It is safe to say that through out history advertising has been a major factor to large corporations around the world. In order to sell their products while maintaining a successful business, these large corporations have become extremely smart on how to get the viewers attention. Women and men are both used in advertisements, but as the world changes and the media continues to grow even larger, it seems women are a bigger target of objectification and portrayed as sex objects in these ads. Throughout this paper I will discuss how women are perceived in advertisements.
How their roles in ads connect to the dominance of men in the media, as well as their struggle in the workplace, and how men continue to dominate the industry. “The media is the single most powerful tool at our disposal; it has the power to educate, effect social change, and determine the political policies and elections that shape our lives. Our work in diversifying the media landscape is critical to the health of our culture and democracy” (Women’s Media Center). The power of advertising to change, shape and mold the public’s opinion has had a major impact on the lives of women.
Women are the main target for many advertisements and are used in many forms of advertising. The media has generally used propaganda to define who women are and what they should be. “Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of women in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object—and most particularly an object of vision: a sight”(Berger ctd. in Thornham, 41). Women have always struggled with self-image.
Not only do men criticize them; women are very critical of themselves. Influenced by these ads and how the media portrays them, everyday women wake up and stare at themselves in the mirror, picking apart their likes and dislikes, categorizing themselves as an object. Women often find themselves less confident and feeling as if they are not good enough to fulfill the standards set by the media. Men in the media over power women; most ads show exactly how men predominantly run the media world. The way advertising agencies run their ads are very crucial to the success of the product and company.
Companies that use women for ads are undeniably smart about how to advertise their product. They want to lure in the viewers, especially male viewers. In most ads women are used as sex objects. The ads only focus on a certain aspect of the woman, like a body part. This creates a negative image for women, showing viewers only an “object” opposed to a woman’s personality and intelligence. According to an article of the New York Times, “Men also represent authority and expertise in more subtle ways. On the front page of The New York Times, the study noted, men were quoted three times more often than women”(Mundy, NYT).
This article states how men are being quoted more than women in the news. Proving the male dominance in newsrooms. So, is it safe to say that men are not only dominating the news world but the ad industries as well? This leads us to believe that one of the main causes of the sexual portrayal of women in the media is due to the dominance of males. Men have always been in the superior roles. It has always been said, “ men are stronger than women, and boys run faster than girls, girls cant play rough sports”.
This stereotype phrase has had some impact on the objectification of women and how men always end up with more power along with other stereotypes. The male producers of ads make women into housewives and sex objects because that’s the role they like to see them in, below men. If more women worked behind the scenes in advertisement agencies, the ads would be much different. The ads would portray women in strong roles and as equals. Of course both men and women view women as a form of “beauty” but in an entirely different way. While men mainly focus on looks only, women tend to focus more on the intellectual characteristics not just on beauty.
If women are perceived as sex objects in the media this can cause major set backs for them in achieving a high profile career. Characterized as sex objects, women are viewed as bad role models giving them more struggles to attain equality with men in the workplace. How are women supposed to make a difference and gain more equal rights if they have to deal with these set backs and stereotypes in the workplace as well? The typical female stereotypes seen in the media have a huge impact on how society view women and how women also view themselves.
With TV shows such as The Bachelor and Flavor of Love showing women using their sexuality to compete for a male’s attention, magazines displaying a woman’s half naked body to sell fragrance and TV ads highlighting a woman’s body part to sell a product it might be difficult for society not to objectify women. Other objectifications about women can be found in the workplace. Today more women are taking on the executive positions, leading roles in TV and movies, and leaving behind the typical role of housewives. There are several examples showing how women are stereotyped in the workplace.
The highest-paid female movie star, Angelina Jolie, makes about the same per movie as the two lowest-paid male stars, Denzel Washington and Liam Neeson” (Alter, Time. com). “Her $33 million paycheck is dwarfed by the $75 million Robert Downey Jr. rakes in as the highest-paid movie star for the Iron Man movies. ” Why is that? Isn’t a leading actress working just as hard, if not more than a male leading actor? Women that are pregnant are also viewed as less capable of commitment to the company and the women who achieve higher positions are categorized as the “office slut”.
Due to the objectification of women through out the media, people already assume that when a woman attains a higher position she must have done something sexually or she merely got there because of her good looks. “If a certain image is repeated enough through television, printed ads, movies, commercials, billboards, etc. , society will accept this image as the norm and copy it” (Women In Ads). All these objectifications and stereotypes of women are eliminating the idea that a smart, hardworking woman can achieve such high status in the work place.
How women are perceived as bosses in the workplace is another great example of the objectification towards females. When a male boss comes off as authoritative expecting nothing less than excellence from his company and employees, he is viewed as a great leader. Meanwhile, if a woman expects the same she is viewed as a bitch. The stereotypes women receive in the work place are never ending, causing women to struggle in their careers. It is easy to identify how men over power women in the media industry.
Therefore most ads, TV commercials and magazine ads focus more on sexual content. One significant example of today’s advertisements is the Go Daddy ads with Danica Patrick. We all know what a great car driver she is and the success she has achieved as the only woman out there among the male car drivers. The ad however focuses on her looks only. She uses a teasing voice to lure in the viewers on why they should go to go daddy. com meanwhile unzipping her outfit giving the viewers the impression that if they go on the web they will see the rest of her strip tease.
Reflecting on the previous examples we can understand a little more on the study “The Sexual Objectification of Women in Advertising: A Contemporary Cultural Perspective” conducted by Amanda Zimmerman and John Dahlberg. In their study they conducted research and studies on the attitudes of young women in today’s society and how they feel about the ads that portray women as sexual objects. The conclusion was “ today’s college females were raised in a very sexualized world. Sexual content dominates the media, and new feminists see female sexuality as power.
It would only naturally follow that advertisements portray women as sex objects. These portrayals apparently do not offend young, educated women because of this culture”(Zimmerman & Dalhberg 77). Because of the cultural norms today, women are more acceptant to these ads and take advantage of their sexual powers. Young women have accepted these objectifications and find no problem with it whatsoever. The media has brainwashed society so much that it is becoming less and less important to touch on this important matter of why women are targeted so much by ads and the media and why is it so hard for them to be seen as equals with men.
As the previous quote stated the more society views an idea the more accepted it becomes. These ads not only target male viewers but women as well. As we view these ads we can easily identify how the producers want to target a certain female audience. These ads are advertised by beautiful women with the perfect bodies and skin tones; making the insecure women viewers more likely to purchase these products because that is how they wish to look like. The average American is exposed to over 3,000 advertisements per day.
Advertisements targeted toward females have a massive effect on women’s thoughts, attitudes, perceptions, and actions. Most of the time, women don’t even realize these advertisements are formulating self-image issues. These ideals surround them daily and they become naturalized to the ads. Advertising creates an entire worldview influencing women to copy the images they see all around them. In order to create a market for their products, companies constantly prey upon women’s self esteem, to feel like they aren’t good enough just the way they are.
This makes women constantly feel stressed out about their appearance. This raises the issue of the woman’s self-body image. As we’ve seen throughout history, the perception of the ideal body has changed tremendously in advertisement. Back then, curves and thicker women were embraced. Today it seems the thinner a woman is the better. “Research shows that there are more ads about weight loss in women’s magazines than men’s” (Cash and Pruzinsky). Advertisement agencies are teaching young women that their bodies are not “ideal”; they should want to look like the women in their ads.
This brings a tremendous negative impact for the young female generation of today. The media sets unrealistic standards for what they believe women should look like. With these ads being viewed by millions of teenage girls it gives them a false image of what they believe a woman should look like. Advertising has a negative effect on women’s body image, health, and self-esteem. More girls are developing eating disorders, suicide rate is on the rise, and young girls are now becoming more obsessive with how they look than ever before.
According to a study that focused on roles in television, lead by sociologist Stacy L. Smith, “Women across the board were more likely to be shown wearing sexy attire or exposing some skin, and body size trends were apparent: Across both prime time and family films, teenaged females are the most likely to be depicted thin” (Smith, Huffington Post). Due to the objectification of women as sexual objects, these young girls now have this negative example to look up to. Young girls are now more focused on their beauty and how to “get” boys versus focusing on their studies and building characteristics that goes against everything the media says a woman should be.
Teens are embracing these negative influences; creating a generation that lacks the morals their baby boomer parents were taught and are trying to pass on to them. Today’s generations of females are more concerned with what is cool in the media. With the objectification as sexual objects in the media, the stereotypes in the workplace and the pressures of having an “ideal” look, it is hard for society not to categorize women and judge them based on these examples. Women are overpowered by men and have also gained identification as being more submissive. Many ads portray the submissive role of women in today’s society.
Examples of this are the ads for cleaning products. It is rare to see a male in a cleaning product ad. The ads are specifically targeting women once again stating that women have the “housewife” role while the men are the breadwinners of the household. Women are viewed to take the submissive roles, as housewives because that is how the media wants society to believe women should be. Males belong in the workplace while women belong at home. Though I believe women are more objectified and stereotyped than males, we can’t rule out how males are also portrayed in today’s cultural norms.
We have learned that men rule the media industry so we can presume which way they decide to portray themselves in ads. Men want to be viewed as alphas, the breadwinners. Men in ads are identified as leaders and hard workers. These ads only show the “manly” side of a male. A great example of this is the Old Spice commercial. It shows a very well groomed and fit male sitting on a horse. His persona implies he is all up and mighty. This exemplifies how a male views himself. He is a high authoritative figure in society. There is no power above him.
Though men are mainly viewed as the authority figure, many men are also stereotyped for their stay at home father roles. Even though men are advertising their power over women, a great portion of men are also leaving their careers and assuming the “stay at home dad” figure. Of course society is against this and believes that a male should not be at home taking care of the household while the mom is off working a full time job. The media has planted this perfect idea of how a family should be in our minds and it’s becoming harder for society to accept that it is not that way.
According to the media, a “normal” family consists of both a mom and dad. The dad works long hours while the mom stays home taking care of the children and her household duties such as cleaning, cooking and ironing. When in reality most families today are extremely diverse. It is now acceptable to have two moms or two dads. And it is ok for a male to stay home and assume that role. I think this also plays a huge part in why the media is ran today and how men and women are supposed to be perceived.
All through history women have been told they are not superior to men, so it is only logical that these ads portray just that. Reflecting on how each ad targets a certain gender, we can learn the differentiation between gender identities in society. It is important to understand why the sexual objectification of women is not recognized due to the overstated male power in the industry. While women are displayed as sexual objects and submissive, men are displayed as successful moneymaking executives and CEO’s. In Kenneth Mckinnon’s book he studies the representation of men in the media and their roles in advertisements.
In a test of television commercials conducted by McArthur and Resko, McKinnon discovered that 70% of males were seen as authority figures, while 30% were displayed as product users. This contains 14% of females viewed as authority figures and 86% viewed as product users (McKinnon 90). Proving once again how males have a huge dominance in the media industry and consider themselves with holding more power over women in society as a whole. Men have better positions in the news industry, they are quoted more often and lets not forget how small a role women play in the sports industry.
There are so many ads that portray the dominant vs. submissive roles between men and women. The best examples are fragrance ads. A Gucci ad shows a handsome man dressed in an impeccable suit with a very thin gorgeous woman, wearing a very tight short dress lying on his lap. How does this prove the roles of dominant vs. submissive? The body language between the two is obvious. The man is sitting down relaxed while the woman is lying flat on her stomach with her butt up almost as if he is going to spank her, proving his dominance. Gucci uses a lot of male dominance in their ads.
Another ad for their clothing line shows an extremely cut male model shirtless, with again another female wearing a very provocative dress. This time she is kneeling on the ground in front of him while he stands in a very firm authoritative stance over here. The way their body language, appearance and actions are shown in the ad clearly portrays the male dominance over women today. After researching and examining these examples, we have learned how women are not only sexually objectified but still being treated with unfairness. With all the progress women have made through out the years equality with men is still an issue today.
Women are constantly being judged and misrepresented in the media. How the media is ran today makes it even more difficult for women to succeed or be viewed as independent. Women now face the challenges of having the same work as men but being paid less. Women athletes are not respected or broadcasted as much as male athletes and continue to struggle with equal pay as well. Is the media ran this way because male sports holds a higher audience and ratings or simply because they believe women are not to be considered as equals? I believe women are misrepresented due to their lack of power in the media industry.
Males want power, they will always want the dominant role over women and I think as long as men rule these industries women will never have a fair shot to be viewed equally if not higher then men in society. The cultural norms today blind society in recognizing these issues. This “ideal” woman has been engraved in the American pop culture and has now become a cultural norm. It is hard to believe a topic like this is hardly identified by society. We live in a world where everything is absorbed over social media. With social outlets like Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter we as consumers should make this issue well known.
I have always identified how men are dominant over women, but it wasn’t until this class that I really began to pay attention to ads and commercials. It is incredible how much negative there is over gender identity. “Although information now flows more freely than it did in the past—and this certainly a salutary development—today’s news landscape will also, inevitably, help us to indulge our biases and preexisting beliefs”(Manjoo 17). Manjoo believes that social media can help us expose these issues in today’s society and change how we view things.
It is our jobs as humans to change these views, if we don’t learn to respect each other and view each other as equals, this on going issue will never end. It’s 2015. Women are now becoming some of the most powerful executives in business, women are regularly dominating in school and we now have had several women run for the presidency of the United States. We are living in an era where women are more; we are enough. The ad industry and media need to realize this. Women should be encouraged and respect. We should be treated as equals.