Thursday, January 24, 2008

Gender and Advertising

For today, we will continue to look at gender, specifically in advertising. I believe that part of this conversation came up while we were discussing our last topic on gender. Talking about the protagonists of certain titles, I wondered why some games have female protagonists when games are generally marketed towards male gamers. The same thing goes for ads for Axe. Oftentimes there is not even a male in the advertisement. The message being delivered to the viewer is clearly sexual in nature. What is even more interesting is the message of beauty delivered through media. As Berger points out in “Media & Society”, “these models perpetrate the notion that women should define themselves as sex objects to be gazed at and lusted after by men and not as active, forceful individuals” [179]. With this quote, I would go on by saying that men are equally sexualized in this manner in many advertising campaigns. I saw an Abercrombie bag the other day which may serve to illustrate this point. One side of the bag had a female and the other side had a male model. Both of the models were wearing very little, which did not make sense for a clothing store, but that is beside the point. Here we have an example of both males and females being sexualized in order to sell a product. In what ways are the male and female models different? Both are desirable, screaming sexuality. However, women’s sexuality does seem more common in advertisements, selling cars, make-up, and even food. One important observation is that men are usually coupled with women (showing that a product will attract women) in advertisements, while the opposite occurs much less frequently. While advertisements have definitely become increasingly sexual in nature, it is hard to say whether women are used as objects more often than men in selling products.

Beyond creating false images of women and sexuality, advertisements depict women as being weaker where “women were more likely to appear frustrated than men, were recipients of help and advice (typically from men), and were not physically active” [Gilly 76]. These claims are based on research done in the 70’s and 80’s. Roles in society have changed with males and females becoming more equal, however, there still seems to be some discrepancy between what is shown on screen and what happens in real life. Mary Gilly goes on to quote from another study that “women and men in society today clearly are far different from their portrayed images in advertising. As sex roles continue to change and expand at a faster rate than advertisers’ response, the image of sexes in advertising is not keeping pace with the change. In fact, the image reflects the status quo of a time gone by” [77]. This then brings up the question that is change is occurring despite advertisements reflecting a different society from the past, do advertisements really have an effect on society and the ideas of sex roles? Are advertisements slowing down the process of gender equality? There is a definite possibility that advertisements are hindering progress. Ads use women to sell things that are thought to be “female products” that aren’t really gender specific. For example, every ad for any type of cleaning product usually includes a woman using the product in the house, taking a deep breath and smelling how fresh everything is. This ad tells a lot about expectations within a culture. Here, we find that women are put in the role of the housewife (for lack of a better term, but this term itself underlines the fact). Males are rarely put in this position, usually put in power tool commercials. The products which these commercials are advertising are believed to have some truth in them. I would assume that people would believe the effectiveness of a cleaning product more from a woman than a man. While the ad may not insinuate that the female should be the one cleaning, it works with our preconceived belief of the housewife role.

1 comment:

Dr. Brand said...

And then there are the Milwaukee's Best commercials that are not subtle at all in promoting the "real men" :

Their tagline is "Men should act like men and light beer should taste like beer."

These ads perpetuate gender stereotypes and definitely are, as you wonder, "hindering progress" and "slowing down the process of gender equality"

Also, in this Visa commercial, the ad's music grinds to a halt when a man wearing a pink shirt pays with cash instead of a Visa card.