images in young girls minds. It is not surprising that girls rarely feel adequate during their emotional teenage years when they are forced to compare themselves to airbrushed, made-up models. The results of years of measuring up to advertisements are eating disorders, depression, and insecurity.
The ads with women alone are not the only culprit. When men are introduced, even into ads aimed at women, the women are submissive, sexual and happy. Their purpose in these ads is to please and serve the men that are present. In the #3rd ad the women is having perfume sprayed down her cleavage by a man while she is smiling and happy. In reality it looks more like a rape scene; she is in a submissive position, cowering under him, while he rips off her clothes to do whatever he wants, in this case spray her with perfume.
The slogan that accompanies the ad “Anywhere you dare” suggests that a man can act like this wherever he wants, and that the women should remain happy and willing to oblige him. The ad has no correlation to perfume or even mentions smelling good. The only reference that it is a perfume ad is the bottle between her breasts. This ad reinforces the notion of female submissiveness. Other ads showed women feigning over men #4, kissing men #5, being picked-up by men #6.
Each and every ad suggests that women exist to look pretty and satisfy the male population. The ads that display women as sex objects are more common than any other type of ad. These ads were so ubiquitous that selecting them was difficult because of their abundance. Although these ads include men the collective result remains unchanged. The same insecurities, self-questioning, and unattainable beauty emerges in a real person when they compare themselves to models. Unfortunately, it is not only young girls that need to compete with attractive models.
All housewives in ads are smartly dressed, thin, and have their hair stylishly done. In the #7th ad the woman has her briefcase, laptop case, umbrella, and of course her groceries. Her life is one of a hectic woman, but she knows what her priorities are, getting the groceries for the house, the ad reinforces women’s role as a homemaker. The slogan declares that “the pressure get to be too much. Kids. Work.
Your parents. Running a household. .. “. She takes care of the kids and deals with the parents, because she is a woman and that is women’s role in society, or advertisers seem to think so. The next housewife ad shows a young attractive mother driving four small children around.
It is a typical stereotype. The mother is driving a mini-van to the children’s obligations; the ad is coincidentally about Cheetos, but that has no relevance to the ad. Any product could replace the snack, which we assume to be relieving the stress of carpooling and taking care of the children, a woman’s job. Even when the ads do not refer to or have children in them the housewife stereotype is ever-present. In the 9th ad “The sexiest move that a guy can make [in the house] is cleaning up.” This Virginia Slims ad is declaring that it is a special occasion when a man does what is normally a woman’s role, cleaning and washing the dishes.
Why should it be a special occasion, do men not eat? Why shouldn’t they always help with the household chores? Ad 10 shows an older woman who is gorgeous. She was most likely a model in her younger years, and we see that not only young girls that have their notions of beauty compromised by advertising. Ad 11 is a direct referral to ad 10, to look like a younger more attractive woman, you need “Clinique Stop Signs”, plain as day, buy this product you will look young again. Ad 12 promotes the housewife stereotype as it puts nutrimental information on a car, referencing marketing and the housekeeping roles that women play. The other car ad displays moving foot pedals, as the selling part of the vehicle. As if men never had problems with the distance from the seat to the pedals.
No car manufacturer would ever use this ad in Sports Illustrated. It is an asinine feature that never was a problem because of moving seats. Only because of advertisers beliefs that women know nothing about cars, and do not want to know features like these are shown. The stereotypes that women are suited for housework and raising children exclusively are changing. Women are increasingly entering the work force and it is not uncommon to have a family where both parents work, or even the father stays at home and takes care of the children.
However, the ads have not caught up with out culture. Although they make subtle references to women working, and being independent, the majority of ads show housewives, happy and compliant. This reinforces the stereotypes and myths that need to be dispelled. There is some hope. There are ads that strengthen women’s place in society and they are directed mostly to young girls. The 13th ad features a female athlete who is independent, free spirited, and empowered.
There have been a lot of Nike, and other sports commercials featuring female athletes, all of whom encourage girls to play sports, be active, get away from the traditional role that media casts women in. These ads are a social catalyst creating change, positively influencing girls, in addition to selling shoes. It is becoming more common to see marketing directed to girls, by women who do not fill the roles that the media has portrayed women in for the last seventy years, as it promotes and increases sales. The advertising industry has had an adverse effect upon both men and women. It has propagated the stereotypes and sexism in our culture of the last 100 years.
Women remain subservient and meek, or are sex objects in the majority of ad campaigns. Kilbourne contends that Americans are exposed to 1500 advertisements a day. As we submerse our culture with ads negatively portraying women we remove any hope of social progress and gender equality. The solution is to change the philosophy behind advertising, a change that is occurring now. Unfortunately it is a slow drawn-out process as heads of companies are reluctant to change what has seemingly worked for the past fifty years.
Little do they know that when girls feel good about themselves, have realistic notions of beauty and health, that they will be serving both their companies, and the women of future. Sociology Issues.